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Stirring drinks, stirring pots and standing for the anthem

Editorial | March 4th, 2020

cyanotype with onion dye by Sabrina Hornung

Last week Inforum reported on a vinyl beer sign outside of the VFW in Wadena, Minnesota that reads, “IF YOU CAN’T STAND FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM YOU DON’T NEED TO SIT AT THIS BAR.” We’re fully aware of what bar manager Cody Boyer was getting at, but if taken out of context it could also sound like a slap in the face for the disabled veterans and members of an organization that was designed to advocate for veterans.

According to vfw.org, the organization was started in 1899 and in 1919 became the first organization of its kind to open an office in Washington DC to advocate for veteran’s rights -- one year after the end of WWI. Prior to that there was no support for veterans -- no GI bills and no VA… Upon their arrival veterans were expected to slip back into civilian life like nothing happened. VFW clubs were intended to provide a space for servicemen and women to share their struggles and experiences and to aid in the transition from military life to civilian life. 101 years later, they continue to help up to 22 million service members and vets.

In the aforementioned article, VFW Post 3922 Commander Phil Thoennes mentioned that the sign should read, “If you won’t stand” instead of “can’t stand.” They must have overlooked this small detail during their board meeting, considering VFWs are nonprofit organizations. Maybe if Boyer gets the bigger sign that he wants it can have the proper verbiage on it but he might have to find a different beer distributor to print it because the current sign was printed by one company but they want nothing to do with it.

Attention was drawn to the sign once the Wadena VFW received a complaint from someone insinuating that the vinyl sign was racist but Boyer told the press that he’s “not discriminating against anyone.”

Yes, we understand that free speech is a first amendment right but then again, the right to protest is also considered free speech. What people fail to grasp is the reason Colin Kaepernick got down on one knee during the National Anthem was in protest to how minorities have been treated in America ie. police brutality and along with the outrage it sparked a nationwide conversation.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in 2016, "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

“The message is I’m against social injustice… I’m not against the military or police or America at all.” Said fellow kneeler, Brandon Marshall, linebacker for the Denver Broncos

There are also a number of religions who don’t stand for the anthem, but then again Mennonites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Amish don’t salute the flag but may stand out of respect if they so choose. Though it’s clearly not in protest it has to do with their faith. Freedom of religion is also a first amendment right.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of supporting VFW Clubs and veteran’s organizations and I strongly encourage our readers to support them too. In fact, I worked at the Vets Club in my hometown and have fond memories of my favorite regulars aka my VIPs. My grandpa and dad are also veterans -- our vets have a special place in my heart and I mean no disrespect to the VFW or veterans as a whole.

One would think the sign would be bad for business or membership for the non-profit organization, but what we want to know is.. How often is the National Anthem played at VFW Post3922 and do they have touchtunes? Just in case we happen to be in the area craving an ice cold sarsaparilla and want to prove that we’re not sitters or kneelers. Afterall are we not red blooded Americans?

Isn’t freedom of speech one of the rights that many of our vets fought wars to protect? Hanging that sign seems a bit hypocritical, mighty inflammatory and so 2016. Then again a friend pointed out that maybe folks against this sign may feel the same way about this as Bismarck felt about Shane Balkowitsch’s proposed photo mural. It’s all a matter of perspective and it’s clearly food for thought and discussion. I mean as long as we’re stirring our drinks we might as well stir the pot right?

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