How Should We (Really) Respect Our Troops?

President Trump talks a lot about honoring the men and women who died for this country. At least, he talks a lot about how others, most notably professional football players, should honor them. It took him days to comment on American troops who recently were killed in Niger, and just days ago he falsely claimed that President Obama never called the families of fallen troops. He followed that up with a call to the widow of one of those soldiers, a call that was reportedly so disrespectful and inappropriate that it left the widow in tears. It’s almost as if he’s less concerned about respecting fallen soldiers than he is about ensuring no one acts in a way that displeases him.

Most of our fallen soldiers died fighting against regimes or groups where perceived disrespect of the sort shown in NFL stadiums would result in imprisonment or death. But Trump wants to honor the fallen by imposing that same type of fealty? This cheapens everything they fought and died for, and is a disturbing sign of how President Trump views his role as leader of this country.

Trump says the anthem protests shouldn’t be allowed because sports stadia are often paid for by tax-payers’ dollars, which is true. But so are our streets, parks, sidewalks and public buildings, should free speech be banned in those places as well? In its decisions upholding free speech as defined by the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has a special term for these places. I believe it is Public Forum, but I’d have to re-read Kathleen Kennedy’s fine book on the Bill of Rights to be sure. Speech in those areas is ESPECIALLY protected by the Supreme Court, as it is in the free press, another frequent victim of Trump’s attacks. Saying the press is “fake news” is one thing, but threatening to revoke their licenses (which isn’t actually possible) is another. Trump’s diatribes against the media are unbecoming of any public figure, let alone the President of the United States who is tasked with defending the Constitution. Obviously, Mr. Trump could use a refresher in basic Constitutional Law.

Mr. Trump wants to dictate how people act during the National Anthem or in the news, but they are violating no law because any such law would obviously be unconstitutional. The key word in that sentence is “dictate” – as in “dictator.” Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and to threaten it for cheap political points is unacceptable. And that’s exactly what he’s doing. We should have no illusion that Trump actually cares so deeply about the anthem that he is disgusted by the act of protesting during it. I wonder if he would be offended if they knelt to protest the ACA or illegal immigration?

Why can’t our dear Leader, I mean President, learn his place as President? His job specifically states that he is to “uphold and defend the Constitution,” not undermine the most precious right it guarantees. Why can’t he understand that just because something offends him, he can’t correct it by fiat? All he has done is confuse Americans into thinking that the Constitution somehow protects them from being offended. It doesn’t, and was in fact designed for exactly the opposite purpose: to protect speech that others deem offensive. That is called Freedom, Mr. Trump and THAT is what America is all about. THAT is what all those people died to protect. THAT is why our Founding Fathers made that the very first part of the Bill of Rights. And THAT is why Trump’s childish and un-American attacks on these protestors simply cannot continue.

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