You may have noticed the front page picture on this site.* Back in 2000, that picture was the subject of much consternation, controversy and what not. (My first viewing of this photo was at Cobb’s site a few weeks back.) Some of it I understand.
In the past I have lamented on the improper display of the flag. As a former military member, I am mindful of how the flag should be treated and often have had to bite my tongue when I see flags flying that are in disrepair or see them flying at night or while it’s raining.
However, a little perspective is a handy thing to have and I have re-thought my position. While many civilians aren’t aware of the flag protocol and often violate it, they are usually doing so to show their love and respect and pride for the things that this country stands for. In such cases, a little gentle correction is warranted, rather than going ballistic.
For that reason, when I saw photo the 2000 Olympic Track and Field 4x100 meter relay team hamming it up while displaying their pride for their accomplishment and for the nation they were in Sydney to represent, I was inclined to be rather forgiving of their improper display of the flag as I was to rocker Kid Rock’s donning of a flag poncho during his performance at this year’s Super Bowl.
Apparently, however, from the response that S-Train received from posting the 2000 Olympic photo and expressing his opinion regarding same, some aren’t quite as forgiving.
Allow me to add bit more perspective. Remember this photo?
It’s from the Mexico City Olympics of 1968. Recall that the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing then.
Did Tommie Smith and John Carlos and the rest of black America have a legitimate beef with their country? Most definitely. However, the purpose of this post is not to debate whether showing their disrespect toward the flag and the National Anthem was appropriate in this venue.
As most of you who read this blog know, I’m not one to call racism lightly or dredge up the racial sins of America at every turn. But, in light of the various indignities—to use a perfectly insufficient description—that were visited upon black Americans for centuries (and still occasionally are), it’s a wonder that any black Americans still love this country, are proud of it, and are willingly to represent it, celebrate it and defend it.
The great thing about our country is its general capacity for change in the face of unworkable conditions. And it has changed. So, in recognition of that fact, the Tommie Smiths and the John Carloses of this world have, in a generation, become the Maurice Greenes, the Jon Drummonds, the Bernard Williamses and the Brian Lewises of the 2000 photo.
To those who criticized S-Train for the photo, you need to recognize that or, at the very least, get over the fact that the gentlemen in the photo—winners all—are just as American and just as proud of it as you are. And, if you really want to be helpful to such young men, congratulate them on their achievement(s), tell them how the flag is properly displayed and advise them to "chill" during the national anthem and explain the reasoning behind it.
Their patriotism, however, is unassailable.
*My site picture is often changed. Go here to view the picture in question, if it isn't on the front page.