Why I’m Okay With The “Take A Knee” Protest

Yeah, I’m totally cool with this.
Source: Statesman

Anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t care less about sports. I’m not into competitive events (especially not ones that boil down to, “hit the other guy as hard as you can”). But when a sport starts stirring up political controversy and touches on issues of social justice by kneeling down during the national anthem, I can’t deny that it sits in several of my wheelhouses.

As you’ve almost certainly have gathered from the title, I have no problems with the ‘take a knee’ protests going around the NFL right now. I fact, as long they continue the protests peacefully and no one gets hurt, I wish them the best and hope people start to listen. After all, that’s the point of a controversial protest; to do something so shocking that people have no choice but to pay attention to you.

But, I also understand how a lot of people have misinterpreted this as an attack on the flag and the pledge. So, in an attempt to bridge the divide between us and promote empathy between divided factions, I’m going to attempt to debunk a few of the common complaints I’ve heard so far.

It was never about the flag

This the most common cry heard on the web right now, so I’ll keep it short. People joining the protest aren’t protesting against the flag; they’re using the flag as a vehicle to protest against police brutality.

It’s like I said at the start; the point of committing a controversial act in protest is to garner attention. If these players protested by doing something benign and mundane, you would be giving a thought about this right now. You have to do something shocking when you’re trying to rally awareness to a cause.

We ‘disrespect the flag’ LITERALLY every day (and the law doesn’t care)

This is probably the second thing people bring up when they hear the complaints of respecting the flag.

If you actually read Chapter 10, Subsection 176 of the U.S. Flag Code which details how to respect the flag, you’d find a shocking number of ways we screw it up every day. Such examples of douchebaggery towards our banner include flag-printed clothing, carrying the flag horizontally, flag-printed uniforms and costumes, and – probably the most damning of all – using the flag in advertising (actually, you can double down on that last one since you’re also not supposed to use the flag as a receptacle).

That said, almost nobody freaks out about these ‘disrespectful’ acts because the flag code makes it clear that it is merely a suggestion. It makes sure that every entry on respect is bookmarked with the word “should” – not must.

The great irony is that this protest would have probably been ignored entirely if most of us just realized what the flag code does…

The flag is not our nation

As I understand it, the reason people get up in arms about respecting the flag is that they conflate disrespecting the flag with disrespecting the nation. The fact of the matter is, however, that the flag isn’t the nation; That’s the role of the people. And this protest’s intent was trying to protect a group of people (a legitimate concern, considering how often we see side-by-side video footage of how long hostile white criminals are allowed to resist arrest compared to less threatening black perpetrators) and, by extension using my previous analogy, the nation.

When you get right down to it, the things we associate with our nation – the flag, our anthem, our pledge of allegiance and more – are just symbols our nation uses. If we started taking the advice of George Carlin and just, “leave symbols to the symbol-minded,” to focus on the REAL substance of our country – our people – we might find that we could improve this home of ours immeasurably.

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Regarding the Anthem and Colin Kaepernick

Now if it were me, I’d be sorely tempted to use a different finger.
Source: The Press Democrat

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 by 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.”