Patriots And Protesters Should Take A Knee For The Constitution

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

By all means, let’s talk about patriotism and President Trump’s call for “respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem.”

At a time when the American flag adorns everything from men’s boxers and women’s bikinis to beer koozies, bandannas and advertising billboards (with little outcry from the American public), and the National Anthem is sung by Pepper the Parrot during the Puppy Bowl, this conveniently timed outrage over disrespect for the country’s patriotic symbols rings somewhat hollow, detracts from more serious conversations that should be taking place about critical policy matters of state, and further divides the nation and ensures that “we the people” will not present a unified front to oppose the police state.

First off, let’s tackle this issue of respect or lack thereof for patriotic symbols.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, Americans have a right to abstain from patriotic demonstrations and/or actively protest that demonstration, for example, by raising one’s fist during the Pledge of Allegiance. Likewise, Americans have a First Amendment right to display, alter or destroy the U.S. flag as acts of symbolic protest speech.

In fact, in Street v. New York (1969), the Supreme Court held that the government may not punish a person for uttering words critical of the flag. The case arose after Sidney Street, hearing about the attempted murder of civil rights leader James Meredith in Mississippi, burned a 48-star American flag on a New York City street corner to protest what he saw as the government’s failure to protect Meredith. Upon being questioned about the flag, Street responded, “Yes; that is my flag; I burned it. If they let that happen to Meredith, we don’t need an American flag.”

In Spence v. Washington (1974), the Court ruled that the right to display the American flag with any mark or design upon it is a protected act of expression. The case involved a college student who had placed a peace symbol on a three by five foot American flag using removable black tape and displayed it upside down from his apartment window.

Finally, in Texas v. Johnson (1989), the Court held that flag burning was protected speech under the First Amendment.  The case arose from a demonstration near the site of the Republican National Convention in Dallas during which protesters marched through the streets, chanted political slogans, staged “die-ins” in front of several corporate offices to dramatize the consequences of nuclear war, and burned the flag as a means of political protest.

In other words, if freedom means anything, it means that those exercising their right to protest are showing the greatest respect for the principles on which this nation was founded: the right to free speech and the right to dissent. Clearly, the First Amendment to the Constitution assures Americans of the right to speak freely, assemble freely and protest (petition the government for a redress of grievances).

Whether those First Amendment activities take place in a courtroom or a classroom, on a football field or in front of the U.S. Supreme Court is not the issue: what matters is that Americans have a right—according to the spirit, if not always the letter, of the law—to voice their concerns without being penalized for it.

Second, let’s not confuse patriotism (love for or devotion to one’s country) with blind obedience to the government’s dictates. That is the first step towards creating an authoritarian regime.

One can be patriotic and love one’s country while at the same time disagreeing with the government or protesting government misconduct. Indeed, real patriots care enough to take a stand, speak out, protest and challenge the government whenever it steps out of line.

It’s not anti-American to be anti-war or anti-police misconduct or anti-racial discrimination, but it is anti-American to be anti-freedom.

America requires more than voters inclined to pay lip service to a false sense of patriotism. It requires doers—a well-informed and very active group of doers—if we are to have any chance of holding the government accountable and maintaining our freedoms.

After all, it was not idle rhetoric that prompted the Framers of the Constitution to begin with the words “We the people.”

This ultimate responsibility for maintaining our freedoms rests with the people.

Third, we need to stop acting as if showing “respect” for the country, flag and national anthem is more important than the freedoms they represent.

Listen: I served in the Army. I lived through the Civil Rights era. I came of age during the Sixties, when activists took to the streets to protest war and economic and racial injustice. As a constitutional lawyer, I defend people daily whose civil liberties are being violated, including high school students prohibited from wearing American flag t-shirts to school, allegedly out of a fear that it might be disruptive.

I understand the price that must be paid for freedom. None of the people I served with or marched with or represented put our lives or our liberties on the line for a piece of star-spangled cloth or a few bars of music: we took our stands and made our sacrifices because we believed we were fighting to maintain our freedoms and bring about justice for all Americans.

Love of country will sometimes entail carrying a picket sign or going to jail or taking a knee, if necessary, to preserve liberty and challenge injustice. And it will mean speaking up for those with whom you might disagree. Tolerance for dissent, we must remember, is a vital characteristic of the citizens of a democratic society.

The problems facing our generation are numerous and are becoming incredibly complex.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re at a very crucial crossroads in American history. We have to be well-informed, not only about current events but well-versed in the basics of our rights and duties as citizens. If not, in perceived times of crisis, we may very well find ourselves in the clutches of a governmental system that is alien to everything for which America stands.

Therein is the menace to our freedoms.

