My Gay History Month story

October is GLBT History Month.

There are many stories out there and a lot of history. Throughout October I will be including some of my own story mixed in with the political blogs.

This entry relates how the major part of my adventure in the Oklahoma City School District began, and I have included pictures of the GLBT History Month poster, now an unbelievable 18 years old, that played a major role.

Compiled in the last years of the last millennium, it is shorter than what would be listed today as more history has been made and more people have become active in the struggle for GLBT rights and closet doors have been removed more quickly and in greater numbers.

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October being National Gay and Lesbian History Month, in 1999 I prepared a poster to hang on one of my classroom bulletin boards that consisted of the same four-hundred and fifty names of Gay people I had listed on a very large, oversized poster that had hung in my middle school classroom for two years. The poster listed various groups of people, from politicians, artists, and religious folk to sports and historical figures. It also contained people from many ethnic and racial groups. It was a very inclusive list that I simply hung on the first Monday in October, making no reference to it whatsoever; the words “Famous Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual People” being the only indication of what the list was.

I had made the poster while I was staying at the home of a Lesbian teacher with whom I had worked at the middle school, and who was beginning a relationship with another good friend of mine from the same school where we both worked. I had temporarily moved in with her after a particularly difficult break up with my significant other, and had helped her when she was taking certification classes for school administration by editing and correcting the grammar and spelling of the various reports she had had to write. For all intents and purposes we were like brother and sister. I had helped her handle the break-up of her most recent relationship, and was very supportive of the new one she was forming. I had no idea that once she became a substitute administrator at the high school, for the sake of moving up and keeping whatever position she would obtain, her attitude would turn completely negative toward things Gay related. As a matter of fact, she would eventually become the most anti-Gay administrator at the school when she became assistant principal and had a chance to become the principal.

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Knowing that for many of the students, if not all, actually seeing such a list publicly displayed with no shame or embarrassment would in all probability be a new experience, I was prepared for whatever reaction they might have, hoping, of course, that it would not be too negative. I was quite pleased and proud of their reaction as it went from a small degree of shock and a little laughter the first day, to calling friends in between classes on the second day to see “The Poster”, and finally by the third day looking at it like any other piece of information that a teacher might hang in a classroom. They were mature about it for the most part.

There was one senior in my third hour class that I referred to as the “Rebel Without A Clue”. Somewhere along the line he had dropped out of school, moved to another state, held a job, and for whatever reason chose to return back home to finish his senior year. He only needed one final semester of credits to graduate and felt that because he had been in the real world, he was beyond the other seniors and my equal as an adult. He rebelled against anything and everything presented to the class without taking the time to assess it, never taking the time to see if he actually would have liked some of the things we did. He promoted his rebel image without restraint.

He was absolutely adored by another student in the class who was having some personal problems both at home and in school, and who apparently saw in his rebelliousness something to admire, with her adoration so intense he could do no wrong. She looked on him with puppy eyes, and if we watched a video she would make sure her hand fell close enough to him in order to lightly caress the back of his neck when the lights were The day came when he thought that my treatment of the class was demeaning. In reality, because he was often absent and constantly indiscriminately rebellious, he was unaware of those times when I was joking with the class, and the class was joking along with or back at me. Class to him was like returning to some show on cable after going through all the stations with the remote expecting to pick up the original show where you left off. Apparently he assumed the class froze while he was away from it, so long standing jokes or references to something that happened during another class escaped him. He did not seem to understand that occasional visits to class interfered with continuity when he stood up in class on the third day of the poster’s appearance in reaction to a joking remark I had made to another student, and gave a rather incoherent and totally out of touch speech condemning my negative attitude toward the members of his class and my obvious ignoring of his equal standing with me. As he stormed out of the room announcing he was going to report me to the assistant principal, his most adoring fan rose to join him in his walk out. Once he was gone, and the laughter of the other students subsided, we returned to what we had been doing. Even the students did not see his action as appropriate or even called for.

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On their way to the office the “rebel” and his moll were met by another student who had only been in my class for two weeks, and had only attended twice, and the three continued on to find the right assistant principal to whom to report. At the time, the assistant principals were not the disciplinarians needed at a middle-class, “inner-city” high school. They each favored the students from their own ethnic groups, and students knew which was the best one to go to in order to get what was wanted, or avoid the discipline that was called for.

