Blaming America First

On January 20th I returned to the National Mall for the second Women’s March. While still significant in size, it was a lot smaller than last year and I decided to spend some more time wandering around. In addition to the Women’s March, there were several smaller groups that latched on to the event. There was an Impeach Trump March, a small contingent of the Libertarian Party, a group from the previous day’s March for Life, a “social justice a cappella,” and something about Bolivia I couldn’t quite understand.

But the one group that really grabbed my attention was Code Pink.

Code Pink was founded in late 2002 primarily as an anti-war organization, but you could be forgiven for thinking it’s real purpose is to be anti-American.

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Brave Iranians Protest the Mullahs

Over the last few days, Iran has seen the largest anti-government protests since the fraudulent election of 2009. Iranians across the country have taken to the streets to demand their freedom. It is difficult to overstate how brave they are.

It is not clear what prompted the recent wave of protests. Nor can we say how many Iranians in how many cities have joined the demonstration against their oppressors. What we do know is that the theocrats in Tehran are worried.

The Iranian government has shut down popular social media sites such as Instagram and Telegram that the protesters were using to spread their message. As of this writing, the government has killed at least 10 protesters and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (a paramilitary force) are setting up to squash the protests. Despite this brutality and suppression of speech, videos have gotten out of thousands of Iranians chanting slogans such as “death to the dictator,” “we don’t want an Islamic Republic,” and “clerics shame on you, let go of our country.” In response to the crackdown, some protesters have stormed government buildings, mostly local headquarters for the security forces that attacked crowds of civilians.

It is impossible to say what will come next. The 2009 protests were much larger, but appeared to be more focused on the stolen election. The current protests, while smaller, quickly morphed from economic complaints to revolutionary chants to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

In 2009, the Iranian people also chanted “Obama, Obama either you are with us or you are with them.” Trying to put together the Iran nuclear deal, Obama chose them. Rather than risk the deal, Obama stood by while the Iranian government imprisoned, beat, and murdered its people; the same government that routinely organizes chants of “death to America,” props up Assad’s dictatorship in Syria, funds terrorism throughout the world, and was responsible for the deadliest weapons used against American soldiers in Iraq. Now, America may get a do over.

So far, the Trump administration has stood with the Iranian people, demanding their rights be respected and warning Tehran that America is watching. Let us hope that continues, and that Trump acts on his professed solidarity with the people.

Iranians have suffered under an oppressive theocracy for nearly four decades. They deserve their freedom.

Losing the Anthem

King Pyrrhus was a Greek general who fought the emerging Roman Empire from 280 BC to 275 BC. King Pyrrhus won stunning victories against the Romans, but at a heavy price. When he was congratulated for another such victory at the Battle is Asculum, King Pyrrhus quipped “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”

I think about that retort when viewing many of the political battles fought today.

The controversy over football players kneeling during the National Anthem has waned, and Trump is being declared the victor. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell published a letter saying everyone should stand for the anthem and the league suddenly discovered bylaws requiring players to do so or face fines. All in all, it seems like a pretty clear win for Trump, and Rich Lowry explains why in Politico:

It is true that, after Trump got involved, the polling on the protests began to show the public more evenly divided. If you’re Donald Trump and at 40 percent or below in the polls, though, a 50/50 issue works for you. If you are the NFL and hope to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, a 50/50 issue is a disaster for you.

I think this assessment is fairly accurate, but incomplete. Trump won, but the NFL was not the only loser.
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Stand for the Anthem 

Debates raged on Sunday about the decision by many NFL players to kneel for the national anthem, and the field is littered with the bodies of massacred straw men. So let’s get some of the easy stuff out of the way.

Of course the players have the right to kneel during the anthem. That is indisputable. Kneeling during the anthem is a form of political protest and I would absolutely oppose anyone who says they shouldn’t have that right. But that is not the question. The question is should they kneel.

Second, criticizing the kneelers is not the same as supporting what Trump said. I’m not going to quote the president here because this is a family friendly site, but the chief executive should not call for private businesses to fire their employees. It was wrong when Democrats went after Chick-Fil-A, it’s wrong when Trump goes after the NFL.

That being said, instead of taking the high road, many players decided to double down on a protest that disrespects America. The national anthem does not represent Trump, it represents our country. If you want to register disapproval with Trump, the national anthem is the wrong venue to do so.

