The Nation that Tolerance Built
September 27, 2017
Lately, I have been contemplating the President’s response to numerous athletes' peaceful protests during the National Anthem. This is what I would have liked to hear him say:
My Fellow Americans,
Tonight, with heartache and frustration, I must report that our beloved nation is perilously divided. Over the past few nights, I have agonized over the fact that we have made progress on race relations but the controversy surrounding the refusal by some African American NFL athletes to stand during the ritualistic pre-game singing of the National Anthem has revealed that on the issue of race, our once fast-paced progress has stagnated.
I fully understand that many of you, honest and hardworking Americans, find offensive the kneeling during the singing of the National Anthem. While I would choose to protest in a different manner, I frequently recall the words I uttered at my inauguration on January 20, 2017, “I do solemnly swear…to the best of my ability to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Any American has the constitutional right to protest, and even if I disrelish this form of protest, as the president of this great nation, I will and I must defend and respect their incontrovertible, guaranteed right to kneel during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. And, I will honor my pledge that I made upon taking office, a pledge, which was purified by the blood of those Americans who selflessly fought to their dying breath for the freedoms we enjoy.
Finally, we must bring to a halt, our mutating political and racial tribalism or it will bring to an arrest our capacity to “form a more perfect union.” We must proudly become the blessed nation that tolerance built. And, in an attempt to turn down the volume and volatility in the public square, I will hold a series of meetings here in the White House where I, along with Congressional leaders, can better inspire a new tone as we seriously discuss the issues that launched the protest in the first place.
If our nation is to continue it’s euphuistic pursuit of that more perfect union, we must terminate our ultimate allegiance to a race, a tribe, an ideology or a cultural identity. Our destiny is unity not division. When we are engaged in fighting each other, we are unconsciously inviting our adversaries to test us.
Yes, it is true that racial minorities see things quite differently from the majority, but our differences do not demand division.
James Baldwin said that “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
Calling a protester unpatriotic is in and of itself unpatriotic. It reduces patriotism to a falsity.
Emanuel Cleaver, II