Monday, August 29, 2016

Sweet Land of Liberty

The QB of the San Francisco 49'ers decided that he was going to protest on-going inequality and injustice in this country be choosing to sit during the national anthem. He had chosen this form of protest for all three of the pre-season games, but it was not noticed in the previous games because he wasn't dressed to play. His decision has brought a storm of protest. The thoughts range from he's a spoiled millionaire to he's disrespecting the military to he needs to get out of the country. 

First, his money has nothing to do with whether he has to right to voice an opinion. In fact, if he was a truck driver no one would have cared what he did during the national anthem. He does not forfeit the right to protest simply because he's rich. He is using the platform afforded him because of his status to make a point. 

Second, since when did the flag and military become synonymous? I certainly don't think of the military when I see a flag and when this country had won the revolutionary war, one of the first things that was done, was to dissolve the military. What exactly did our flag stand for then? Kaepernick made it pretty clear that he was not thinking of the military when he made his protest. 

I find it almost amusing for people to get so apoplectic about a show of civil disobedience. The irony that this country was founded on the principle of free speech and the right to protest against your government, is seeming lost on those who would denounce his actions. I heard one commentator say that what the basketball players did at the ESPY's was the right way to protest, but this was the wrong way. I guess Kaepernick is now one of the "bad Negroes". I guess the only way to protest is to do something as innocuous as a speech promoting unity. 

When Muhammad Ali refused induction into the armed forces, he took a stand based on principle. He was hugely unpopular because of it. People talked about how much this country had done for him and how ungrateful and unpatriotic he was. Political stands that don't ruffle any feathers and let those in vast stretch of middle America sleep comfortably at night end up doing and meaning nothing. Kaepernick's action will cause a reaction. It may be mostly negative, but it does bring to light the continuing issues in this country. 

The majority of people will continue to ignore the issue and focus on the act and that is the problem. We, as a country, feel so much more comfortable focusing on anything but actual injustice. Maybe it's because we feel powerless to affect any change. Maybe it's because we are afraid to look into the mirror and see who we actually are. I honestly don't know the answer. What I do know is that Kapernick has the right to sit, stand or do whatever the hell he wants during the national anthem and for whatever reason he wants. I also know that people have the right to criticize him, stop watching him, call him unpatriotic or a spoiled brat. They have the same rights. One does not supersede the other.

There is no law dictating behavior during the anthem. There are suggestions, but you cannot be fined, ticketed or jailed for failing to stand unless you are an active member of the military. I'm pretty sure that kaepernick is not an active member of the military, so he's free to do what he wants. By the way, I'm just as guilty as the rest of the country, since I've spent this entire column talking about the act instead of the issue.