As everyone who has open ears or open eyes in America knows, Colin Kaepernick, of the San Francisco 49ers, chose to remain seated during the playing of the National Anthem in the opening week of the 2016 National Football League season.
According to interviews, following the game, Kaepernick remained seated because of injustices being perpetrated against African Americans and other people of color.
The football franchise’s spokesperson later stated that while the playing of the National Anthem has been and will always be a part of the teamâ€™s opening ceremonies, the freedom of expression, which the song itself represents, applies to the star quarterback, as it does to everyone.
Kaepernickâ€™s actions have caused two things to happen: 1) It has encouraged more people to stand up, in whatever ways they deem appropriate, to the oppression felt by many people in the poorest communities of America, and 2) It has outraged the nationalists in our country.
The first result of this individualâ€™s choice, I think, is a positive thing. Opening and keeping alive aÂ dialogue about the lack of equality, in a country which promises to strive for such a lofty ideal, is an important first step toward healing.Â The fact that one manâ€™s choice could inspire others to follow suit is significant. As a country, our criminal justice system needs restoration. As it appears, right now, justice is something which can only be purchased by those with the means to do so. This is a tear in our societal moral fabric and it can only be repairedÂ through thoughtful discussions and sincere proactive change. If Kaepernickâ€™s decisionÂ helps lead us in that direction, then I say remaining seated was ultimatelyÂ a patriotic choice.
As for the second issue, that of the nationalists being irritated by this football playerâ€™s defiance, I say â€œGrow up.â€ As someone who served both in the military and on civilian police departments I want remind everyoneÂ that we have soldiers dying every day to give people, like Kaepernick, the right to express his disappointment with our democracy, in any legal means he sees fit.Â What a waste of human life if such sacrifice means nothing.
There are those who insist that this is a slap in the face to the young men and women who are fighting for our freedom, but anyone who would be outraged by this manâ€™s expression of that same freedom, reacts emotionally and not thoughtfully. What is the use of having freedom if its demonstration must meet our egocentric guidelines? Such freedom is not freedom, at all; it is a narrow, arrogant, meaningless caricature of freedom which forgets that the root word â€œfreeâ€ must allow actions which may offend our experience-driven sense of what is right and wrong; or what is acceptable and what is not.
As a country, we need to come together and have open-hearted, open-minded dialogues about â€œBlack Lives Matterâ€ and all injustice directed against people of color, poor people, or anyone who finds the so-called
â€œJustice Systemâ€ unavailable, for any reason. We are at a crossroads in which the old guard can no longer build high enough or strong enough walls to prevent the brave, new world from encroaching. We MUST become empathetic to the plight of those less privileged than ourselves and demand the change necessary to truly become a kinder and gentler nation.
Of course that change must begin within our own hearts before we will ever see it manifest in the nation or on the planet. We must realize that the new world is going to move into our neighborhood and it is in our best interest to help them unpack and make them feel as welcomed as we have always found ourselves.
Colin Kaepernick: Good Job. I have refused to put my hand over my heart for many years when standing for the National Anthem because I have long felt that there is really no effort, being waged, to live up to the ideals of the American Dream. While the song, itself, is a salute to the flag, the sentiment that America is a land of equality, with justice for all, has gotten lost in our greed-driven, fear-based society. I hope that your actions lead to thoughtful dialogue. If that happens you may become known as a hero, a champion of the American Constitution, which at one time represented the Truth that all men are created equal and therefore entitled to all the benefits inherent in that equality. I applaud you and I thank you.
To all the haters who cannot find it in themselves to recognize that not all people in this country are treated with respect, open your minds and see if you canâ€™t put yourself in the shoes of those who are treated unfairly. Do you live in the country you dreamed of when you were a little kid being taught the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, or did you just learn the words so you could recite them without any thoughtful consideration? â€œWith Liberty and Justice, for all,” were not just words which sounded good to Francis Bellamy, when he wrote them in August of 1892; they point to ideals which we, as American Citizens, have failed to apply equally to all members of our society. We, as communities, are only as strong as our weakest neighbors. As Americans, we are tasked with striving for a higher standard, not because it is written somewhere, but because we know, in our heart of hearts, that it is the right thing to do.
At the end of the day it does not matter that Colin Kaepernick did not stand during the National Anthem. It is not disrespectful to any individual. It is an act by a man who feels that our system is unjust. Instead of being angry with him for exercising his right to free expression, let us see how we may work to mend our country; a nation that is more broken and divisive, right now, than it has ever been in my lifetime (a life that is reaching into its sixth decade.)
We do not need to agree with Mr. Kaepernickâ€™s choice in order to ask, â€œWhere do we go from here?â€ If we can find it in our minds and hearts to seek answers to this question, we may, just maybe, be able to keep our wonderful country from exploding. Talk with your neighbors. Talk with people with whom you do not usually associate. Write to your senators and congresspersons expressing your concern for the disparity which exists. In other words, instead of sitting in your recliner feeling outraged at this young man for using his national platform to express his frustration, Do Something. Do something constructive. Even if it is only to examine your own heart and ask yourself why you feel so angry. If you can get past your own prejudices you may find out that you have been living your life on autopilot and that this no longer serves you.
We must change. We must evolve, and there is no reason this evolution needs to be bloody or destructive. We are intelligent enough as a race, as a collective humanity, to become a nation which not only espouses but actually lives up to the ideals of â€œLiberty and Justice, for all.â€