The right to the freedom of speech has been invoked a lot lately though really not more frequently than any other time during the past 228 years. Many people seem to believe there is a law titled “Freedom of Speech” that allows you to say anything. No, there isn’t. The First Amendment to the Constitution says government shall make no laws restricting freedom of speech. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has no restriction. They have since announced athletes can protest in any manner they wish.

With this freedom Gwenn Berry, women’s hammer throw, turned her back and covered her head on the podium as the National Anthem was played at the Olympic trials. Winner DeAnna Price and second-place finisher Brooke Andersen stood still on the podium with their hands over their hearts as the National Anthem played.

Later Price said she supported her teammate. “I think people should say whatever they want to say. I’m proud of her,” she said.

That has been the defense of Berry’s supporters. She had the right to protest.

Agree, she had the right. However, just because you have the right to do a thing does not mean it is the right thing to do.

She had the right because the freedom to do it was won at great cost to those who pledged their lives, their liberty, and their sacred honor in giving birth to America. Further indebtedness is owed to the members of the armed forces who have sustained freedom for the very country she disparaged. Berry has not served her country, nor does she know the history of its founding. Nevertheless she is the beneficiary of its blood bought freedom.

Tragically there was a period when the ancestors of Black Americans was horribly imposed upon. Human slavery is an idea that must have been born in hell. It is despicable and regrettable. However, it should be remembered that open wound on the conscience of America was overcome under that flag and freedom’s bell rang for all, as it should be.

Older people show gratitude, not ingratitude, because they know the price of freedom. One body with which we recently worshiped was enthralled as they listened to a POW tell of his eight years of imprisonment and isolation. He spent several of those years entrapped in a tiny bamboo cage enduring torture. He like millions of others, served under that disrespected flag in order to keep it flying. I watched as a diverse congregation stood for the presentation of the colors, proudly pledged their allegiance, and sang those iconic lines of Lee Greenwood:

“... I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free

And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”

Then follows a line related to the flag.

“Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.”

If we keep on the path Berry represents, no one will have to take that freedom from us, we will have forfeited it and no one will be free.

An oft repeated slogan or motto sums it up: “United we stand, divided we fall,” meaning, if we work together we can be successful. If we fight each other we will fail.

Abraham Lincoln proved to be a prophet when he famously stated that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” His remarks would prove prescient given the great civil war to come. No one will benefit from another.

The Rev. Dr. Nelson L. Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.

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(1) comment

George Don Spruill

I have a different opinion of what Gwen Berry did and — going back to Colin Kaepernick — what many others have done. Most of them are — in essence — saying.

”Look at me!” Kaepernick had lost out to a better quarterback. Gwen Berry cam in third. This kind of thing is a way of drawing attention to themselves. Here’s the thing to remember. If he or she had done it in Soviet Russia or Communist China, they’d be disappeared…never to be heard from again. That’s the beauty of the country and the flag they represent. It lets malcontents and showboats show their rear ends and make fools of themselves. God bless a country and a flag that allows that!

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