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.”

Freedom to Death?: Outrage At a Potential Tobacco Ban and Political Indecision

Will the town of Westminster cut off it’s tobacco supply to the people?
Source: Fort Worth Weekly

As I did my usual check on happenings in the news, I found an article that fascinated me. The town of Westminster, Massachusetts has set to work in an attempt to ban the sale and purchase of any and all tobacco products.

You would think that, given our modern attitudes towards smoking, people would be happy to see tobacco go the way of lawn darts; a terrible idea that does more harm than good. But you’d be surprised. A shocking number of people, many of them non-smokers, oppose the ban as they feel it’s an infringement on personal liberties.

This causes a rather uncomfortable situation. On one side of the issue, everyone agrees that smoking is a disgusting habit that harms your health irreversibly.

But on the other hand, you could make a legitimate argument that people have the right to put anything into bodies that they want – health risks be damned. If we set out to ban the every consumable product harmful to us, I’m sure many of the people reading this would rush out to defend their right to eat at Burger King whenever they choose.

On the OTHER other hand, there’s also plenty of evidence to say that a complete tobacco ban is exactly what we need. Studies show that cities and states that issue out smoking bans see large drops in tobacco related illnesses very quickly and the more comprehensive and all encompassing the law is, the larger that drop becomes.

This brings us to that “uncomfortable situation” that I mentioned earlier. This is a scenario where we need to make a serious choice; do we put health and the well-being of ourselves and our fellow humans first and protect them against their own will or should we put personal freedom ahead of logic and allow people to continue doing the things that harm them even when they themselves know it will harm them?

Really, all of this comes down to one saddening thought that boils in my mind; none of us really knows what we want. We want our governments to protect us from threats both internal and external, but not at the cost of personal freedoms and vice versa. This is why so many people were and still are upset about things like the nature of airport security and censorship.

If I had to choose (and I realize that this may sound cruel when I explain it), I’d say that I agree with the people opposing the ban despite being a non-smoker myself. I try to think of it in terms of natural selection; if a person was foolish enough to start a highly addictive and harmful habit given the wealth of knowledge to confirm the fact, they probably deserve what they get.

That said, the fact that I have to make that choice at all is painful. One side corals and controls human behavior while the other feels like sending people to their deaths. I both look forward to and dread the final decision that they make.