Open letter to Donald Trump on the Flag and Anthem

Flag shirt and bandana..

Flag shirt and bandana. Photo by Callen Harty.

Dear Donald Trump,

You may think that taking a knee during the national anthem is disrespectful to the flag and to the anthem, and it is your right to hold onto that belief. It is also your right to spew out words like “sons of bitches” when talking about it. While I believe your word choices are inappropriate for the leader of the United States and your viewpoint is wrong, I absolutely defend your right to choose what words to use and what viewpoints to hold.

I also defend the right of football and other sports’ players (or their fans, or anyone else) to kneel, sit, or raise their fists in solidarity during the anthem as a way to draw attention to the injustices prevalent in this country. It is not an affront to the flag. It is an affirmation of what the flag represents, which includes freedom of speech, equality for all, and so much more.

Are you aware that it is disrespectful to the American flag not to follow the flag code, which prohibits the use of the flag on clothing or in advertisements? Where is your anger about that? Do the rules not matter when industrialists are making millions of dollars off of that kind of disrespect? Are you also not offended by racists carrying the American, Confederate, and other flags when they hold rallies that represent hatred toward large segments of the population? A racist, anti-Semite, or homophobe waving the American flag while they march for hatred is as offensive and disrespectful as it gets.

True disrespect to the flag is politicians who wear flag pins on their lapels while passing laws that hurt the citizens of their country. It is failing to protect the health and welfare of the masses while lining the pockets of the rich. It is jingoistic yahoos who don’t understand that American soldiers have fought and died for the right to express one’s beliefs or to protest, even when those beliefs are unpopular. It is a nation that professes that all are created equal yet incarcerates a disproportionate percentage of persons of color in prisons that are run for profit. Or one that gerrymanders maps to increase the power of those in power. Or passes laws to ensure that minorities and others who may vote against those in power are prevented from doing so. Or allows unarmed young black men to be killed by authorities without the slightest hint of concern or justice for the victims. It is a country that enslaved millions of people and is just now beginning to acknowledge that horror and still refuses to acknowledge the modern-day oppression that African-Americans face on a daily basis. It is a man-child who regularly tweets offensive words about and against the citizens of his own country.

I stand with those who kneel because I believe we can be better than what we are and better than what you represent.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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