- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Toni Smith turns away from the American flag during the national anthem in protest of a wrongheaded nation that protects the rights of ninnies like herself.
Smith, a senior forward with the Manhattanville women's basketball team in Purchase, N.Y., is moved to mix politics with sport because of "the inequalities that are embedded into the American system" and "the war America will soon be entering" with Iraq.
The American system is so impossibly stilted against humanity that many of the globe's unwashed masses endeavor to reach these shores in whatever manner possible, legal or otherwise.
They take the jobs Americans consider beneath them. They drive taxis. They run convenience stores. They work as day laborers. They clean our hotels, restaurants and homes.
These immigrants, from the perspective of the cesspool they have abandoned, are only too happy to be pursuing their version of the American Dream and forging a better life for their children.
Crazy as it is, the immigration tide does not move in any significant number in the opposite direction. No one from America is clamoring to move to North Korea, not even Alec Baldwin, who has failed to keep his promise to leave George Bush's America.
It seems it is easier to boohoo about the oh-so-hard nature of America, while knowing, deep down, that it does not add up.
They probably don't teach these sort of fundamental lessons at Manhattanville, a tiny liberal arts institution that sits in the suburbs north of the massive scar left by the toppling of the World Trade Center.
No, they probably teach the usual stuff there, starting with this nation's systematic oppression of women and minorities.
Smith, of course, has every right to express whatever inanities that come tumbling out of her mind. Richard Berman, the school president, also has the right to express his support of Smith. In fact, he would be the rare college president if he found her views misguided or naive or out of place in the escapist environment of athletics.
Just as Smith and Berman have the right to think they are flirting with a higher principle, we have the right to roll our eyes and wave miniature flags in Smith's presence, as some fans have done. We have the right to remind Smith that if she were an athlete in Iraq and urged Saddam Hussein to give Hans Blix a chance, Saddam's minions would cut out her tongue, or worse.
She then would receive a clearer definition of "inequalities," as opposed to the make-believe kind often peddled in America.
In certain segments of America, our idea of unfair is the absence of a rich woman belonging to a private golf club in Augusta, Ga.
We can debate the Iraq issue. Debate is healthy, if the talking points of the debate are genuine.
The following, for instance, is not a debate: "No blood for oil." That is a bogus charge that merely reveals the emptiness of the far-left extremists. We pay our way. Ask Turkey.
You do not have to agree with every position of the Bush administration or with the way the war on terror is developing. That is almost an impossibility. You think one thing, someone thinks another thing. Fine. Good. What do we know anyway, just snippets of stuff? It would be hard to argue what is what in the NBA if much of the information was classified and out of the public domain.
But here's the thing: It does not seem too much to expect athletes and everyone else to be respectful around the American flag.
You don't have to like everything the flag represents, no more than you have to like the neighbors down the street. But if you walk into their house, you're not going to turn your back on them. You're going to be respectful, because you are in their home.
It is sort of that way with Smith. She is in America's home, her home, and no doubt benefiting from it. She does not have to like it here. If fact, if she feels that strongly about it, perhaps after she graduates she should move to a place that does not have "inequalities embedded" in its system and is more hospitable toward Iraq.
Why, she could book the same flight as Baldwin.
Until then, to further demonstrate the so-called courage of her convictions, perhaps she should have "War is not the Answer" stenciled to the back of her jersey.
That is another persuasive element of the debate, despite the absence of an answer.
Oh, sorry. Forgot. Sean Penn is the answer.

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