Toward the end of my last class on the day of the very mini-walk-out I received a note from the Dean of Instruction (an invented position without much of a job description which put the holder of the job at the mercy of those administrators with identifiable job descriptions) requesting that I come to his office before leaving for the day.

The three students had reported on me to an assistant principal. Two of them were concerned about what they considered my less than acceptable treatment of my senior class with the “Rebel Without a Clue” voicing the complaint while his adoring fan merely nodded in agreement. The third student, who had joined them in the hall and was not privy to what had happened in the classroom that or any other day, had chimed in that she was offended on religious grounds by my Homosexual Poster, but the other two had said that as they had Gay friends the poster did not bother them. The vice-principal they had gone to referred the matter to the Dean of Instruction as he was the one that was to evaluate my teaching performance, but the only complaint he was directed to address was the poster. The other complaint was never dealt with. It was simply ignored.

Since I had not only worked with the Dean at the middle school, but he was the one who had pursued my transfer to the high school, we were on friendly terms. He admitted he was aware that I had had a similar poster in my middle school classroom and was aware of my work with the district to include GLBT students in policies on bullying, harassment, and non-discrimination, but he had been told to deal with the complaint, and so he was doing just that.

I explained that October was Gay and Lesbian History Month; that it was important for the students to see during this month that there were many Gay people who had made major contributions to western civilization just as it was important for other groups during other designated months like Black History Month, or Hispanic Heritage Month to see what their people had contributed; and that Gay students see that there were actually positive role-models for them. My confidence was bolstered by my involvement on the district’s diversity committees and the committee chair‘s advice regarding the spirit of the policy as opposed actual language.

In spite of his acknowledging that these were lofty goals, his concern was that I could not justify the poster on the grounds of multiculturalism as the various cultures were not represented; only Gay people were. His argument smacked of the erroneous belief that “Gay” was a white man’s thing, and revealed that he had not bothered to actually read the list, or the names of Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Native-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans would have been noticed.

His suggestion for remedying the situation was for me to go out that night and expend my own time, energy, and funds on purchasing posters that represented all minority groups, something my poster already did. I asked if I would be required to do the same when I acknowledged the months set aside for other groups such as Black History Month, or Hispanic Heritage Month, and if he or the person who objected to the poster would be willing to give me the funds to oblige this suggestion. My poster, after all, was already inclusive, so this would be an extra, unnecessary expense. I also let him know I could not follow his suggestion because I was attending the “Stop the Hate Rally” that was taking place that evening at the Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City, the irony of which to me was just short of pointed.

He then suggested that in the future I seek permission from an administrator before posting anything that someone might consider controversial. As I did not see information natural to Gay people to be controversial, I did not see how I, or any teacher for that matter, could anticipate what an individual might perceive as, or choose to call, controversial.
As far as I was concerned, when that meeting ended he had done as he was directed, having spoken to me about the complaint, and I had justified why the poster should hang in spite of the single complaint lodged.

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The following day before classes were to begin, the Dean of Instruction entered my room by the front door giving my room a quick survey before exiting out the back. Later that morning a student office aide delivered a note from the Dean of Instruction requesting that I report to his office before leaving school for the weekend, a meeting at which he expressed his disappointment at my not following his suggestion, and further suggesting that it might be a good idea to remove the poster by the beginning of the school day on

I gave the situation a lot of thought over the next two days, and concluded that to take down the poster would not only be a negative message to Gay students and their straight peers as well, but it would go against what I had been trying to do with the district and would legitimize the complaint of one student out of a student body of over 1400 students and a class load of well over 150. And, as I was following the spirit of the Diversity policy that the committee had been working on, the feelings of the members of that committee, and the explanation of the chair when asked what we should do in light of the absence of our final proposal and wording, I saw my actions as being supported by the district and its policies.

