Jim "Goldy" Goldsworthy (CTN file photo)

Call it a character flaw, if you wish, but I am not one of the hand-wringers who has an emotional compulsion to feel guilty, apologetic or compassionate, regardless of the circumstances.

People sometimes bring misfortune upon themselves because of their own stupidity, and I don’t feel the least bit sorry for them or try to make excuses for them.

When this stupidity is compounded by criminal behavior or greed, I am particularly apt to derive some satisfaction from it and say “The (four-word Anglo-Saxonism) got just what he deserved.”

That would include the protester who decided to burn an American flag outside the building where the Republican National Convention was being held in Cleveland, and in so doing managed to set himself on fire.

A police officer yelled, “You’re on fire, stupid!” Cops have to deal with lamebrains for a living and have no more sympathy for them than I do.

Something similar happened at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, when a man began dancing on an American flag someone else had set on fire. Bystanders called him “an idiot.”

I’ve never been around when someone burned an American flag, but I know how I’d feel. How I would react would depend upon how many of my Vietnam Veteran buddies were around and whether they felt like doing something about it. Frankly, we’re too old and out-of-shape to participate in mob violence, regardless of how justified it may be.

Our sports editor Mike Burke has been one of the best friends I’ve ever had at the newspaper, so I went to his mom’s funeral recently.

Mike told us about his mom. He made us laugh, and he came close to making me cry a couple of times. By the time he and several other folks had finished talking about her, I wished I had met her more than just once. 

Colleen was a much-beloved and respected English teacher at Fort Hill High School, and Mike started by saying it was her wish that the Fort Hill family — that’s what he called them — stand and sing the school’s alma mater.

People who didn’t go to Fort Hill might not understand this, but those who did go there would. There’s a camaraderie among these folks, a kinship that’s fairly unique and in many cases lasts for a lifetime.

Having attended Keyser High School, I didn’t join them in singing it — but I did stand.

When I was growing up, we were taught that we should stand when other people sang their alma mater as a sign of respect.

We also were taught that we should stand and put a hand over our hearts when the national anthem was played (whether we sang it was up to us).

To paraphrase A. Lincoln: Now we are engaged in a great civil discourse about standing for the national anthem.

Years ago, during football games, I noticed that some people apparently didn’t even notice the anthem was being played and paid no attention to it. (And this was before anyone had cell phones.) Of those who did stand, not all of them put a hand over their hearts.

It bothered me for a while, but nobody made a big deal of it, and eventually I got used to it.

When I started associating with Chapter 172 of the Vietnam Veterans of America here in Cumberland, I noticed that when the national anthem was played before a televised game in the social quarters, everyone stood. This was particularly true during the Super Bowl parties.

My late friend Captain Gary (Carter), who was a lifetime member of Chapter 172, and First Sgt. Goldy may have spent more time at the bar in Gettysburg Eddie’s than we did at Little Round Top.

When the national anthem was played before a game on one of the TVs, Gary and I always got up from our barstools, faced the TV where the camera was focused on the American flag, and stood at attention with our hands over our hearts 

The first time we did this, it was like we had planned to do it ... only we hadn’t. Most times, but not always, a few other people would see what we were doing and join us.

Several years ago, another friend from Chapter 172 invited me to be his guest at a feed that was being held at a veterans service organization post where he was a member. I won’t tell you which VSO or the name of the town where this happened.

A big-screen TV was set up at one end of the room, and a NASCAR race was about to start.

When they began to play the national anthem over the TV, my buddy and I put down our food and our beers to stand and put our hands over our hearts, facing the American flag that was at the same end of the room.

Afterward, my friend and I talked about the fact that in a VSO post full of people, he and I were the only people who stood for the anthem ... and nobody seemed to notice. They probably would have said, “Oh, it was just on TV.”

Argue all you want to, about football players who kneel during the national anthem.

When people do something that others believe is outrageous in order to prove a point (whatever it is), they are trying to draw attention to themselves and create a visceral reaction among those who disagree with them.

The anthem-kneelers certainly have accomplished that.

If everyone else had ignored Colin Kaepernick when he started doing it, it’s likely that nobody else would be doing it today. Instead, there began a general hell-raising.

My father gave me a lot of good advice, including this: If someone wants to make an ass of himself and he’s not interfering with you, let him. He’s trying to make you notice him, and the worst thing you can do to him is ignore him. 

I have made this Goldy’s Rule 248

He also told me that you should do what you believe is right, even if you don’t want to, you know someone else won’t like it, and you may lose friends because of it. Ultimately, you must answer only to God and yourself. 

This is already Goldy’s Rule 16.

One of those two rules should cover everything we’ve talked about today ... maybe both of them. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

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