Hello Readers of InTheOldCorps. I was called away to work in lovely New Mexico – and it is lovely. This is a temporary change of scenery, but welcome all the same. The change prevented me from viewing the rest of Ken Burns’s documentary on Vietnam, but I did record it for later viewing and comment. In a recent exchange on the subject of professional athletes taking a knee during our National Anthem, the question of the value of the acts of kneeling and saying the Pledge of Allegiance was raised. The intention and message of kneeling was redefined in an Objectivist manner that attempted to flip the very value from evil to good by covering the evil with the good of our Constitution. This change conceals the intrinsic value of kneeling and of standing, of saying the Pledge or refusing to pledge.
What is “intrinsic value?”
The intrinsic value of something is said to be the value that that thing has “in itself,” or “for its own sake,” or “as such,” or “in its own right.” Extrinsic value is value that is not intrinsic.
Many philosophers take intrinsic value to be crucial to a variety of moral judgments. For example, according to a fundamental form of consequentialism, whether an action is morally right or wrong has exclusively to do with whether its consequences are intrinsically better than those of any other action one can perform under the circumstances.
Are showing respect for our flag or pledging allegiance to the country in and of themselves intrinsic good or evil? The physical act of standing or kneeling is simply a consequence of intention – of the thought and will that demonstrates a belief. A man with no legs can not stand or kneel, but his intention is what matters. Are showing respect for our flag or pledging allegiance to the country in and of themselves extrinsically good? What is extrinsic good?
That which is extrinsically good is good, not (insofar as its extrinsic value is concerned) for its own sake, but for the sake of something else to which it is related in some way. For example, the goodness of helping others in time of need is plausibly thought to be extrinsic (at least in part), being derivative (at least in part) from the goodness of something else, such as these people’s needs being satisfied, or their experiencing pleasure, to which helping them is related in some causal way.
Respect for the flag is not an intrinsic good, but it is a derived good. Likewise, pledging allegiance to our country is a derived good. From what do these derived good inherit their goodness?
Community. The philosophy of community is Communitarianism.
Communitarianism is a philosophy that emphasizes the connection between the individual and the community. Its overriding philosophy is based upon the belief that a person’s social identity and personality are largely molded by community relationships, with a smaller degree of development being placed on individualism. Although the community might be a family unit, communitarianism usually is understood, in the wider, philosophical sense, as a collection of interactions, among a community of people in a given place (geographical location), or among a community who share an interest or who share a history.
In the US of A, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution provide the structure and definition of community as intrinsically good. In the Declaration, America recognized that King George III had divided the community of Britain in such ways that unity of community was impossible to repair. The Constitution codified how people could live to thrive by ensuring its government and governing principles and laws do not divide the people who were genetically and ethnically not homogeneous.
From this foundation came the forms of respecting the flag. Observing the form of respect is respect, and unites one American to another irrespective of gender, race, age, and every other difference that makes each human unique.
From this foundation came the Pledge of Allegiance which ties each citizen to every other citizen: “…One Nation…” In a country that came from every nation on earth, with over a hundred languages, thousands of dialects, cultures, food and drink and religions, what was to keep them from carrying out ancient grudges and continuing wars between their countries of origin? A pledge that binds them to loyally be American. Roll your eyes and snort all you want, it worked and it works. This strengthens the community and leads to consequences that are also good.
For the professional athletes, kneeling during the National Anthem is disrespect – an act to irritate others into action. The kneeling is only, and is only, to show support for Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter’s stated objective is to divide. Unstated is the ‘conquer’ that is usually associated with division. So kneeling is to show disrespect in order to divide the American community.
Community is intrinsically good, and showing respect is extrinsically good, then division is intrinsically evil and kneeling/disrespect to the community is extrinsically evil. Redefining evil as good because evil uses a tool of good, such as freedom of speech, does not exchange the nature of the evil act for a good one. The anger of America at its most privileged citizens: professional athletes – most of whom rose from nothing to everything based on their own innate abilities – who’s disrespect of the National Anthem is disrespect of every other American. It is promoting division, which is intrinsically evil, and cloaking it in our 1st Amendment does not change that.