And so it was on that Monday morning as he once again passed through my room before classes began that I gave a letter to the Dean stating that I chose not follow his suggestion to remove the poster because it would not be in the best interest of the Gay Students or their peers; it contained people of all ethnic and racial groups; and that the student who allegedly complained was from the majority religion, race, and sexual orientation who had many outlets at her disposal including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bible study groups and a host of heterosexual related school sponsored activities. I went further to point out the uniqueness of the treatment of this poster as teachers did not have to have planned posters reviewed by administrators, and many classrooms featured posters not directly related to the curriculum. My poster served a valuable purpose.

A student office aide came to my room during the first class that morning to deliver a summons to the Dean of Instruction’s office. I replied with a quickly written note that explained in writing that I was leaving at noon to make sure I arrived on time for the funeral of a friend‘s mother, and, therefore, could not make the requested 1:00 p.m. meeting.
As I was dashing through the hall a little after noon, the dean met me and asked for a convenient time to meet. I suggested the next morning, but not too early as we would both probably want our morning coffee. We set the time of the meeting at 8:45 a.m., and off I ran.
After the funeral I returned home to find a message on my answering machine from the news department of a local T.V. station asking me to call the news director. Thinking they had reached me in error, and wanting to let them know that in case the story they were following was important, I returned the call and was asked for my reaction to the impending reprimand to be given to me at the meeting to take place at 8:45 the next morning. Obviously I could not give a reaction to the news of which I was not aware, and although I did verify to the news director that there was to be a meeting between the Dean of Instruction and myself in the morning, I could not confirm that I was getting a reprimand. Further, I was confused as to how she could possibly have known about it before me anyway.
It turned out that the parent of the student who complained about the poster had apparently called the news department after someone from the school had called him with the information about the purpose of the next morning’s meeting. I did not know how to handle this violation of my rights if it were true, and agreed to call the news director the next day with my reaction if I did get a reprimand, but only after I had time to deal with it. I then immediately called the local chapter of my union to ask advice.

I am convinced, although I cannot prove the suspicion, that the funeral interfered with the time-line that was to have had our meeting take place that afternoon before the parent of the student who complained was to be called as a way to pacify him. Apparently he had threatened some sort of protest in front of the school if the poster was not removed, and someone felt this could be avoided if the parent was kept informed about how I was going to be handled.

If we had had the meeting that afternoon, whoever called him could have reported a reprimand was given. As it was, he could only be told I was about to get one. Still, this was a personnel matter which should have been addressed with me before announcing it to the public.
For the rest of that evening there were quite a few phone calls made between me and the union, the union and the central administration building, and me and the head of the public relations department of the school district to get advice on the parameters I must follow with the press as an employee. I went to school headquarters to meet with the P.R. director who never returned to her office, and had to settle with contacting her at a child‘s birthday party by way of her emergency pager number, only to be told to avoid anything related to personnel matters.
To get away from the situation I attended a political affair at a club in the hotel in the Gay District where the president of the local American Federation of Teachers managed to trace me down to tell me that the deputy superintendent was asking me not to go to school in the morning to avoid any potential demonstration that my attendance might provoke, and to ask if I would mind going to my classroom to help remove objectionable material. Neither of us thought I would even consider that last request.

Apparently the principal feared that the parent had organized a picket line, and he wanted anything the parent might find objectionable removed from my classroom before school the next day so that if the parent somehow got to my classroom in the morning he would not see anything to which he could object. To this end, the principal had gone to my room that evening with the Dean and an assistant principal to remove anything Gay related, but found he had to contact the union president to see if he could get me to go to the classroom and help remove things. His major concern by the time the union president found me was a huge chain with rainbow colors on it that the student had included in those things that bothered her, having now expanded her complaint beyond the poster. The chain could not be found, and the principal feared that if the parent saw it in the morning there would be a scene. The fact that he was in the room and unable to see the chain should have been an indication of the extent to which the student had exaggerated her discomfort with those things in my room.

I refused to report to the school on the grounds that I would not be party to the removal of the “Gay things” and my expressed fear that to enter the school so far after hours could set me up for a charge of trespassing.
That night on the nine o’clock news there was a report on my poster featuring the father of the complaining student accusing me of “teaching homosexuality” when Bibles and prayers were banned from schools. The student also appeared in the reporter‘s video looking threatened and emotionally injured, expressing offense at this affront to her religion. My name was mentioned, and the parent reported that I was to receive a reprimand the following morning as proof that I was in the wrong.

