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Rep. Estes: If able, we should be willing

Maybe I am simply more observant with age, but it seems American society is changing almost daily.

And the changes I am noticing surface at the most unusual times. For example, my son and I traveled recently to take in a few college basketball games at the NCAA Tournament. And in each instance, I was hearing words I never dreamed I would hear in America.

Here seems to be the phrase some public address announcers are using just prior to the National Anthem being played at sporting events: “Those who are willing and able.’’

This is now the invitation being offered as opposed to asking everyone to rise for the playing of our National Anthem.

In the first instance, I turned to my son in pure disbelief at what my ears were hearing. I understand there might be those who are unable to stand through the duration of the song, either by sickness, weakness or the fact they were injured in military service. Never would I take exception to such cases, but asking all who are “willing’’ to stand breaks my heart.

In fact, the mere concept makes my blood boil.

Certainly, I understand we live in a free society, or at least we do at the time of this writing. Persons have the right to sit or stand during these precious moments, but why should they choose to sit?

In some instances, I have seen those who have chosen to sit during the anthem, as a veteran stands adjacent to them. Sitting in defiance of the National Anthem as a sign of protest befuddles me.

Why would you sit or kneel in opposition to the very flag which represents the nation, soldiers and veterans who have fought and often died to give you such a right?

As I so often told my children as they were growing up: just because you have the right does not make it right.

Countless times, I have made these same comments while speaking in schools across House District 17. I attempt to paint a graphic picture for our students of those on the battlefield who laid dying in defense of our democratic republic and the values we have held dear for almost 250 years. I remind them it is their patriotic duty to cast a ballot in each and every election held once they become of age.

I love this nation to my very core. I was raised to open the door for a lady, give up my seat on the bus or subway for a woman and always respond to an elder or someone in a position of authority over me with a simple yes ma’am or no sir. I was raised to respect  authority in whichever manner it came, whether it be my parents, my teachers, law enforcement or senior adults.

As a student, my friends and I knew to stand to our feet, place our hand over our heart and remain in complete silence until the anthem was completed, if we were not singing along as the music was played.

Disrespecting the American flag is a totally foreign concept to me. I will never understand the reasoning behind those making such a decision. There are so many legal ways in our country to express disappointment or disagreement with our government, but disrespecting the flag which provides you with the freedom to do so will always escape me.

But sitting in Birmingham and Louisville as my alma mater was preparing to take the floor in the tournament, I was saddened to hear the words, “willing and able.’’ In my opinion, for those of us who are able, we should always be willing.

State Rep. Tracy Estes represents District 17 in the Alabama House of Representatives. District 17 covers parts of Lamar, Marion, and Winston counties. 

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