I remember why I removed myself from social media one year ago. The hate and divisiveness I see hurts my heart. I tire of the vitriol and the rhetoric and the judgment and hatred disturbs my soul.
I spent four years in the Army, and deployed to Iraq in 2004 with a combat support hospital. During the months I was in Balad, I took care of whoever rolled through the doors of the tent. It didn’t matter where they came from or how they got hurt, I cared for them. We fought to bring freedom from oppression for the citizens of that country.
I know what the flag means. I huddled in a bunker as mortars flew overhead. I ran to the hospital when a car bomb exploded at the gate my friends protected. I saw the gruesome results of the fight for freedom and I am proud of the work I did while I was in the Army.
I fought for freedom that many in our country do not experience.
The men and women who kneel during the anthem don’t hurt my feelings. They don’t make me angry. America was populated by people running from religious oppression. They said, “The state can’t tell me what to believe. The government can’t tell me to be quiet.” Those foundational freedoms set America apart from other countries.
I see people trying to take those freedoms away. It makes my heart pound and my hands shake in helpless rage. The judgment and criticism descending on those who demonstrate their pain and their experience is horrifying to me. The name calling and hatred makes me want to plug my ears and remove myself from the conversation.
I am proud of the men and women who express themselves in spite of the boos descending upon them. By kneeling, they are standing up to declare the America we think exists doesn’t actually exist. And instead of criticism, judgement, and condemnation, I wish we would kneel beside them and say, “Tell me about it. Tell me about the world you live in. Help me to understand your pain.”
Jesus did this. He sat at the well to talk to a Samaritan women—one of the most degraded and oppressed people of that time. He touched lepers—societal outcasts living in isolation. The Bible is full of stories of God seeking the culturally insignificant. In Jesus, He entered our story to rescue us.
Jesus saw a hurting people and entered their story. I believe we are called to do the same.
If an entire group of people says they feel overlooked, oppressed, and “less than,” shouldn’t we enter that story? The answer isn’t to point fingers and tell them they are wrong. Instead of throwing stones, we should offer a hand to lift others up.
Offer understanding and compassion.
The flag represents freedom. Freedom to believe whatever you want to believe. Freedom to say whatever you want to say. Freedom to express your pain in hopes that the next generation won’t endure the same thing.
The ones who kneel don’t dishonor our country. They exercise the rights symbolized by the red, white, and blue. Throwing stones at those who disagree only drags the flag through the mud of oppression and condemnation.
It’s time to kneel with those who kneel. Only then can we stand together and lift the flag in honor.