Column: The anthem, the flag and protest

BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO The flag outside our columnist’s house.

The flag outside our columnist’s house.

I don’t get upset or appalled very often. But I am exhausted listening to people living in our country who do not respect our flag, country or national anthem.

Many of the proponents of this attitude are our celebrity sports figures. In our country, these hot shots are making millions of dollars and living life in the fast lane every day. They are using this celebrity and the platform that we put them on to tell the youth of our country that our flag is not worthy of them to stand up and honor.

I say to them, with so many countries in the world that think exactly like you do, maybe moving there would make you happy.

Then you would not have the inconvenience of having to tell all of us that our country sucks. Incidentally, when you find that perfect place that is fair to everyone, please let the rest of us know.

I will hold back on mentioning any names because they are already receiving all the attention that they so crave.

I am sure that if I moved to a new country that I would be loyal to the place I decided to live. This is my country, I proudly stand up, I put my hand on my chest during our national anthem and remind myself how lucky I am to be living in such a great nation. Like all places, it is not perfect, but I love it.

I have also taught my children to appreciate what we have and not look to what we do not have. I only wish that I could throw a ball a little farther or run a little faster, then I could stand in front of these athletes so our youth couldn’t see them.

Many years ago, my grandparents left the country where they were born, Italy, and came to this land for a better life. As a young man I was told that they were packed on the bottom of a boat for days. When they finally arrived, nothing was very easy and nothing was handed to them. They took any job they could find just to make a living in this new land. They came here legally and were American citizens.

My grandfather worked in a stone quarry for years until after he met my grandmother. When they married, they bought a house that provided a dual purpose — a home and a store. He became a butcher and they used the front of the house to create Mike’s Meat Market. I spent all of my teenage years residing in that house behind the meat market.

My grandparents respected our language and spoke only English to us kids and Italian in the company of other Italian friends and customers. They knew there was such a thing as the American Dream and they fought hard to get a piece of it for their family.

As a young girl, my grandmother caught her shoe on a railroad track and ended up losing her leg. Grandma had this wooden leg all of her life, but you would never know it because she never complained. From the stories I’ve heard, she raised eight children in this new house. Along with raising her children, she ran the store, cooked the meals, made the clothes for her family and in her leisure time, she would knit outfits for all the babies.

Living with Grandma and Grandpa, I learned they loved this new country and I never once heard them dishonor it. They proudly flew the American flag in front of their store. During our national anthem, they were happy to stand up, and put their hand on their chest. They taught us kids what you were supposed to do when you love your country.

In those days, they worked hard for nickels, dimes and quarters. With that money, they managed to buy their house and the house next door. They filled those houses with family and somehow we all seemed to get our meat and vegetables at no cost.

Hard work kept the family close and, yes, they had the beginning of the American Dream. They somehow knew that the American Dream did not come by luck. It came from hard work, risk-taking and sacrifice.

Today, we have young athletes getting paid millions of dollars because they have the ability to run fast or maybe throw a football well. Instead of appreciating all that they have, they choose to use our stage to dishonor our flag and country.

The part that hit me the hardest was that these acts were done on the eve of the 15th anniversary of 9/11. One of them even went a little further by wearing socks that showed our police as pigs. That’s right, the very people that were running into that building on that day just to protect our families. They were not looking at color; they were looking for people to save.

At ball games, the national anthem has always been a special part of the pre-game ceremony. To me, it has always been an opportunity to honor our country and a chance to reflect on the folks that fought so hard for so many.

I realize that part of our America is freedom of religion and expression. I would hope that these athletes would just find another venue to express themselves.

“God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her.”