Here's Johnny - Taking a stand - or a knee
Let me begin, as I often do when daring to discuss something controversial, by playing the Veteran Card. Doing so drastically reduces the chances of villagers with pitchforks and flaming torches storming The Sun, which, unless they're also planning to subscribe, we'd rather they not do. Newcomers to this page may not know that I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1991 with a freshly minted bachelor's degree, five-plus years of journalism, two rows of ribbons and a smile. In other words, while not immune to or undeserving of criticism on a wide variety of fronts, I do have something of a record of service to this country. When, during a speech in Alabama, President Trump called NFL players who don't stand at attention during the National Anthem sons of bitches who should be fired, I perked up. When he followed that up with several fiery tweets, which led to even more players taking a knee last Sunday, I wasn't surprised. And when most NFL owners, many of whom had donated to Trump's campaign or inauguration, stood by their players, regardless of posture, I applauded. I did so not because I agreed with their physical stance, but because I don't equate this particular ritual with love of country. The nation spent the next several days in a bit of an uproar over the latest bomb-dropping by a man who received five draft deferments. (Seems like the people who called Bill Clinton a draft-dodger are strangely silent on this front.) While doing so, folks were paying far less attention to far more serious matters, ranging from a childish war of words with a North Korean dictator to the latest effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Once again, too many of us were shouting at each other and impugning motives. I even saw a Facebook post in which a Trump supporter criticized a journalist who'd quoted the President for ... cursing. At least six times a month, before meetings of the Versailles and Midway city councils and Woodford Fiscal Court, I stand up, put my right hand over my heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, what I'm pledging allegiance to is not merely our flag or our nation's elected leaders, but rather the things that are good about America - especially our freedom, and especially, in my line of work, free speech. In other words, I wore a uniform for six years and four months so that people like former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others could freely choose what they say and do. Actually, I wore a uniform for six years and four months because Dad suggested I do so and because even I knew that I needed a kick in the butt. Plus I needed to finish college. Nevertheless ... Critics of the President (like this Navy veteran) wonder why he'd spend more time and energy criticizing NFL players than the neo-Nazis whose march in Charlottesville led to three deaths. They suggest he's a lot better at dividing than uniting - that if he was truly interested in sparking a national and rational conversation about patriotism, he wouldn't open by calling people sons of bitches. As for this old-fashioned believer in sportsmanship, I'm more irritated by today's players need to celebrate every semi-successful play by dancing or otherwise drawing attention to themselves. Kaepernick, for instance, liked to kiss his own bicep after a touchdown. I believe such actions set a bad example for young participants in what is, after all, a team sport. Of course, drawing attention to himself often seems to be the chief goal of the man who won Kentucky by 29 percentage points last November, and if he can also rev up today's perpetual outrage machine, all the better. But ... Before you blast me for being insufficiently patriotic or, God forbid, criticizing our would-be Patriot-In-Chief, please remember which one of us served in our nation's armed forces. And that, Dear Readers, is called playing the Veteran Card.