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Monday, Sept. 12, 2016

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?

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Express belief in a mannerly way

Manners tell us what to do and what to expect others to do in return. We say “please” and “thank you.” We don’t intentionally embarrass one another, or ask personal, prying questions. We hold a door open for someone, give up our seat in a waiting room for someone who needs it more than we do.

We dress appropriately, and shake hands with others when we greet them, and we don’t chew with our mouths full. These are all good manners.

We do these things to show respect for other people, and as Emily Post says, because we are “recognizing and acknowledging their worth and value as human beings, regardless of their background, race or creed.”

So when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before games because he believes the United States oppresses blacks and other minorities, many couldn’t stop shaking their heads at just how unmannerly he was behaving. (It’s not surprising that three out of four of us already feel that our country is more rude and less civilized than it was 30 years ago, but that’s another story.)

First, let’s get this out on the table for Colin, and those who feel his pain: The United States enthusiastically elected its first black president in 2008, and the American people, including white folks, decided to re-elect him in 2012.

Furthermore, since 2008, black poverty is up, and black employment is down, even as Democrats controlled both the White House and the Congress. Forty percent of black males are incarcerated, and 72 percent of black children are still being born to unmarried mothers. There are fewer blacks participating in the labor force since 2008, and the unemployment rate among blacks is more than double than it is among whites. This is all happening under an administration filled with Democrats, whom black voters have supported 95 percent of the time in election after election after election. The same Democratic Party that has spent more than 50 years, and billions of dollars, on social welfare programs of every kind, only to have the poverty rate even higher today than it was back then.

It’s unmannerly not to stand during our national anthem. Bottom line. And just because you can do something, whether you have the right or not, doesn’t mean you should.”

– Louis R. Avallone

The bottom line is this: It really doesn’t matter what he believes or knows about the facts of oppression in our country, or whether he’s unpatriotic, or he is simply wanting attention from the public. It’s unmannerly not to stand during our national anthem. Bottom line. And just because you can do something, whether you have the right or not, doesn’t mean you should.

If Colin refuses to stand during the national anthem, then it is his freedom of expression to do so, whatever his beliefs. After all, some Americans do agree that our country is oppressive.

On the other hand, many don’t agree with any of that, but they say they will defend Colin’s right to believe whatever he wants, nevertheless.

These are all fool’s choices, aren’t they, when we mistakenly think there are only two options, when in reality there are more? Do we have to choose between supporting Colin’s disrespect of the national anthem or silencing his freedom of expression?

Of course not. You can pledge allegiance to your country and still exercise your freedom of speech. You can honor the United States Flag Code (Title 36, Section 301), which says that “Everyone present, except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the American flag with the right hand placed over the heart,” and still effect change in your community.

You can be tactful, or understanding of other people and sensitive to their opinions and feelings, and still assert your own ideas in a well-meaning fashion. But to do otherwise is simply unmannerly.

Being mannerly means being aware that what you do, or share with others, affects the greater good for us all. It means recognizing that no one should “feel” good at the expense of everyone else’s liberty, whether it’s removing references to God in our schools or disrespecting our law enforcement.

If tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy, Colin Kaepernick’s rudeness during the national anthem is proof of what three out of four us already believe about the decline of politeness in our country and that we’re making enemies of one other as fellow Americans – far more often than not.

It reminds me of what Abraham Lincoln said: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

This is why there’s more at stake here than a football player sitting on his ass. There’s no more polite way to say that,

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman and attorney. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com.

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