You can say almost anything that you want in the United States of America. You can say and write words and communicate thoughts with almost limitless freedom.
Our nation's protection of speech and communication is one of most resonating, siren calls of our country's freedom in even the most remote regions of Planet Earth.
At no time is that freedom more important than when people, political groups and elected officials, including presidents, aggressively and sometimes deafeningly shout that their ideas of patriotism are bigger, better and just plain "righter".
Which leads me to the U.S. Women's soccer team. Why are we so emotional and quick to anger about one or more of that team members' attitudes and statements about the president and their conduct toward the U.S. flag?
The reason is because they remind us that despite how truly extraordinary our country, our Constitution and our system of laws are, our nation remains rife with shortcomings, injustice, and suppression of women, minorities, various gender identities and the poor.
We live in a time that is marked by plummeting confidence in our traditional institutions: Congress, the presidency, the media and our courts.
If we want our flag to mean something. If we intend that the flag should be profoundly emblematic of our nation's espoused principles, then all of us, individually, must become the building blocks of a greater, reliable institution that is the United States of America.
That building begins with sincere listening, understanding, compassion and the courage to advocate for groups who are marginalized, confined from their potential, deprived of equal rights and equal pay.
The next time that you feel offended about another person's actions or inactions when you stand to pledge allegiance, instead of blame, ask yourself what you can do. What is your responsibility and what can you do where you live and where you work?
Advocacy begins with entering the conversation and story of the person whom others might criticize and silence. We must protect, advocate and defend - always.