O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I love this country with every bit of my being. I don’t overlook its complicated and painful past, but I believe so strongly in the ideals that our founding fathers chose to immortalize in writing…
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
My patriotism runs from a place that believes that we can be better. That we must challenge ourselves to be better.. That we must not accept a society that isn’t moving toward those truths that are self-evident. All men are created equal with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The reality is that groups of people in our society are being deprived of their rights. Our current administration cautions against violence toward white supremacists, Nazis and Klan members, noting that there are some “very fine people” at their rallies. Meanwhile, police killed at least 104 unarmed black people in 2015. Unarmed black Americans are five times more likely to be killed by the police. In St. Louis, the rate at which the police kill black men is higher than the U.S. murder rate. We have to recognize that this is a problem and be better as a nation. The systematic killing of black Americans has to stop.
Athletes have been exercising their First Amendment right to protest this and, in contrast to the “very fine people” that attend white supremacist rallies, our president called these athletes “sons of bitches.” He later tweeted…
More so than with most of his toxic commentary, all of this struck me. It struck me with its profound wrongness. The patriots that died for this country didn’t die for a flag. They died for independence from tyranny and to preserve freedom and liberty. They died because there is nothing more important than to protect others from oppression. And, our founding fathers knew that these ideals were so important that they protected our right to tell our government when it’s fucking up squarely in the very first amendment to the constitution. The right to protest mistreatment by our government is woven in to the fabric of our values. These athletes aren’t protesting the flag, or disrespecting the military or our country. They’re protesting the violation of our social contract and addressing their grievances in the manner our founding fathers outlined for them. It is unconstitutional for our president to abridge their freedom of speech.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I love this country and, despite the events of the last year, I still believe it is one of the only countries on Earth with the potential for people to live up to their potential and achieve their dreams, but only if we insist that this country keep its promise. I feel called as a citizen to live honorably and a duty to serve my neighbor. I support these athletes’ (and others’) right to protest and I stand with these Americans. I stand against institutionalized discrimination and racism.
Finally, as a scientist, I also value my right to speak the truth freely and to protest things that I know to be contrary to fact and truth. Any attempt to stop peaceful statements of the truth is a challenge to values that are so very dear to me (and hopefully to you too).
So, on Tuesday I invite you to stand, or take a knee, with me in solidarity with the citizens of our country that are bravely exercising their right to challenge their government. I’ve been using the hashtag #ScientistsTakeAKnee on Twitter (h/t @sciencing_bi) to organize the conversation. Whether you’re alone, or with a group, I encourage you to stop for a while on Tuesday and to take a knee. You can take a picture and post it to Twitter or other social media.
Let’s show the world that scientists stand in solidarity with our fellow citizens against discrimination and in support of our right to protest mistreatment of American citizens by our government.