Symbols such as flags convey important meanings. When deciding whether to display symbols other than our nation’s flag, several things need to be considered. Meanings can, and do, change over time. For example, the swastika is an ancient religious icon used in parts of Asia. In Sanskrit the word Swastika means “well-being,” and throughout most of history it has been associated with order and stability. In Navajo iconography it’s called a “Whirling Log” and can denote abundance, prosperity, healing, and luck.

Symbols such as flags convey important meanings. When deciding whether to display symbols other than our nation’s flag, several things need to be considered. Meanings can, and do, change over time. For example, the swastika is an ancient religious icon used in parts of Asia. In Sanskrit the word Swastika means “well-being,” and throughout most of history it has been associated with order and stability. In Navajo iconography it’s called a “Whirling Log” and can denote abundance, prosperity, healing, and luck.
Unfortunately the swastika was adopted by the Nazi Party to symbolize German nationalistic pride prior to WWII. Now, in many Western countries, the swastika is viewed as a symbol of racial supremacy and intimidation, leading to complaints by Western consumers when confronted by products imported from Asia or coming from our own Southwest. This is just one example where what is acceptable in one culture or area is not necessarily so in another, and it behooves us to be sensitive to how others view our cherished symbols.
Patriotism is not just about respecting our symbols, but also about respecting how other Americans feel about those symbols. This is what lies at the heart of the controversies over Confederate monuments and the Southern Cross. Have you ever asked any of our African American citizens what such symbols mean to them? Just because it is legal to display a symbol, why antagonize others by doing so? (although I feel strongly that we must not lose our history in the process).
Patriotism and respect are also at the center of the controversy over recent protests of inequality. We should all note that our veterans swore allegiance not to our flag, but to our Constitution, which includes freedom of speech. Again, it is important to understand that symbols do not have universal meaning for everyone. While Colin Kaepernick's kneeling, and the subsequent display of solidarity by other athletes, is a sign of disrespect for our symbols to some, the protestors see it as a respectful way to draw attention to the unequal treatment given to some Americans in the justice system.
As Mike Davis, another columnist, has pointed out, in history and in religion, kneeling is often a sign of respect. Tim Tebow knelt in the end zone following his touchdowns, players often kneel in the locker room when being addressed by their coach and on the field in respect to a downed player, knights kneel when being knighted, and suitors often kneel during a wedding proposal. Jesus is said to have knelt at Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion, and some parishioners kneel in church (Philippians 2:10).  Clearly kneeling can be a sign of respect and submission.
Does everyone stand at attention during the playing of the national anthem at public gatherings? Chance are that many are still finding their seats, getting drinks, or looking for friends.
And why does no one protest the commercialization and use of the flag on everything from shirts, ties, napkins, shorts, bikinis and beer cups by refusing to buy  these items. U.S. Code § 8 says: The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. . . . The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, . . . The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.
Mr. Davis asked “How can we argue that kneeling is disrespectful in its own right, when our country is seen by so many as being disrespectful in failing to treat all races equally? Respect is earned, not demanded. Perhaps our nation has not earned their respect. What can we do to earn it back?”

Catherine Rhoades writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.