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The time I accidentally protested during the national anthem

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University of Virginia

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The time I accidentally protested during the national anthem

Samantha Louque

10.10.17

The only thing worse than being asked to lifeguard a swim meet is being told you have to stay late to guard said swim meet. The evening meet made our shift 12 hours, so needless to say my coworkers and I felt hot, tired, and generally out of it.

15 minutes into my 30 minute rotation, my mind was not functioning at 100%. Surely, you must be worried, "I cannot believe the lifeguard was not paying attention to the kids in the pool." First of all, these were swim team kids. They all swam better than me. Second, they were not even in the damn pool. They all stood around twiddling their thumbs while their coaches tried to sort out heats. I just had to sit in the stand to make sure no one fell in. Finally, no one drowned that day so it does not really matter (but if any of my managers are reading this, I diligently paid attention).

I assume you did not click on this article to hear me bitch about my job. You want to know why I "protested" through the national anthem. Once the coaches got their shit together, a few screechy kids sung the national anthem. Problem was, I did not realize until half way through, "Oh shit, I should have stood up." I knew that if I stood up at that point, I would have caused a whole scene, probably gotten light headed, and fallen off my lifeguard stand into the damn pool. So I stayed seated and hoped no one would notice.

BUT OF COURSE SOMEONE NOTICED. Some old dad comes up to me and says, "Are you one of those stupid kids protesting the national anthem?" I wanted to tell him to fuck off but instead compromised with, "No sir, I am just really tired and I did not realize that I should have stood until after it started and I did not want to be disrespectful and climb down from the stand half way through." He rolled his eyes, mumbled "oh, okay," and walked away. Take that bitch.

So I told my coworkers. We laughed, and I never gave it another thought. Until now.

Recently, our controversial president said another controversial thing (surprise, surprise). In his recent speech, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” People became outraged. In response to these comments, NFL players protested around the country. Some teams refused to take the field while our anthem played. Others kneeled.

President Trump handled this issue poorly. So, I understand why people, especially minorities, feel upset. Atrocities are happening around the country, one of the biggest ones occured in the city I consider my second home.

However, those atrocities are not what the American flag represents. It represents those who have died to protect our freedom. It represents the forces that fought against slavery and Nazis. It represents those who died fighting in the battlefield, so NFL players can fight on the football field. America is by no means a perfect country, but those who fought to make it great deserve respect. Perhaps, this is why I felt confused and a bit offended when that dad thought I had protested.

The NFL used to be a place where politics were forgotten. A place where people of all political affiliations and races could come together and watch sweaty men get paid tons of money to beat the shit out of each other. Now, NFL fans have started burning their merchandise and boycotting the league. The sport has changed from a place of unity, to a place of division. Meanwhile, it is division that people claim to protest.

I respect the right to kneel during the anthem but disagree with the decision to do so. Above all, I respect the over 1 million Americans of all races that died for that right. So, I will stand for the national anthem. At least while I am well rested enough to know what is going on.