We are just a couple of days shy of our nation’s 245th birthday. It is a country that has seen strife and division throughout its history and, sadly, these are things that will continue to repeat themselves. It is a country that allows us so many freedoms. It is a country in which those same freedoms allow individual expressions of speech and the right to protest when we deem something unfair.

Recently, an athlete at the U.S. Olympic Trials exercised her rights to protest by turning away from from the U.S. flag while the national anthem was played, her head draped with an “Activist Athlete” tee shirt.

Regardless of where at the Mingo Messenger stand on her complaint, we must say that what she did was protected by the same flag, the same anthem, that she so blatantly disrespected.

The day she stood on the winners’ podium fidgeting, ultimately turning from the flag and not so elegantly covering her head, was the day the anthem played the loudest for her. It was for her and her actions that the same flag she disrespected symbolically wrapped itself around her and spoke to the public in a much more poetic way than her two-word T-shirt ever could.

Our beloved Declaration of Independence — signed on July 4, 1776, the Constitution, the flag, the national anthem and all the other foundations of the United States of America that she seemingly believes stand against human rights, in fact stand as a bulwark to defend human rights.

It was and is the blood of countless soldiers – men and women of all races – spilled in all corners of the planet, that guarantees her the right to make such a feeble action. True heroes and true freedom fighters gave and continue to give her this right.

As we celebrate this Fourth of July, let us do so in a manner that turns the spotlight on the ideas of freedom that formed this country. Freedom can often be hard because it extends itself to everyone, even those who exercise it in ways that make us uncomfortable. Freedom can be messy as well because, from front porches of homes along country roads to the high-rise buildings of urban sprawls, we all have different opinions, different values and different convictions. But at the end of the day, freedom is the blanket that covers us all because we all need its protection.

If the past year of restrictions, closures and separations forced upon our nation by the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, let it be that we all need each other. That we all can embrace different ideas while still embracing each other. It is time that we attempt to heal our nation. It is time that we stand as a united people and respect a nation that has given us so many freedoms to the point of even allowing us to disrespect its iconic symbols. There are few other countries in the world that would allow things like this to happen.

We are indeed fortunate to live in this country, under this flag, and we are reminded of our good fortune every time we stand and place hand over heart for our awe-inspiring national anthem.

This year — perhaps more than ever before in both our good and not-so-good history — we need to wave our flags, sing patriotic songs, eat hot dogs and watermelon, and watch the fireworks. Sometimes it is far more fitting and right for us to simply memorialize our country than it is to revel in ourselves.

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