The following afternoon I was contacted by the local station which had aired the report asking for my comment on the reprimand they thought I had received earlier in the day. I told the news director that I had been asked to take the day off, which would not count against my personal sick days, so I had had no meeting and had not received any reprimand yet. I agreed I would contact her if I got some direction on how to handle this as it was all new to me, and, therefore, a little unsettling. The news director then asked if I would speak to a reporter in general terms, but I asked for some time to consider this.

Hearing nothing from the district, and with support coming only from the Union and a few friends, I called the local station back a little later in the day agreeing to talk. Upon the arrival of the reporter and cameraman to my home, the reporter asked if she could see what the fuss was about, and I handed her a copy of the list of names I had hung on the bulletin board. She was markedly disappointed that it was merely a list with no pictures, saw no actual story in it, and then sat and read through the list occasionally expressing disbelief in a name or expressing satisfaction that someone she had suspected was indeed included.

We spoke for at least thirty minutes covering the importance of Gay and Lesbian History Month, why it should be treated just as all the other history months were, and why I thought the poster was a positive thing. As she was leaving and I thanked her for what appeared to me to be a positive interview, she told me that in all reality there was no story here. That night the station ran a little from the story of the night before, showed about thirty seconds of me showing the list to the reporter and explaining the impotence of acknowledging Gay History Month, and that was it.

Well, at least that was it for that episode, but it was the beginning of events that took the next 10 years to resolve to the benefit of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender students in the district.

Wrapped in the flag

Whenever things aren’t going his way, the president starts waving the flag and bloviating about patriotism, and his followers eat it up.

He praises NASCAR fans for their respect of the flag while Confederate Battle Flags wave all around him.

He protects his white supremacist supporters by claiming the NFL players are disrespecting the flag so people won’t engage in discussing racial justice.

He supports the troops by accepting a veteran’s Purple Heart while proclaiming he always wanted one of those as if that would have ever happened with five deferments, one being for bone spurs  on one of his feet, but he can’t remember which one, and that his doctor never mentioned in his pre-election medical report when he proclaimed Trump the healthiest person who would ever take the Oath.

The man who knows what being a soldier is all about once stated,

“It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam era, I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

He was talking about avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while chasing women while his peers were in Viet Nam.

His support of vets includes denying that John McCain was a hero because,

 “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Thank you for your service

He disrespected  Khizr Muazzam Khan and Ghazala Khan,  the gold-star Pakistani-American parents of Army captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in combat in 2004, and claimed the sacrifice of an immigrant family’s son  was equal to the sacrifices he made while becoming a real estate tycoon.

Thank you for your service.

Rather than say so in person, on July 26 he tweeted that transgender soldiers would no longer be allowed to fight for their country,   banning transgender people from serving, and offering an excuse for this that totally dismissed the contributions of at least 15,000 active military. He claimed their medical costs were outrageously high even though such costs are 1/10 of what the military spends to treat erectile dysfunction, including the cost of Viagra prescriptions.

Thank you for your service.

Trump also attacked immigrant soldiers by threatening to end the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest recruitment program, which  has  enlisted 10,000 recruits, and was established to allow certain immigrants to receive fast-tracked citizenship in exchange for their much-needed medical and language abilities in the military.

Because of Trump’s immigration policies, if this program ends, 1,000 recruitment contracts will be cancelled and those recruits  would immediately be at risk for deportation.

Thank you for your service.

Any veteran playing in the NFL and who takes a knee is a “son of a bitch” who disrespects the flag and the military, while those who marched wearing Nazi insignias and carrying confederate flags were good people making a statement.

But, hey. The flag.

He’s all for all Americans while not knowing the residents of Puerto Rico are citizens.

One wonders with all his America talk, if he thinks anything below the Mason Dixon Line is South America.

Not sure how this works.

Just let me see if I get this.

Totally ignoring what the real message of the NFL players is when they took and may continue to take a knee, perhaps because it is a little uncomfortable to deal with or just hits little too close to home, many fans have jumped on the falsely assigned reason, the one assigned by someone not involved with the players and who also wants to avoid the actual issue,  and just really, really want it to be about who loves the country more, those who see how it could be greater, or those who feel good about the status quo because it is not negative for them.

