GOP hypocrisy on Gwen Berry and the National Anthem (opinion)
She continued, “He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we, as a country, haven’t lived up to our highest ideals. And it means respecting the rights of people granted to them in the Constitution to peacefully protest.”
For her part, Berry says she was “set up” — that she wasn’t told the anthem would play while she was on the podium. “I never said that I hated the country, never said that. All I said was I respect my people enough to not stand or acknowledge something that disrespects them. I love my people point blank, period.”
The plain fact is, her actions are protected under the very constitution that conservative “patriots” claim to revere, and it would be wildly inappropriate and frankly un-American to remove her from the Olympic team for exercising her rights to free expression and peaceful protest.
It’s particularly rich that many of the same conservatives who are criticizing Berry are also some of the chief whiners about so-called “cancel culture,” and that they have had much less to say about the very real acts of insurrection and attacks on America that have come from members and supporters of their own party. Supporters of election-loser Donald Trump stormed the Capitol complex on January 6, threatened to hang then Vice President Pence, and sent lawmakers — Republican and Democrat — frantically scrambling for their lives in a shocking assault on the seat of our democracy.
The hypocrisy grates. But it also reveals a profound left-right divide in how so many Americans think about loving our country. For liberals like myself, part of our patriotic duty is the campsite rule: Leave a place better than you found it. The America I am most proud of is the America that strives to be better; the Americans I most admire are those who fought to make it better, often in the face of conservative rage and often under the heavy hand of unjust laws.
I believe that the American constitution wisely protects free speech and expression, and wisely prohibits the establishment of religion; that our founding document extends these liberties and protections to American citizens isn’t just a point of pride, but a crucial set of values that must be protected. It doesn’t matter whether I agree with Berry or not in her decision to turn away from the flag during the National Anthem.
What matters is that she’s protected in having the full freedom to do so. That’s American. That’s where I feel proudest of my country. Demanding she’s penalized for legal, constitutionally protected behavior is about as un-American and unpatriotic as it gets.
For many conservatives, love of country seems to be something shallower and more performative. It’s waving a flag. It’s reciting a pledge. It’s standing up for a song.
That stuff is easy — there’s no real work or sacrifice in blindly and reflexively proclaiming loyalty to your country. Protecting the very values enshrined in our constitution when it’s hard, though — that’s devotion. That’s the work of loving a country beyond performing patriotism. And that’s where so many Republicans are showing that their patriotism is less about a deep belief in American freedom than a desire to demand conformity, orthodoxy and line-toeing.
That’s not freedom at all.