So stop falling for the distractions. Stop allowing yourself to be fooled by propaganda and partisan politics. Stop acting as if the only thing worth getting outraged about is whether a bunch of football players stand or kneel for the National Anthem.

Stop being armchair patriots and start acting like foot soldiers for the Constitution.


Deep In Vocal … Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:02 Permalink

Another clown retired army boy contribution.................... these retired clown boys keep coming in waves here on ZH....hey junior...proud of serving in that us army eh? ha ha ha...............lost all the wars................every time you bomb the innocent, your freedoms getting taken from you at home.......... little army man..........trying to be the grown up now..... "i understand whuz price haz to be paidz for freedomz"  -a hypocrite, a liar. you don't know what freedom is. you never experienced real freedom. your whole life has been a lie army boy..........little fucking clown boy contributor... hey why dont you go slaughter some more innocent civlians in some innocent what you do best instead of looking for attention on the internet 

HopefulCynical Rusty Shorts Tue, 09/26/2017 - 02:14 Permalink

Another tired bullshit essay, castigating us for not honoring the right to protest.Fuck you.The right to protest is not at issue. The right of some celebrity to shit in their hand, grab the country by the back of the head with the other hand, and rub its nose in their shitty, virtue signaling grievance culture, is what's at issue.When they shit in their hand and run then toward us, trying to shove it down our throats as 'entertainment' we change the goddamn channel and call them nasty names. We refuse to buy tickets to their preachy, scoldy movies. We ignore their collective-self-pleasuring award shows. If I walked into Wendy's and they tried to serve me a shitburger instead of a Baconator, the reaction would be the same. Fuck you, I'll take my business elsewhere. There is ZERO chance any of this media hype is about anything except Marxist grievance culture, fighting the paradigm shift. The globalist parasites know full well that the masses are awakening, that far too many re already awake, and that there is no longer a future that sees them winning.The only question remaining is whether they just lose, or whether they succeed in taking all of us back to the Stone Age with them. I am certain that #1 is still an option. The mass hysteria I see from the media is ample proof to me that THEY THINK SO TOO.

In reply to by Rusty Shorts

perikleous ThePhantom Tue, 09/26/2017 - 06:03 Permalink

Yes they are killing minorities at a higher rate (black/brown) but you cannot say its only poor working class blacks/browns...The poor working class whites are being killed and abused "jailed" just the same, because the police are not targeting minorities, they are targeting the poor working class !You never see this in rich areas where (wealthy) minorities do reside, but they never get killed, because police do not patrol those areas in riot gear, they drive through in uniform and save the swat/riot gear for low income areas!It is a rich/poor issue not racial!The average working class white person has more incommon with the working class minority(need the paycheck to survive living day to day)than any working class person has incommon with the wealthy, the same wealthy that are surrounded by security and gated communities...Remember the Justin Timberlake movie from 2011 (In Time)It was a dumb movie but hit the nail on the head as far as the wealthy are concerned, they are above us, like a different species of human, I guess we are subhuman or they are super human !

In reply to by ThePhantom

perikleous ThePhantom Tue, 09/26/2017 - 06:16 Permalink

The drug war is to profitable to give up!The only ones being jailed are working class.Its not like the poor jobless person living in a ghetto is traveling back and forth to afghanistan to purchase Heroin for resale!That luxury is the Govt and big banks working hand in glove and delivering it to major cities for resale!What do you think funds these black ops and supports the CIA.Govt wants us to think its all from Mexico yet every video of mexican cartels shows cannabis fields not poppiesIf the people realize its all coming from Afghanistan the people would demand the US Glyphosate the crop and leave the area!Where does the US medical opium (for pain pills) come from? Afghanistan!Its not like they cannot be buying 10X what they use and black market the rest...Didyou ever wonder why there is never a shortage of street drugs?If it was all from cartel smuggling there would be dry periods(DEA busts) yet somehow its always available, like alcohol and fuel (Gov't supplied)

In reply to by ThePhantom

Irate Samurai Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:09 Permalink

Symbols are for the symbol-minded. And if I were to ever worship a flag I would design one myself and plant it on my own property to represent my sovereign land. Collectivism is a mental disorder. 

Deep In Vocal … Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:05 Permalink

you served in the army..... who gives a flying fuck mate? you're a fucking murderer for the jew and the military security complex? what the fuck????? look in the mirror, you are the problem here!  how dare you call yourself a veteran? veterans go to war to fight evil...murderes go to war to slaughter the innocent and protect the heroine and oil fields

Michael Musashi Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:11 Permalink

The issue isn't about kneeling to patriotism. The issue is that these millionaires are using a nationally recognized brand and corporation to push a leftist agenda and have the gull to insist that they have the moral authority. The reality is, these players are mostly dumb kids, who have very little common sense or experience to even understand their own hypocrisy.The shameful part comes after the game, when many leave in their expensive sport cars and run to the strip club to snort cocaine off some stripper's ass and then drive home drunk and high. They wake the next day and the kneeling part is the farthest thing from their minuscule brains until it pops up on their Facebook feed. 

