Taking a knee is not disrespecting the flag. Nor is it disrespecting the sacrifices of those who have served. Rather it is exercising one of the freedoms that our forefathers fought to preserve. Freedom is like a muscle – it must be exercised or it will atrophy. Exercising one’s right to protest peacefully is in fact honoring the sacrifices of those who have preceded us.
Thank God that there have not been any major incidents of anyone being denied their civil rights in Watertown. Ours is a community that serves as a peaceful home to many immigrants and has for many years. We can all be proud of that. But that does not change the fact that there have been incidents all across our country where Americans have been deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, gender, etc. American democracy has not reached perfection.
There is at this time a wind carrying a foul odor blowing through our country. It is the stench of bigotry and inhumanity. Many who harbor ill will toward their fellow humans have been emboldened to pursue their aims publicly. Many otherwise decent Americans, out of a myriad of frustrations, have abetted this degradation of American ideals.
For a white person to make a respectful gesture calling attention to the plight of those persecuted is well within the spirit of American democracy and is to be commended. If Martin Luther King were alive, he would certainly be taking a knee. Our own beloved Bill Russell took a knee wearing his Presidential Medal of Freedom. Perhaps if ordinary Germans had had a consciousness of the evils of Nazism and stood in solidarity with those who were being persecuted, the course of history would have been different.
Don’t think that because our country is great, that great evil cannot happen here. Evil takes root anywhere humans reside. I believe that great evil threatens our country and our liberties at this time. I appreciate that Councillor Bays is thoughtful enough to express solidarity with those who are not being accorded their full rights as Americans.
One hundred and fifty three years after Emancipation, our country has still a profound problem with racism. To state that fact is not un-American. Rather it is a full throated expression of American ideals: We are committed to the freedom, dignity and worth of all and are committed to solving our problems in the hope of becoming a more perfect Union.
I would hope that at least some of those who have raised such a virulent opposition to the Councilor’s respectful and sincere gesture of solidarity with her fellow Americans will reconsider their position with the words of Thomas Jefferson in mind: “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”