Many years ago my husband worked with a humorous man who loved to apply the saying “Life is hard, it’s harder if you’re stupid” whenever he witnessed someone doing something dumb. After we had children, my husband would occasionally use the phrase with our kids, when he felt someone else’s stupid actions could be used as a teachable moment, or when he was trying to convince them that homework and studying were actually worth the time and effort.
Fast forward 15 years and we’re now in the midst of parenting teenagers. Sleepless nights are no longer a product of teething toddlers, but of wide-eyed worries that your kid is out driving on the freeway with a buzzing phone in their pocket.
My life experiences combined with the new world order of social media saturation has caused this Mom to coin a new phrase: “Life is tiring, it’s exhausting if you’re constantly outraged.”
Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed a tide of moral outrage swelling across the internet due to an NFL quarterback who opted to sit, and then kneel, during the playing of our national anthem. He has been blasted as being rich, spoiled, un-American, racist and, oh yes- evil!! Within hours of his initial protest, video of his one-time fans burning his jersey was spreading as fast as that polyester fabric went up in flames. Never mind the fact that we live in America, where each and every citizen has the Constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We seem to so quickly and effortlessly forget the rights of others’ happiness when they do not mesh with our personal ideas of what is good, right and patriotic. This is particularly easy when we can instantly find thousands of others who share our moral outrage on any number of social media platforms.
I am grateful every day that I live in a country where anyone – famous, nameless, talented, overpaid or under-appreciated- can stand, sit, kneel, scratch their ass, or drink their beer during the playing of our anthem. My idea of patriotic behavior may differ wildly from yours. I may not like your hairstyle, your political t-shirt or your bumper sticker. You may not like my stance on guns nor my favorite brand of coffee, but I am not continually morally outraged at your opinions and behaviors, until they violate the rights of others’ life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Yes, I am acutely aware that countless brave Americans have died for what our flag stands for. I am a former military wife and have immediate family members and many friends that have put themselves in harm’s way for our freedoms. And they have done so willingly for both the right of a rich athlete to sit during our anthem, and for you to call him a piece of shit on Twitter.
I will remain thankful that I live in a country where that athlete, and anyone who publicly condemns anyone else’s patriotism or our government, will go to bed at night without risk of being carted away in darkness, never to be seen again.
I will continue to remind my children that freedom of speech protections extend to cover all political leanings, no matter what they read or see on the Internet. Life’s too short to be continually outraged at every behavior that doesn’t align with your brand of patriotism or worldview. But if you want to spend your energy ranting online every day and being so highly offended about the latest ungrateful American, you may not have the strength to stand the next time our anthem is playing.