Colin Kapernick and Justice for All

We are a funny nation.  We seem to be comfortable holding two diametrically opposed views in our heads at the same time.  Freedom of speech, but the expectation not to use it.  Hear me out.  Colin Kapernick decided to remain seated or kneeing during the National Anthem at games his San Francisco 49ers are playing in to protest what he sees as unfair treatment of minorities by police. It is a quiet, non-violent and singular protest.  However many people, including some police, have attacked him saying it disrespects the flag, our military and the country itself.  In fact some have even called for him to be deported.  To where?  No one cares.  You see this emotional reaction is one fueled by ignorance and entitlement of those who do not feel the fear that comes from watching young black men and women killed in police custody or by police for apparently no reason.  Yes, I know, some of the most celebrated of the recent cases of police shooters are not as cut and dried as the Black Lives Matter movement said.  However, there is a serious pattern, or at least the perception of one, that seems to devalue the lives of black people, especially black men.  And Kapernick is drawing attention to that.

I don't want to debate that.  It is highly complicated and in fact there are some existential rabbit holes we could go down.  Black on black crime, gang fighting, absentee fathers have all be used to attack the movement.  That is for another time.  But I want to talk about the protest itself.

The National Anthem is an interesting thing we in America have.  That and the Pledge of Allegiance both have an ironic feel to them in a country built on the notion that we are a free people that the government is there to pledge allegiance to us, not the other way around.  One of the funny memes about this incident is the one that shows a so-called patriot saying "Stop disrespecting the government I am arming myself against".   But this is what we have allowed to be considered patriotism. Again the opposing views held by the same individual.  In some cases in the same sentence.  The idea the one can attack the President, members of the government, government institutions, (FBI, ATF, IRS) on the same website where they call for action taken against someone like Kapernick who just doesn't want to honor a song that he feels is hypocritical.  I would be more comfortable if he was avoiding the pledge than the anthem.  But still his protest, and the growing number who join him, are making a statement that is not disrespecting any individual, just calling for us to do a self-audit of what we are willing to live with in this country where famous and wealthy black men will tell you they have a visceral reaction to police and a fear if they are pulled over.

There was a time where I didn't say the pledge for example.  I still find it odd but I rarely am asked to do it.  I remember a nun, a member of the Catholic Worker Movement, who said once that she will say the Pledge of Allegiance when it wasn't a lie.  She felt there wasn't liberty and justice for all. That was a protest I could understand.  One of silence and conviction and that is in fact what Kapernick and the others are doing.  By the way, it is his right to do it and the flag we are pledging at that moment of his silence is a symbol of that right.  It is why we fought wars, it is why we can feel comfortable supporting a candidate that we want.  It is why the talk radio screamers who are making fun of those protesting can do just that.  And if Kapernick and others lose sponsorship contracts and even their jobs, well the same freedoms apply to that.  You see that is how the country is great.

Here is what I believe.  If Kapernick is so wrong to do it, don't call him names and ask him to leave the country.  Teach him why he is wrong or make what he is doing wrong. If you are right and his protest is in vain then he looks like a fool.  If you are outraged that this man is standing up for what he believes in then how can you defend someone standing up for what you believe in when you are considered wrong by the crowd?  Seriously. we are all Kapernick in some way.  We all have an unpopular but strongly held belief somewhere.  Thank the universe that we live some place where we can express it without fear of government interaction on us.  We should applaud him for doing so and if we think he is wrong, make him see the error of his ways.  But our culture moves too rapidly for that and so we sit, and jeer and burn his jersey, and call him names and in some cases prove his point. That there are two Americas.  And sometimes they exist in the same head.

  

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