August Landmesser, Donald Trump and the National Anthem

A few weeks ago, President Donald Trump made statements that he thought NFL owners should fire any football players who kneel during the national anthem.  When people debated about the right to protest and respecting the military, I thought of an image I saw a few years ago.  It was an old photo from 1936.  In the photo, a crowd of Germans were giving the Nazi salute to Adolph Hitler.  Conspicuously, one German had folded his arms and refused to give the Nazi salute to Hitler.

German citizens were required to give the Nazi salute to Hitler during his reign. But in 1936, one man refused to salute during a rally because he fell in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman.

August Landmesser had joined the Nazi Party in 1931 so he could get a job during the economic depression of Germany at the time. In 1934, Landmesser fell in love with Irma Eckler, and their engagement a year later got him expelled from the Nazi Party. Their marriage application was denied under the racial Nuremberg Laws.

August and Irma had a baby girl, Ingrid, in 1935.

During a Nazi rally to dedicate the naval training vessel Horst Wessel on June 13, 1936, August Landmesser refused to perform the Nazi salute to Hitler at the launch of the naval training vessel Horst Wessel. This was especially courageous, considering he was surrounded by a crowd of Nazi well-wishers.

A year later, the family attempted to flee to Denmark, but were apprehended at the border. August was arrested for “dishonoring the race” under Nazi’s racial laws and was told to break up with Irma. August, however, continued his relationship with Irma and a month later was arrested again and was sentenced to hard labor for two years in a concentration camp. He would never see his wife again. Irma Eckler was arrested by the Gestapo and was imprisoned, where she gave birth to their second daughter.

Due to a shortage of soldiers, Landmesser was drafted into a penal infantry and died in Croatia.

When President Trump made his statements that the NFL owners should fire any football players who kneel during the national anthem, I thought of the story of August Landmesser.  Trump has equated standing for the national anthem with honoring our military. I love this country and I honor the sacrifices of the men and women who have served in our military. But I think it is wrong to make it mandatory for all Americans to have to stand for the national anthem.  I think it is equally wrong for an American to lose his or her job for exercising their right of free expression. 

Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and other dictators forced their citizens to have to observe their national anthems or they would be beaten, jailed or even killed. Our country should not be emulating the examples of Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin. I think standing for the national anthem should be voluntary.

If you want to honor our country and our military, defend the freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights, respect differences of opinion, stand up for the freedom of speech and expression of all our citizens (even those we disagree with), help make sure our country lives up to its highest values of freedom and equality. Help military families and veterans, advocate for homeless veterans and those struggling with PTSD.  Keep informed on foreign policy issues so that we can make informed decisions about whether we should put our soldiers in harms way or whether a diplomatic solution is a better path.

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About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Angelo Lopez has had illustrations published in Tikkun Magazine, the Palo Alto Daily News and Z Magazine. From April 2008 to May 2011, Angelo's cartoons were regularly published in the Tri-City Voice, a weekly newspaper that covers the Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Neward, Sunol and Union City areas in California. He does a political webcomic starring his cartoon character Jasper for the progressive blogsite Everyday Citizen. Since December 2011, Angelo does a regular weekly political cartoon for the Philippines Today, a Filipino American newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since March 2013, he has also contributed cartoons to the Manila Mail, a Filipino American newspaper based in Washington D.C. Angelo is a member of the Sunnyvale Art Club, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. During the 1990s, he was a member of the part-timer workers SEIU unit in the city of Sunnyvale. Angelo won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartooning for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. He has also won the 2016 RFK Book and Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoons. Angelo won first prize for the Best of the West contest in 2016 and third prize in 2017. Angelo is married to Lisa Reeber. They enjoy taking walks, watching movies and hanging out with their nieces.
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