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The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos: Perhaps good can come from 'taking a knee' debate

October 04. 2017 10:10PM

When my brothers and I were little, we attended plenty of parades that traveled from the top of Library Hill all the way down Main Street. We would wave our miniature flags as we listened to the bands’ powerful drumbeats get louder and watched the proud participants march by. Often, we would beg our dad to buy us a souvenir. I really wanted that cute kewpie doll on a stick; to this day, I can’t recall if I ever got one.

When it came to holding the American flag, my father had specific rules about its proper handling. For example, we were not allowed to point it down to the ground, deface it or disrespect it.

Some of the older teens wore smaller flags as patches on their jeans; I thought it looked cool, but Dad would never have allowed anything like that under his roof.

Like most men from the WW II generation, Dad (American Legion and DAV member) had an exceptionally deep respect for the United States. For him, it was about duty, honor and service to country. Newsman Tom Brokaw’s wonderful book, “The Greatest Generation,” eloquently describes the courage, character and sacrifice of the men and women who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II, and who then went on to lay the foundation for the America we enjoy today, one with much freedom and abundance.

At Crowley School, we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance with our little hands over our hearts. We never once questioned it — we just did it. It was a thing called respect.

My mom loved singing Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” and would break out in refrain if she heard it played on television. I would giggle, but she knew all the words.

Today, things are different — much different. I hate getting political because it’s not my forte, and I consider myself a moderate and prefer it when a Republican or a Democrat leans toward moderation. Which brings me to this taking-a-knee-during-the-national-anthem issue. In my humble opinion, I don’t like the gesture. It’s not how I was raised, but I also believe in the First Amendment and the right to peaceably assemble.

And I know the original intention of NFL player Colin Kaepernick was to shine a light on racial injustice and protest police violence against African Americans, but many citizens believe taking a knee is disrespectful to the nation and the President, is degrading to the flag and anthem and the men and women who sacrificed and paid a heavy price for our freedoms.

I also know that for Kaepernick and others, taking a knee is a symbolic gesture of hurt, not of dishonor.

It was President Donald Trump who fanned the flames of this fiery debate, calling Kaepernick and any other professional athlete who kneels during the national anthem an S.O.B. who should be fired.

After the President’s comments, I found myself feeling much the way Patriots owner Robert Kraft did — deeply disappointed, and I believe that maligning the character of professional athletes is lousy and hurtful.

Hopefully, something good can come of this, and the conversation can move forward in a positive way.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at

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