[June 10, 2019] Last year while visiting Arlington National Cemetery, I came upon a group of U.S. Marines who had taken a knee next to the grave of their Company Commander who had been killed in battle. They were showing their respect for the man who had saved them in 2004 at the Second Battle of Fallujah.
To take a knee is an axiom that’s been around for centuries. Mainly it has been used by military personnel, as well as, players on competitive team-sports. Its main meaning is to rest, but it also means to stay alert. When Infantrymen on a forced march are told to take a knee, they know that they do so to rest while remaining on the lookout for the enemy.
Lately, the term has been bastardized by players in the U.S. National Football League. They say they are taking a knee to stand against racism. Of course, that is not completely true as they do so during the playing of the National Anthem. It is not my intent today to dredge up the disrespect shown by those players. I want to set the record straight about the meaning and history of the idea.
I was fortunate to learn much from my service in the U.S. Army. One of those things you learn while in any service to your countrymen or community, is to show respect for others. Respect is an important concept because it involves a deep human need; the need to trust. All social relationships are predicated on trust. It is particularly important to understand those traits of a trustworthy leader.
The Marines I witnessed kneeling at the grave maker were showing their respect and also their admiration for a man who was part of their band of brothers. Such relationships are rare in modern societies and rarer in any culture that is lead by divisive leaders. Military personnel are trained to understand and practice respect in many ways. These Marines understood.
Respect and trust are, and will always be, the bedrock of a stable, fair, and honest society. When we learn to disregard that fact and practice something else, we have a problem not easily resolved.