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Letter: Patriotism can take many forms

The recent controversy over kneeling while the national anthem was playing before an NFL football game brings the whole focus of "symbolism" over "patriotism" in question. The flag is a symbol representing the values attributed to the "Republic for which it stands."

Hard to reach consensus on what respect for the flag means if the "values" are not well understood. In this case, the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of expression, supports individual right to kneel or sit or be absent as long as it is done peacefully. End of discussion. No disrespect for the flag, just a personal demonstration to show that government behind the flag may not be fulfilling its responsibility to "protect" its citizenry, no matter what color or ethnicity.

Not surprising, following a rash of police shooting unarmed black males, including a young teenager walking around and playing with a plastic gun. Add to this, constant fear of being profiled while simply driving down the street.

Our "for profit" prisons are full of young black and latino folks who were stopped for minor infractions or their ethnicity so "rogue" police could carry out a car search for illegal substances or immigration status. Offenders arrested and sent off to high cost government or privately owned "detention" facilities awaiting trial if they can't make bail, then on to a trial with low level or no legal assistance. Most end up with unduly long prison sentences.

Of course, there is anger at being suppressed and outwardly hated for centuries. To many, the flag represents the terrible treatment small segments of our populace, mostly white males, have imposed on those who are "different" in color, race, nationality, religion, political beliefs...not what our forefathers intended. In this area, Native Americans have been subjected to similar abuses.

Personally, I have problems with symbols. As for the flag, there are occasions when I stand proudly when the occasion is actually honoring those who have served, especially those who paid the ultimate price. Athletics events, or any big crowd gathering, are simply opportunities for clever power monger/politicians to show division, not unity, across mixed audiences. Standers are patriotic. Sitters are shown to be un-American. Don't side with or vote for evil "sitters."

For me, the same feeling is true for the Pledge of Allegiance. The phrases, "Under God" in the Pledge and "In God We Trust" on coins have no common meaning. Our forefathers were adamant about separation of church and state while strongly supporting freedom of and freedom from religion.

Mindless repetition of the Pledge through our school years and other gatherings of opportunity diminishes its meaning. Using symbols and pledges are tools that religions, political and other ideologies sneak into governing in ways our forefathers deplored.

Holding these views, am I patriotic? I think so. My Dad and Uncle fought in WW!, Brother Bud, Brothers-in Law, Bill and Fred, served in WWII, Brothers Denny, Dale, and Jim in the Korean War, Dale came home in a flag-draped casket, and I personally spent four years in the Air Force and 40 more working for the Department. of Defense developing computer-based systems to help the troops fight smarter and safer.

The flag has special meaning when draped on the casket of another fallen brother or part of a color guard in military ceremonies. Athletic events, business and organization meetings, school events ... not so much.—Lee Purrier, Park Rapids