A sitting president urged the firing of a private citizen in language so vulgar that it demeaned the office he holds. This is yet another ethical line that we should not let him cross without protest. Whatever you think of how professional football players are choosing to conduct their protest, the idea that a government official would suggest that their employers should fire them is unconscionable in a democracy. It gets worse.

The private citizen the president suggested should be fired is an African American protesting racism. That the president of the United States would respond by calling him a vulgar name and putting pressure on the employers of others protesting is a violation of their civil rights. This is unconscionable in a democracy.

I call on representatives from Texas to the Congress to press for censure of the president for this behavior. And, yes, I know that this president says all kinds of uncivil things and we have been told not to pay attention to what he says. But words matter — or at least the words of the sitting president of our country should matter. Our country was founded through the language of “we hold these truths to be self-evident.” That “we” did not exist till that language; those words mattered. And, yes, I know he did this to bait his audience and divert attention away from issues larger than football: the looming showdown with North Korea, our neighbors in Puerto Rico, the failed health-care bill. But small things matter: tea thrown in a harbor mattered, a seat on a bus mattered. If we keep allowing this president to cross ethical lines that tear at the fabric of our democracy, we will not have a democracy left when he is done. Censure him!

Sarah Ford, Waco

* * *

Having just passed the 228th anniversary of adoption of the Bill of Rights by Congress on Sept. 25, 1789, perhaps a review is in order. Or maybe reading the amendments — for the first time for some, perhaps — and understanding what was actually written rather than presuming or creating a meaning that just isn’t there.

The First Amendment, written in clear, “plain-language” English, is not properly interpreted but to be taken at the literalness of the words. The declarations of individuals claiming to have a “right to free speech” in response to statements by our president are meant to show disrespect to the man chosen by a constitutional majority of citizens in the country and representing all Americans. Such individuals demonstrate a lack of understanding of the actual (literal) words written in the First Amendment.

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…” What could be clearer? Congress has not enacted any law nor is the president or anyone else suggesting any such law abridging anyone else’s freedom. In other words, only passage of a law by Congress is prohibited. There is no freedom to make statements in improper, profane or offensive ways within the community. The only constitutional injunction is a limitation of congressional authority. To presume that the president’s advocating unemployment of malcontents for disloyal activities (others call it treason) is contrary to the speakers’ constitutional right is completely wrong.

Funny that those whining that they believe their “rights” are being violated are professing loyalty to the Constitution while trashing all the symbols that represent that document. The rantings of LeBron James or Stephen Curry are not informed, not intelligent and not wanted.

Pete Commander, Bellmead

* * *

Yes, African-American NFL players are creating an atmosphere of dissension in our country. They are bowing a knee during the national anthem and many regard this as an act of disrespect to our flag. Most people are unaware of the third stanza of the anthem. It speaks of no refuge for the hireling and the slave. The verse ends with the star-spangled banner waving over the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is the oxymoron of a slave living in the land of the free that NFL players are protesting.

My father along with his three brothers served in the armed services. Two of his brothers were POWs. They served their country and are men of honor. When they returned home after defending their country, they immediately saw the signs of discrimination saying, “Whites Only.” They served a country that would not allow them to sit in a public restaurant for a meal because they were African-American men. These men of honor sat in the back of the bus, attended segregated schools and could only eat meals with people of color.

African Americans today understand their pursuit of equality must continue. If my father and his brothers were living today, they would bow knee in solidarity with NFL players. The NFL players are lowering their knees to bring attention to an incomplete journey to freedom and justice in our nation. Given the occasion and in memory of my father and his brothers, I would bend my knee in honor of their service to our country and in recognition of their pursuit of liberty and justice for all.

Rev. Charlotte Jones, Lorena

* * *

Kevin Cokley and Germine Awad assert, in their op-ed piece of Sept. 26, that President Trump seeks to ignite a culture war. This conclusion supposedly follows because they disagree with his statements pertaining to professional athletes who refuse to stand for the national anthem.

I remind the two professors that the president of the United States has not only the right of free speech himself but also the moral duty to the country to honor and to defend republican governance and its most compelling symbol, our national flag. To not do so would constitute an act of nonfeasance and cowardice.

Second, the president has never maintained that these athletes do not have a legal right to do what they are doing. Yet his concern is not with legality but morality. These athletes live in a country that has allowed many if not most of them to rise from poverty to wealth by marketing their skills. Their country has also made enormous strides in the advancement of civil rights over the last century. While some nations still wink at racial and gender oppression, the United States has made immense progress in overcoming both. So the president, as well as millions of other Americans, is wondering about these athletes’ decided lack of moral awareness and appreciation.

A third point may best explain what is now happening in the country. This culture war is nothing new and is certainly not being incited by President Trump. In the 1930s, Marxists became convinced that their old-style ideology of militant class warfare would never by itself change America. So they opted, in Antonio Gramsci’s words, to make the “long march through the institutions” of our country. Professors such as Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse were the leading proponents of this “cultural Marxism.” Since then, and especially with the advent of the turbulent Sixties when the radical left capitalized upon the Vietnam War and racial inequality, traditional American values have been under heavy siege. They are now as well.

In this protracted culture war, numerous actors are devoid of insight. They protest, they riot and they create disorder and instability. They act out of emotion, not reason or logic. There is no obvious correlation, for example, between dishonoring the flag and curing police brutality. But so what? It was Vladimir Lenin himself who called people who ignorantly destroy what most of us hold dear “useful idiots.” I am hard pressed to think of these athletes in any other terms.

L. Scott Smith, McGregor

* * *

“The Star-Spangled Banner” did not become the official national anthem till 1931. Prior to that time it was “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” sung to the same tune as the British national anthem. Some would prefer “America the Beautiful,” which is certainly easier to sing and less bellicose. Prior to 1892 there was no Pledge of Allegiance. The words “under God” were not added to the Pledge of Allegiance till 1954, the year I graduated from high school. The motto “In God We Trust” was not mandated on all coins and currency till 1956. So all of this patriotic breast-beating is relatively recent and not a part of our American tradition. As Adlai Stevenson once observed, patriotism is not a frenzied outburst of emotion but the quiet dedication of a lifetime.

Dick Turner, Woodway

* * *

The recent protests of the national anthem by NFL players taking place in pre-game ceremonies before the game begins need to stop immediately. This can be done very simply by discontinuing pre-game ceremonies in all sporting events where the national anthem is played.

Granted, it would be sad to be forced to eliminate pre-game ceremonies. However, it may become necessary to prevent influencing children to mimic this inappropriate behavior. Do you want your child kneeling during the national anthem?

Don Collins, Waco