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It’s a complicated issue for people who conflate the flag and the national anthem with “honor, glory, sacrifice, and in many cases, their own loss,” said Northeastern’s Martin Blatt, professor of the practice in history and director of the university’s Public History program.

Blatt, whose research includes a study of the significance of historic monuments, referenced what Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told The New York Times about the recent demonstrations. Peduto said, “If you’re a gold star mom, the idea of kneeling through the national anthem is beyond disgraceful and is a cause of emotional harm. But if you’re a mom who lost their child in the streets of America, the idea of kneeling is saying to you that your voice is being heard.”

Blatt said of Peduto, “He captures the intensity on either side. Many people equate the flag and the anthem with the fact that they’ve lost someone in the military. To those people, anyone who is disrespectful of that, who is denigrating the flag or the anthem, is disrespecting the memory of those who fought and died. It’s conflating a whole bunch of things together.”