So, right off the bat, I know nothing about most sports. I don’t follow football because seeing a bunch of oversized people covered in sweat slamming into each other a full speed is too brutish for my tastes.
That said, what I do know is social commentary on current events. I know a controversy when I see it. And what’s going down right now with Colin Kaepernick is just another media circus.
For those not in the know, Kaepernick is the quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers who has been making headlines lately for opting to remain seated during the national anthem in protest of the recent string of police violence against African-Americans and other people of color. In interviews, he seems well aware that what he did doesn’t sit well with some people. However, he expresses no regret in, “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” and that he’s, “not looking for approval. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Now, we could throw around police statistics about crime and violence as it relates to ethnicity all day. But I want to focus on this moment – this single action.
Let’s start with the obvious fact; no one forced Kaepernick to stand nor could they force him to. He was, and should be, allowed to freely express himself in the manner of his choosing (provided said expression does no lasting damage to people or property) as granted my the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
I actually had one friend (who, out of honor and respect, shall remain nameless) question me saying, “How do you hide behind the First Amendment, but don’t respect the flag that guarantees it?” My answer was simple; “By recognizing that the flag didn’t give us that freedom; hard working, determined people did.”
… Which brings me to the bulk of argument.
I have not stood for the anthem or the pledge of allegiance since I was 15 years old. I’ve caught a lot of flack for being disrespectful and unpatriotic in the past for that choice. But there’s a reason why I don’t do it; that flag and the government it represents didn’t guarantee my freedom before and they don’t guarantee it now. That honor goes to people.
Strong people, brave people, people who risk their lives for decent men and women that can’t guarantee their freedom on their own, people like my own father – a sergeant first class who served in the army for years; these are the people you should be standing for; not some colored cloth on a pole that a cold, unfeeling, corporately driven government uses to blindfold you so you can’t see the shady things they do behind your back.
I reserve my respect for people on an individual basis based on the actions they have taken and what motivated those actions. I will recognize a group for doing some good, but I will not blindly throw blanket praise over the whole of them. And I will certainly not give that respect to a glorified sheet flapping in the breeze that did nothing but serve as a symbol of the people that profited the most from their effort.
The flag, the anthem, and all of their ilk are unfeeling symbols and, as a great man once said, “I leave symbols to the symbol-minded.”