Vageling TBT or not TBT Tue, 09/26/2017 - 03:05 Permalink

Maff? You mean voodoo! The maff didn't work out so they started getting special rules for themselves. Bad juju. And they blame us, the sheeple. More voodoo, ermm, regulation needed. You know... Banning cash. Oh... You didn't buy that new TeeVee? Well... We have to fine you! What? You didn't buy a new car? We'll have to fine you! Maff? It has got nothing to do with maff! 

In reply to by TBT or not TBT

dasein211 Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:14 Permalink

Man, the bankers must be thanking their lucky stars the idiots are so distracted. Experian and Deloitte couldn't be happier with the distractions. Neither could Wells Fargo. I gues Trump was right to be thankful that people are so stupid.

Rebelrebel7 Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:17 Permalink

Thank you for this excellent essay John Whitehead. It is a refreshing change of pace from those threatening to extinguish women and replace them with humanoid robots for abiding by their patriotic duty of informed and impartial political discourse on the internet.

Vageling Rebelrebel7 Tue, 09/26/2017 - 03:10 Permalink

I missed that talk I guess... You read the article on here as well as... China, I believe, that company after a week pulled the plug? I doubt you find many ZH's preaching to stick your dick in a robot. It's what the zionist want you to do because they rather have women with gimmegrants. Fuck robots and fuck women from (((there))). 

In reply to by Rebelrebel7

Animal Mother Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:16 Permalink

Its naive or worse to believe that these protests are about Cops, or dead black people. If these ignorant dipshits gave a damn about other black people they would have been kneeling years ago to protest the carnage in Chicago or any of their other hoods. This is all about hatin Whitey. This current bunch of "athletes" has been fully indoctrinated with leftist race-baiting BS, and they hate white people. And lets be honest. The reason they all hate the cops has nothing to do with other cops shooting black people and has everything to do with the fact that they hate the po-po because they are always arresting them for beating their wives/girlfriends. 

Vageling G-R-U-N-T Tue, 09/26/2017 - 03:15 Permalink

That is the thing that makes me angry. STanding there with a straight face yapping about being some contribution to society. Inspiring, and whatever claptrap. They're overpaid muppets chasing a fucking ball or airheads playing some script. They should just shut the fuck up and deliver what was paid for. Not acting like some fucking demon that needs to be worshiped. They sure ain't hell are bright or even have a clue. Just overpaid puppets. Can't even deliver anymore. 

In reply to by G-R-U-N-T

Manipuflation Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:18 Permalink

I am starting to become anti-Harley Davidson.  I love the bikes but this electrical situation is really starting to piss me off.  What the fuck?  I am a good wrench but I hate electrical issues.  The bikes just vibrate themselves to death it seems.  I know that they are an American Icon but they are are hard to work on and especially so the newer ones. As a Harley of more than one bike I am kind of pissed off.  Have you ever tried to lay a wrench on one?  Good luck.  I have wrenches by the CWT and I don't have what it takes most of the time without disassembling the bike.  Harley needs to knock it off.  No one said that I need a Harley to go knees to the breeze.  I would be just fine on a Japanese bike. I fixed the damned thing anyway with my middle finger raised towards Milwaukee.  Who the fuck designed this bullshit?

MedicalQuack Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:17 Permalink

It is a distraction, like flags and statues were or still are, but knees, flags and statues don't run computer code, "the one trick algos" out there and that's where the control and danger is, so by comparison this is distraction.Said it in 2013 the first time that the US has a big problem as people can't tell the difference anymoe between a real world and a virtual world value. If the first player would have just kneeled and not said why he was kneeling, we wouldn't have this big mess, think about it:)…

_triplesix_ Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:21 Permalink


A thousand words of drivel with zero understanding of the issue? This is NOT about free speech or the first amendment, FFS. This is private workplace demonstration that has no constitutional protections.

bshirley1968 _triplesix_ Tue, 09/26/2017 - 00:32 Permalink

Well obviously the NFL "workplace" has no problem with the demonstration.  So what is your gripe?  Have you been triggered because someone thinks differently than you.People express themselves politically in the work place all the time.  Your only recourse is to boycott the NFL.  Mr. Whitehead is pointing out what is more important than whether someone expresses proper protocol. You don't mind the "expressing" themselves the way you agree with or the way you demand, right?  You want to any means..... "expression" you disagree with, right?   Maybe they should do away with the Anthem at sporting events.

In reply to by _triplesix_