Lest we forget, we’re already a great nation

Published 9:10 pm Saturday, September 10, 2016

No doubt, all of us today will at times think back to 15 years ago and recall our reaction when we heard the news about the cowardly terrorist acts committed on our soil on Sept. 11, 2001.

For those of us in the newspaper business, it launched a period of non-stop, frenzied work. I was editor of a small daily afternoon newspaper in the Midwest. I had sent our final page to press that morning when we learned about the tragedy, pulled the paper back and started from scratch. The next 48 hours were a blur. We localized the story in every way imaginable, meaning talked to our community’s residents who were in New York, searched for local connections to those who were in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, and wrote stories about the many ways the tragedy affected the lives of those in our community, like the service station owners in our town who immediately and greedily raised gas prices. It was a crazy time for all of us.

I remember about two days later, I was headed back to the office early in the morning and while backing out of my driveway, the Lee Greenwood song, “God bless the USA,” came on the radio. I don’t know why it happened then and there, but it did, and the tears began to flow. I simply sat there and sobbed. I was hurting for our country and I wanted to sing that song. I wanted to sing our national anthem, and so did others.

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In impromptu fashion, we organized a community gathering down at our riverfront amphitheater on the Sunday afternoon after Sept. 11 and we did just that. We sang. Hundreds of residents showed up and we spent about an hour singing our national anthem and other patriotic songs. The experience was amazingly cathartic.

That’s why I cringed when I heard about Colin Kaepernick dropping to his knee during our national anthem. I cringed Thursday night when, before the Carolina-Denver game, Denver’s Brandon Marshall dropped to his knee, too.

I was hurt and a bit angry. But then I thought about it. Wow, what a country is ours! These guys can silently, peacefully protest and we may not like it, but they are going to live! They won’t be arrested for their protest. No government is going to swoop in, grab them up and lop off their heads. Their protest isn’t hurting anyone else or harming anyone’s property. And those things are exactly why, despite what Donald Trump claims, America is great right now.

I have no doubt Kaepernick, Marshall and others who have joined in their peaceful protest love our country. Surely they do if they are willing to risk the backlash of lost endorsements, cold shoulders from teammates and other repercussions in their attempt to make America even better. Young black men in our country are at risk. That’s simply a fact. If you don’t believe that, your head is someplace it shouldn’t be. And in their peaceful protest, they are working to call attention to that fact.

In their peaceful protest, they are doing exactly what they should be able to do as Americans.

We may not like it, and we may consider their protest shortsighted, but they are exercising their constitutional rights.

As the British woman Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote in her biography about Voltaire, “I disapprove of what your say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Exactly.

How great a country is ours!


Jan Griffey is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach her at jan.griffey@vicksburgpost.com. Readers are invited to submit their opinions for publication.