What Colin Kaepernick did is about as American as anything you can possibly do. His actions are about as American as you can get.
No, I didn’t say un-American, I said American.
Do I like what Colin Kaepernick did? Absolutely not.
Would I ever do the same? Not hardly. My granddaddy or my surrogate dad, Larry Patton, the two most patriotic men I have ever known, would come back and slap me silly.
But at the same time, if you think that our soldiers died for lyrics or a piece of fabric, you don’t understand their sacrifice. Our soldiers died for a free nation, so that citizens like Colin Kaepernick can stand up and do exactly what he did regardless of how disgusting you found it and in spite of how much you don’t like it. What Kaepernick did was to use his platform and try to outrage people in any way he can in order to get their attention to showcase what he was standing up for. That’s as American as it gets.
Protest is beautifully and uniquely American.
The Stars and Stripes aren’t what make us America. The Star-Spangled Banner doesn’t make us America, freedom of protest against the government, against the United States itself, is what makes us America.
Now, I personally think there’s ways to boycott and to stand up for the racial inequalities and the killing of unarmed civilians by police officers who then turn around and go on paid vacation that don’t insult the nation as a whole or the men and women who have fought to secure and defend those freedoms that we enjoy under that flag. And I would never refuse to honor our national anthem.
Don’t mistake what I am saying. Like a little kid, to this day, I still stand up and place my hand over my heart, even when it’s on TV. Nothing made me happier than seeing “my” three-year-old twins recite the Pledge of Allegiance that they learned at preschool because their Can Can tried to teach it to them as soon they could talk. (I failed, preschool succeeded.) I was upset and outraged during the NFL playoffs this past season when they nixed the televising of the national anthem to sell us more commercials. I think it’s disrespectful to the United States to refuse to honor our flag, I think it’s disrespectful to our soldiers, but I also think that if you think they died for a piece of cloth or an anthem, then you, yourself, disrespect their service and their sacrifice — because you don’t understand what they died for at all. You, Mr. outraged at Colin Kaepernick, don’t understand their very sacrifice that you pretend to be protective of and enraged over.
So what did our generations of brave men and women give their lives for? Kaepernick’s right to do what he did, even if we don’t like it.
And as one of my favorite movies, The American President, says (paraphrasing, here): Celebrate that in your classrooms; show me that, then you can stand up and sing about the home of the brave and the land of the free.
When you tolerate somebody whose protests and whose words make you violently disgusted, but you acknowledge their right to do so — that’s a free nation, boys and girls. That is what my Granddaddy fought for.
Now I would never disrespect the flag, and my Granddaddy would never even allow the one in his yard to show wear out of the great respect that he had for this nation,but at the same time, I know enough about my Granddaddy to know that that flag is not what he and his military buddies fought for. What he fought for was freedom.
What he fought for was the right to stand up and protest and push back against a government or Police Department or a society that you feel is diminishing the lives of others without consequence from the government itself. That is what makes the United States of America just that: the United States of America. And if we acknowledge that, then we have to acknowledge, whether we like it or not, what Colin Kaepernick did is about as American as you can get. American citizenship never guaranteed that you wouldn’t be disgusted by your fellow man’s right to exercise all of his.
A resounding and heartfelt thank you to all of our men and women who serve and give me the right to protest, to speak out, and to enjoy the privilege and the blessing of living in the greatest nation on Earth. Those brave men and women fight everyday to defend it. They are in my heart without hesitation.
As are everyone who stands up and puts himself in the spotlight and says: “I’m willing to call attention to the fact that you will be outraged over my not saluting the flag, but you will not be outraged over the injustice that I’m drawing attention to in the first place, and that is the problem.” You are in my heart as well. Because they all, everyone of us — all of our choices, actions, beliefs, and opinions — make this country what it is: a free nation.
The Constitution makes us free, the military secures that freedom, and our citizens, by speaking out, ensure, and maintain, that we always have them.
I love you all.