They are showing that they are easily misled by appeals to emotion, no matter how wrong those appeals can be seen to be if even casually looked at.

But their lack of careful reasoning does not stop there.

They have decided that after spending a few hundred dollars on official NFL jerseys and close to two thousand on a season ticket, or just two hundred on one upcoming game, they will teach the league a lesson.

They will show the league that it has no right to protest anything for any reason by holding protests where they burn their shirts and tickets, singly or in groups.

They seem to forget that the league has their money, while they have neither the tickets nor the shirts, nor the money they paid for them with.

They are doubly poor.

They can’t get their money back because neither product was defective, but they, rather, took an action to destroy them.

Then later, if they feel the league listened to them by some action it takes, they will in all likelihood show their forgiveness by buying a new shirt and replacing lost tickets.

For the price of two jerseys, they will have one.

Not sure what the lesson is.

The inconvenienced troops

Isn’t it amazing how those who have not experienced the conditions others have lived with are so ready and willing to explain to others that they do not understand their own conditions.

I have lost count of the number of times I have had what it means to be Gay explained to me by Straight people because, apparently, being Gay and having had to deal with what that means and the treatment that has resulted from what is a largely Heterosexual and oftentimes dismissive society, I really do not understand my life experiences.

I also cannot recall the number of times I have been stopped while explaining some lived  experience with the discounting phrase which translates to “I really do not want to deal with reality, so I will push it aside by asking, yeah, but what about?”

What follows that is usually some irrelevant reference that is in no way connected to what I have been saying.

Those who are taking a knee at football games are doing it because they want a discussion to begin about racial injustice in this country that the majority White population has never experienced, and, so, claims it really does not exist. Those in power do not want to enter into that discussion as it may be uncomfortable, so they promote the idea that the real issue is disrespect of the veterans, you know, those people whose benefits have been cut, who commit suicide at a horrendous rate, and many of whom are homeless while politicians ignore that, and whose situation can be hidden by a pre-game fighter jet flyover and an oversized flag.

Those who accept the deflection do not know how injurious such deflection is to the issue at hand and those attempting to bring attention to it, as well as to any positive results that could come from honest discussion.

Gay students being treated as equal to Straight students was an uncomfortable topic in the Buckle of the Bible Belt in the last years of the last millennium and the opening years of this one, and besides the need for religion to have an enemy to use to scare people to Jesus, there were those in the school district’s administration who saw support of the right thing as a detriment to possible advancement to a higher paying position, or that guilt by association with the right thing could kill the career already held.

It would have been immoral for people in education to actually fight against equal treatment and creating a safe learning environment for students who historically did not have that, so opposition had to be couched in something that could act as a distraction.

It had to be something that most people would object to.

While the issue was to also protect Gay students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination, and who could possibly object to the elimination  of students having to deal with that on a daily basis, it was a matter of strategy to equate any discussion of the equality of these students with advocating sex.

These students finally did get protections, and eight years after this the school district actually had a  presence in the local GLBT Pride Parade, but during the time honest discussion should have been held, pastors went into their pulpits and told their congregations that they needed to go to the local high school to voice their objections to the class being held that instructed students on how to be Gay and to get the teacher of that class fired.

The fear of being associated with the imagined and promoted misinformation that perversion was being taught motivated the principal to issue and enforce policies that forbade supplying any and all positive information about those like them and they themselves to Gay students, while not correcting the misinformation and distraction. The fear of the loss of possible advancement was enough to motivate others, two being Lesbians, to cooperate with this.

The actual topic at hand was allowed to be supplanted by the angry discussion that NAMBLA had no place in the schools, nor did the teacher who was not only teaching the non-existent class, but who obviously was attempting to have more students wanting to try being Gay so that he would have a ready crop of captive victims.

What the teacher was actually attempting, a good thing that people would have agreed with, could not be dealt with because of the time and energy it was taking to wage a battle against the nonexistent, and to convince people that that was what it was all about.

Meanwhile, the actual need to ensure that GLBT students were protected from bullying, harassment, and discrimination, was being ignored.

