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     Respect: An act of giving particular attention: consideration; a high or special regard, esteem. – Merriam Webster Dictionary

For decades now, many newspapers have run pictures of the men and women who served in the armed forces as a way to respect and honor them on Veterans Day, coming up on Saturday.

That word, “respect,” has been in the news lately because of the action of professional football players who chose to not stand for “The Star Spangled Banner.”  They said they were protesting this country’s injustice to minorities.

When asked if their actions were disrespectful or unpatriotic, some said that because they were highly visible athletes, they wanted to use their platform to make their point.

And they have every right to do so. Their actions are protected by the First Amendment. However, like the war protesters of the 1960s and ’70s who burned the U.S. flag, the NFL players have confused thoughtful protest with an act of disrespect that insults their country, its citizens, the military and themselves.

Just as the flag represents our country, so does the national anthem. If NFL players believed that dishonoring the anthem would win people to their point of view and force change, they are mistaken. Their actions also ignore the headway that has occurred in the past 50 years advancing minority rights. The progress is real, significant, and ongoing.

There are much better ways to effect change. Among them: Organized efforts to educate and motivate.  Peaceful protests.  Civil discourse.

Words do matter in our society. Respect and civility go hand in hand. Politeness is productive. Differing points of view are actually heard when those stating them are respectful of their opponents’ views and space.

On this coming Veterans Day, I choose to pay my respects to those who from 1776 forward have made possible the right to be uncivil, or even unpatriotic. It’s your right to be rude to your fellow human being or the flag, but that doesn’t make it “right.”

Of the many definitions of “respect” I reviewed recently, a favorite is this one from

“Respect is a way of treating or thinking about someone or something. You can respect things as well as people. You show respect by being polite and kind. For a lot of people, taking your hat off is a show of respect. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance shows respect to your country.”

And then there is this telling definition of respect from the Urban Dictionary:

“A quality seriously lacking in today’s society.”

Nov. 8, 2017