The Hate-Filled Response to my News Break Story "Kneeling During the National Anthem ... Reconsidered"

Michael Burg, MD
Stop Hating All WaySylvar/Creative Commons

When I posted this News Break story …

… a hate deluge erupted.

An article that should have invited discussion, debate, reasoned responses, and perhaps some heat, instead sparked an angry conflagration, a maniacal book burning equivalent.

Death threats, promises of physical attack and sexual assault, racist slurs, bigoted comments, and shouted incoherent rants filled my inbox. So did multiple suggestions that I leave the country or not express my opinion.

Thankfully, positive comments came my way as well. So too did several hundred “thumbs up likes” of support.

What I did not see was a well-reasoned rebuttal or alternate point of view to the issues raised in my article. I’m frankly pleading for that.

If you feel differently on the issues raised, please say why in a way that invites discussion and progress toward solutions to issues we all face in our shared country.

Please read the brief story and reach your own conclusions about what it says. From my perspective, these are the story’s main points.

  • I open by asking a friend — and by extension, my readers — to consider their thinking on what it means to “take a knee” during the national anthem.
  • I raise the point that “taking a knee” is a non-violent form of protest, acknowledging that it is controversial.
  • I further acknowledge that some may interpret kneeling as disrespectful.
  • Then I write that I see it differently and discuss why that is.
  • I opine that systemic racism exists in America.
  • I also note strongly that there are many ways to respect this country and contribute to its strengths.
  • As the article evolves I touch on the fact that kneeling is non-violent, a constitutionally-protected form of self expression, and can be seen as a challenge to improve our nation and the lives of all people within it.
  • The article closes with a gentle plea — “Please reconsider and add this discussion to your thoughts on the subjects of race, respect and equality in this nation.”

After careful thought, I’d like to expand on the concept that kneeling — even during the national anthem — is in and of itself an expression of disrespect.

Around the world, people show respect, pray, and honor others and their own beliefs while: standing, sitting, kneeling, swaying, dancing, bowing, singing, and laying face down, among other postures and activities. Standing — while it may be habit during the national anthem — does not by itself signal respect. (A scolded petulant child, standing, mock saluting and shouting “sir! yes sir!” at a parent is not demonstrating respect, far from it.)

Similarly, kneeling — by itself — does not indicate disrespect. Instead kneeling can be — as I assert in my article — a non-violent protest form, nothing more.

In a country whose founding sprang from protest, this should be plainly obvious. Protest and free speech has been, and continues to be, a cornerstone of this country’s strength. And again, protest in a wide variety of forms — including kneeling — is constitutionally-protected free expression. As such, non-violent protest, as abhorrent as certain forms of it may be to some people within our society, should be supported.

So again I ask, please reconsider, and please do so in a thoughtful and well-reasoned manner. Your participation in a discussion about issues will be good for all. Your hatred, attempts at divisiveness and threats of violence will not be.

Please join in the discussion. Let me and all who live here and all who value this country’s ideals, know what you are thinking. Let’s all listen with an intent to understand.

With your words show more than hate. Show rationale, reason, belief, deep thought, positive solutions, understanding, tolerance, mutability, maturity and more. Our ideologies may differ but our ability to reason and connect peacefully with one another should bind us together. In one form or another we need this to move forward productively.

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