Finally, some have pointed to the US flag code to obfuscate the argument by saying it’s the people who wear the flag on their clothing who are really disrespectful, not those who kneel. That would be a great gotcha moment if the debate was over adhering to a flag code most people have not heard of. But it’s not. It may be in violation of the flag code, but wearing a shirt or hat with the US flag on it is designed to show support for the flag and for America. Kneeling during the anthem does the opposite.

So let’s walk through step by step why so many people are upset over the anthem protest.

The Star Spangled Banner is not just any song. It is the US national anthem, and as such it represents America the same way the flag does. It represents not just the soldiers manning Fort McHenrey in 1814, but also the Minutemen who guarded Bunker Hill in 1775, the Union troops who repelled Pickett’s Charge in 1863, the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944, and the soldiers I know who patrolled Iraqi villages. It represents the Declaration of Independence’s proclamation that “all men are created equal,” and the abolitionists, suffragettes, and civil rights leaders who fought to uphold that revolutionary idea. It represents a country that, while not perfect, has done more than any other to spread the message of political and economic freedom to the world. It represents the 320+ million Americans who make up this great country.

As such, we treat the national anthem with respect. Whenever the anthem is played at any event, an announcer generally asks everyone to stand, remove any hat they may be wearing, and place their right hand over their heart. All of this is done as a sign of respect to the anthem and by extension to the country it represents.

Before the anthem is played at football games, fans are usually sitting in their seats and players are standing on the sidelines. When the anthem starts, fans stand up to show respect. For players who are already standing to kneel means they have decided to make an effort to not show respect for America. Make no mistake about it, going out of your way to avoid showing respect is a sign of disrespect.

The players who kneel are actively disrespecting our country.

For evidence of their thinking, lets go to the man who started this ordeal. When he began this protest over a year ago, Colin Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” This is not a case of players simply taking advantage of the biggest stage they have to make a political point; the intentional disrespect of America is an integral part of the protest.

NFL players have plenty of opportunities to promote political causes. Their celebrity guarantees if they held a press conference or organized a rally it would get attention. Many of them are frequently interviewed for TV, radio, newspapers, and websites; they could talk about their concerns then instead of how impressive they are or the product they are paid to promote. But no. They have chosen the one moment reserved to honoring the United States.

Kneeling during the national anthem cannot be done surgically. It is not possible to only oppose what you don’t like while disrespecting a symbol of the whole nation. By kneeling during the anthem they are not just saying they don’t like racism or police brutality. What the country hears is that they don’t like America.

America is not now, was never, and will never be perfect. But we have done more good for this world than any other country. America began the modern democratic movement. America has invented products and systems that have saved tens of millions of lives and vastly improved hundreds of millions more. For close to a century, America has been the worldwide bulwark of democracy and liberty. Over the course of our history we have developed a society in which the adopted son of immigrants can found a world changing company in his garage and the black son of a single white mother can become president.

America is a country worth honoring, and we should all stand for her anthem.

Quick Thoughts on Yesterday’s Press Conference

I think an important point needs to be made. Yes, antifa are violent thugs who purposefully hurt innocent people to make a political point. They should be condemned by everyone, and the people comparing them to WWII vets are insulting the brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy. 

The problem with Trump’s statement yesterday is not that antifa are the good guys; they’re not. The problem is that that is not the issue at hand. There is a time and place to condemn antifa, and it is not after a white supremacist murders a woman.

There were people wearing MAGA hats mixed in with those waving swastika flags and chanting racist slogans. The organizers of the rally publicly claim Trump as an ally. The country needed to hear the president disavow any association with those who idolize America’s greatest sin or our greatest enemy. Instead he claimed many of those on the side with swastikas were “very fine people.” This completely nullifies earlier statements that did condemn racist groups because it convinces white supremacists that when he disavows them he is just saying what is expected of him but does not mean it. 

Whatever you think Trump believes in his heart, the scum who look up to Hitler believe he supports them. Trump’s statement yesterday only reinforced that belief and emboldened them. That is why yesterday’s press conference was so horrifying. That is why Trump cannot be trusted. 

#Science as a Weapon

Having lived and worked in the DC area for the last several years, I frequently play a game I like to call “what are those people protesting?” There is almost always somebody protesting something in our nation’s capital, and, being both politically minded and occasionally nosy, I am interested in learning what could motivate people to gather for a protest.

Last Saturday, thousands of people assembled in Washington DC and around the world. So, what were those people protesting? Well, that’s actually a harder question to answer than it should be considering it was a fairly well publicized event with its own website containing a “why we march” page.

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