Image via REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Monday, Aug. 29, 2016
America prides itself on its Made-in-the-USA brand of Patriotism; heavy on the pomp and circumstance but light on substance. We say we care about our military men and woman and our veterans, but we do a piss-poor job proving we give a damn. But by God, as he looks down upon America making it the best damn country ever, when the flag tips skyward and the first notes of The Star Spangled Banner belt forth, we scramble to pin our American Flag button to our American Flag polo as we stand at attention supporting the groupthink that everything in Bless-ed America is deceitfully righteous.
I know our military service members and veterans appreciate the two whole minutes we take out of our day at The Ballgame to give them a hearty pat on the back for a job well done keeping America safe—but that’s all we give them. We put down our beer, slip our phones into our pockets and once “…and the home of the brave” reverberates through the stadium we feel like we’ve done all we need to Support the Troops. We checked our patriotic participation box for the day.
We have Memorial Day as the catchall holiday for honoring our service members past and present. We can stand as the flag waltzes down Main Street USA with a gaggle of veterans in tow, but let’s be honest—if it weren’t for the three-day weekend, the official start of summer and a sale on Tupperware down at the Five & Dime, we wouldn’t be there. Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day aren’t marked with parades and yummy barbecues. To America, they are just days too inconvenient to show support.
So this idea that one NFL quarterback sitting during one verse of the four-verse National Anthem (yes, there are four verses. Google it. Feel inadequate as an American yet? We don’t even have time for the whole damn song.) is somehow disrespectful to our military members is bullshit. Pot meet Kettle. And Kettle meet Pot.
Lumping veterans and active service members in with those who’ve died while serving in the armed forces is a disgrace. They’re not dead, even though it seems like they certainly are to the American consciousness. I guess it makes sense just to honor them all at once and get it over with, right? Why waste the time?
Hammering out one’s anger about Colin Kaepernick in the comments section of social media does nothing for the fact that for every $1 spent blowing up some dusty town half a world away that kills innocent women and children while inflaming hatred toward America we spend less than a quarter of that taking care of our veterans once they come home. But please, spend the next week arguing about what consequences Kaepernick should face for exercising his God-givenTM First Amendment rights.
The one thing we do well in America is telling other Americans how to be American. Kaepernick’s team, the NFL, and other NFL players support his decision, even if they don’t agree with his message. They are shining examples of American patriotism—supporting one’s rights even while disagreeing with its context. If exercising your rights means you hate America, then those raking Kaepernick over the coals best find a mirror—because many Americans must hate America by that logic.
You could take issue with Kaepernick’s execution, because we are certainly not talking about the treatment of minorities in this country, but not supporting his courage to take a stand in the face of hatred, bigotry and his own career speaks volumes about his character as a American who feels comfortable enough expressing his views. The most un-American thing Americans can do is not support his rights to express himself. Last I checked, this wasn’t North Korea.
I’m sure the veterans who are unemployed, homeless or incarcerated because they don’t have access to mental health services are certainly thankful you can think of them just before you’re about to watch millionaires throw a ball around in a multi-million dollar stadium paid for by taxpayer money so you can cheer The Local Team to Victory and have that $11 beer.
And what about the racist undertones Kaepernick is facing? Who gets to decide what is and is not un-American, what is or is not disrespectful. The idea that there should be a checklist of Americanisms is, at its core, anti-American. When we demand a person to be punished for expressing themselves through the First Amendment, we have lost the very idea our country was founded upon.
A group of armed white militia men can take over a government building, threaten violence against the Federal Government and then walk away with the commendation of a job well done sticking up to perceived injustices by the federal government by a subset of Americans who pride themselves on being American enough.
But when someone who looks just a little too dark for the Moral Mainstream of White America takes a stand highlighting the racial disparities in this country, everyone’s asshole tightens up because the last thing they want to do is come to the realization our priorities in this country are FUBAR. They want to stick their fingers in their ears and keep belting The Star Spangled Banner as if everything in God’s Great America is fine and dandy. But it’s not.
What if a white quarterback had sat out in protest of Pres. Barack Obama or in support of #WhiteLivesMatter? Would the backlash have been as fierce? Would there have been a backlash at all? I find it hard to believe the same group that is upset at Kaepernick would be just as angry at Generic White Football Player for taking a squat because he thinks Obama is Muslim and should be impeached for some backwoods conspiracy theory.
I hadn’t realized that for every person who stands for the anthem during a football game, a veteran magically gets his VA wait time slashed in half. It seems almost too easy. But apparently standing for the anthem has some magical power they never taught me in school. Do you remember getting the memo?
Instead of being upset at Kaepernick, take a stand for something more than the bullshit that gets in the way of real change. Take a stand for resolving the racial disparities in the justice system. Fight for the poor, the disadvantaged. And most importantly, fight for the rights of our military men and women—the veterans who have nothing. Making a phone call to your representative does a lot more than arguing about Kaepernick.