On Monday night, Donald Trump decided to uninvite the Philadelphia Eagles from the White House because some members of the Super Bowl champs weren't planning to attend Tuesday's ceremony due to disagreements with the President.
Here's the key part of the statement:
"The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow. They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better."
Make no mistake about what Trump is doing here: He is appointing himself the arbiter of what patriotism is and means to the 300+ million citizens of the United States. Patriotism is standing for the National Anthem before NFL football games. If you don't stand, you are -- by Trump's thinking via the statement above -- dishonoring not only the "great men and women of our military" but also the "people of our country."
And he's saying something else: If you don't meet my standard of patriotism, you don't get to come to my house.
There's a whole hell of a lot of things wrong with the statement, the logic and that Trump decided to voice it. Let's list them.
1. Trump's explanation that not having every member of the Eagles there would somehow disappoint Eagles fans who "deserve better" is total BS. I'm not an Eagles fan. But if they are anything like Washington Redskins fans, they would be totally thrilled to meet the backup left guard on the team -- much less a large group of players who expressed interest in coming. Trump is hiding behind the I-am-doing-the-fans-a-favor excuse to play some politics here -- plain and simple.
2. Trump doesn't own the White House. Trump seems to be treating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue like one of his Trump properties. If only you had done things the way I wanted them done, then maybe you could be reclining in one of my 5-star hotels right now -- or playing golf at one of my award-winning courses. That is how Trump thinks.
Now, all presidents understand that an invitation to the White House is a big deal. Democratic and Republican presidents have used the White House as a way to woo wavering legislators, reward major donors and impress foreign diplomats.
But the idea that people can be disinvited because they don't act the way you want them to in a certain situation is new ground. This is pick-up-my-ball-and go-home-type of stuff.
3. Trump's definition of patriotism is very, very narrow. By the definition offered in his statement tonight, patriotism for Donald Trump is standing proudly for the National Anthem, with your hand on your heart. Doing anything else is disrespectful -- not only to Trump but to the military and to the country as a whole.
So, what about when Baltimore Orioles fans scream "O's" when the line "Oh say can you see?" Or the Washington Capitals fans -- as they did tonight -- cheer wildly when the word "red" is mentioned in the line "rockets red glare?" Is that equally disrespectful? If not, why not?
On Tuesday morning, Trump elaborated on his idea of patriotism in a tweet about his plans to host a "Celebration of America" event in lieu of the planned Eagles celebration.
"We will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country today at 3 P.M., The White House, with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. Honoring America!" Trump posted on Twitter. "NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!" he added, referring to the NFL's new policy that allows players to wait off the field during the anthem.
4. Trump thinks patriotism must equal unwavering loyalty to his view of the National Anthem. If you take Trump at his word in the statement released Monday night, the only way that you can show love and appreciation for those who have fought and died for our country is to stand with your hand over your heart during the playing of the National Anthem. That's it. That's the only route.
Take a step back. What are Americans fighting and dying in foreign countries fighting and dying for, if not the right of free expression, of the freedom to speak your mind without fear?
The essence of being an American is that right to express your views in a way that is true and faithful to your own experiences. The key to the success of American experiment is a belief that our melting pot of over 300 million people and their experiences gets it right only when we listen to other views and value those views, just as we value our own opinions.
Insistence on adherence to one idea of what it means to honor our country -- and its military men and women -- isn't in keeping with that credo. It's the opposite of it.
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