President Donald Trump continues to wield the national anthem as a political cudgel, and too many of his opponents keep taking the bait.
News that the Kansas City Symphony will be playing the anthem for the Monday Night Football game is setting off some alarms around town. Is participating in the game a tacit endorsement of the Trump agenda? Should the musicians stand in solidarity with the protesters and refuse the invitation?
The worriers’ angst is understandable. And it’s become an unfortunate daily reality under the pugilist in chief. Trump lives to fight. His willingness to punch, punch, punch is what his admirers like so much about him. He’ll directly attack the mayor of San Juan as she copes with one of the worst humanitarian crises ever to hit the U.S. territory. Why would he stop at a bunch of 20-something football players?
“IN AMERICA WE DON'T WORSHIP GOVERNMENT — WE WORSHIP GOD!” he tweeted this summer, and he’s used the same as an applause line to appreciative crowds since.
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He’s mostly right on the last part, but no one can quibble with the first. The Founding Fathers couldn’t have been clearer that our national alliances are to a set of principles, not religion.
The same goes for the national anthem. We sing it, but we shouldn’t deify it. It isn’t a chit in some mythical contest over who loves America the most.
And if you let Trump own it and turn it into the wedge he needs it to be, he wins yet again.
Derek Donovan is a columnist and member of The Kansas City Star's editorial board.