My mother was raised on a farm in rural Pike County, Ga. She and her family survived the Great Depression, WWI, WWII and Vietnam. She raised her nine children and countless other neighborhood kids with respect, strength, wisdom and wit.
A wise lady, with the integrity earned through hard work and self-respect, she fully understood that we should know the right thing to do, how to act or react, and then do it. To my mother, integrity was found in Matthew 5:37; a Yes means Yes and a No means no.
Using that basic principle she was also a good judge of character and could identify a troublemaker as quickly as we brought one home. Not one for offering varying degrees or definitions of trouble meant it was understood that we were headed for trouble if we continued “hanging out” with certain people.
I have been thinking this week of how we should respond to all the trouble that President Trump caused recently with his comments and tweets about NFL (and other) players who take a knee or refuse to stand for the flag. What would my mother say about all of this?
I think she would tell us to leave that alone. She would say when you “lie down with dogs you’re going to get up with fleas,” or be careful who you are seen with because “you are judged by the company you keep.” Some people just like controversy. Folks who like to protest are not happy unless they have lots of company. They want as many as possible riled up and yakking so nothing is ever accomplished. Sometimes they want to make all the noise possible to prevent the real issues from getting the discussion they need.
The real issue with the flag is that we all forget the strength of our symbol of freedom. Just as my mother, and many like her, grew up in — and survived — hard times, so has our flag. The virtues Justice, Wisdom, Courage and Moderation are all hinges that keep the flag flying high and proud. Thankfully, the majority of us understand the importance of these virtues.
There are plenty of Americans who appreciate and understand why our flag is so great. As long as we support and remember the struggles that our flag has survived we can remain confident in its ability to withstand being burned, stomped, worn as clothing, shot at, and yes, even disrespected by professional athletes.
It is important for those who would disrespect the flag, for any reason, to realize the flag also supports their right to do so. The owners and athletes of professional sports are able to act as they please because our flag, and what it embodies, is part of the guarantee that government, and presidents that call them names, can’t prevent their actions.
If we as individuals make the choice to stand to honor and salute the flag when presented then we should do so. If we don’t wish to wade into trouble, we should ignore those who choose to protest.
Otis Raybon is the publisher of the Rome News-Tribune.