It was only when, rather than blindly continuing to condemn something from the pulpit that the pastors came to the school to protest and were, therefore, compelled to hear the facts and deal with them, that some very embarrassed pastors had to ask forgiveness from their flocks whom they had misled and riled up, and had to admit to themselves and their congregations that the actual topic, protecting the young ana vulnerable from harm, was Christian in nature.

Oh, there were some pastors and politicians who continued to insist it was all about perverted sex, but as time went on, their insistence made it clear that the actual perversion was what was in their own minds, not what existed outside, and their insistence on promoting a falsehood was what was perverse.

But for a while the teacher had to deal with false accusations, not only about what was happening in his classroom but in his imagined personal life, and with treatment beyond school that would not have existed without the distraction and if the actual topic was actually the one being dealt with.

Eventually discussion did get back on topic, but not before a second attempt to eliminate the teacher, killing the message by killing the messenger, blew up in the face of its perpetrators, and reality could no longer be ignored.

Hence, the protective language and then parade participation.

The NFL players are not disrespecting the flag, what it stands for, or the troops who are sent into questionable wars to defend it.

We are being told to ignore why they choose to do what they are doing, and, instead, let others tell us their reason.

If their reason for taking a knee, opposing and bringing attention to racial injustice, is the same as  disrespecting those things, then those things must stand for racial injustice.

Those making and promoting that connection are the ones being disrespectful to the flag, the country, and the men and women in uniform especially when, in order to discredit the actual reason for the kneeling, they have to drag in the troops and vets who are not otherwise a part of it.

I am not responsible for anyone’s misunderstanding of a simple issue while turning a deaf ear to clarification, or their desire to deal with something while pretending there is a connection where any reasonable person would acknowledge there is none.

Nor will I discuss a new irrelevant topic or try to answer objections to that which is not the topic to begin with.

When I was doing a political cartoon blog for a local news web page, there were two people who in the comment section would ignore my topic, tell me that I should have drawn and written about something else, and then attempt to lure me into a discussion usually based on what they told me was my opinion on their topic.

I never bit.

The same is happening with the kneeling. Donald Trump does not want to discuss racial injustice as he assumes it is not a topic his supporters would want to deal with. This is exposed when he promotes the idea that white supremacists are good people while members of NFL teams who oppose racial injustice are “sons of bitches”, and then attempts to conflate their concern with a hated of country.

A safe learning environment for Gay students was not support of NAMBLA.

Wanting to eradicate racial injustice is not disrespecting America.

 

alternative medical practice

 

There are objections to universal health care because of the cost, and the government still hasn’t paid back any of the funds it has “borrowed” from Social Security, but the Senate has approved a policy bill that will pump $700 billion into military spending for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2017

This makes the military budget greater than at any time during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Armed Services Committee approved the proposed bill in June that provides $640 billion for buying weapons and paying troops, another $60 billion for wartime missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and $8.5 billion to strengthen U.S. missile and defense systems.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis proposed  some base closings starting in 2021 because they were excess installations, and their closure would save $10 billion over a five-year period, a savings that could be used to acquire four nuclear submarines or dozens of jet fighters.

But boys like toys, and he was ignored.

So, no money for health care, but plenty for penis enhancements.

No First Amendment for you.

If you claim that you are upset when players exercise their rights by protesting injustice at sporting events because you go to them to escape from the problems of the real world, are you as equally bothered when military fighter jets do a flyover before athletic events and just before we sing about “bombs bursting in air”?

Wars are part of politics, and people die in them.

These actions are paid for by the Department of Defense and are political in nature. They are meant to desensitize us to the deaths of people we do not know personally, and relieve us of any responsibility, no matter how distant, in those deaths.

If you think it is perfectly acceptable for a player to take a knee and point heavenward, Tebowing, after he scores a touchdown because religion is part of your life and people have the First Amendment right to do that, you are being rather selective in whose rights can be exercised and when, favoring those closest to your own.

And if, during the National Anthem, you had no problem with the crowds booing the kneeling players, not after, but during the Anthem, perhaps you are selectively choosing who has a right to protest, again favoring those with whose beliefs and experiences you agree.

You have to allow everyone their First Amendment rights, or you have to honestly own that you really don’t.