The Freedom to Sit

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
–Voltaire

Class, today’s civics lesson is: Colin Kaepernick.

The quarterback of the San Fransisco ’49ers created quite the stir last weekend with his act of protest, refusing to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to a preseason football game.

(Mind you, he didn’t stand for it in the two preceding games, either, but he was in street clothes for them. I guess it only counts if you’re suited up.)

The reason for his protest, Kaepernick said, was the unfair treatment of people of color in the United States. Being a white dude, I can’t personally relate to this problem, but I hear about it, and read about it, all the time. These people are being treated unfairly, and it’s been a problem ever since one person on earth looked different from all the other people.

Kaepernick meant to call attention to a societal issue he deeply cares about. Unfortunately, most of the attention seems to be on what he did, rather than why he did it. He has been berated, vilified and assailed, mainly on Twitter, being called everything from “idiot” to “disrespectful punk” to “disgraceful piece of shit nigger.”

Want my opinion? If not, you may stop reading, now. Thanks for coming; see you next time.

 

Still with me? Okay, then let’s look at a few of the things being said to or about Mr. Kaepernick:

1. What he did disrespected our men and women in the Armed Forces.

Could not disagree more. I submit to you, he honored them by what he did. (Full disclosure: I say that as someone who never served.)

Throughout our history, men and women have deliberately put themselves in harm’s way, some at the cost of their own lives, in defense of freedom. Colin Kaepernick chose to exercise that freedom in a very public, peaceful manner. You may not like his method, (neither do I, incidentally) but you don’t have to. He is perfectly within his rights, guaranteed by our Constitution, defended by our servicemen and women.

2. If he doesn’t like how things are here, he can just go somewhere else.

Ah, yes… America: Love It Or Leave It. If you have the gall to complain about it, you can just move on down the road.

Really? You can’t love your country if you point out something that’s wrong with it? Seems to me that those are the people that love it the most, the ones who try to call attention to the worst parts of it in an effort to bring about change, to make this country better. Otherwise, why would you care? (Unless, of course, you’re a self-serving Presidential candidate, pointing out all the problems only to offer yourself as the one and only solution, but I digress.)

3. He’s a rich NFL quarterback, so he should just STFU and play ball.

Okay, that’s what’s rich. So, what you’re telling me is, no one should take a stand (or a seat, in this case) for poor, oppressed people but other poor, oppressed people.

How much attention do you think that’ll get?

Kaepernick recognized the opportunity afforded him as a high profile athlete, in a high profile sport, with a sizable audience, to maximize the reach of his message. As I said before, though, that message is largely getting lost in all the chatter about his actions, mostly from all the “patriots” out there who’d rather address Kaepernick’s “unpatriotic” act, because they don’t want to face the much larger question of race relations in their precious America.

Well, guess what, folks: it’s a problem, a BIG problem, and we’ve got to have some honest conversations about it, sooner rather than later, or continue to ignore it at our peril.

Do I consider Colin Kaepernick a hero? I’m not going that far. But, he’s no villain, either. He’s simply a concerned citizen who believes it’s time for us all to work on righting some serious wrongs, and this is how he chose to bring attention to it. I, personally, do not fault him for that.

Will more people sit for the National Anthem now? Who knows? I suppose some will as a show of solidarity, but that won’t move us any closer to the goal. (no pun intended)

Instead, let’s do what Mr. Kaepernick has asked us to do, and have a thoughtful, reasonable, honest conversation about race relations in America, and work towards fixing them, and stop wasting our time castigating Colin Kaepernick.

Colin took a seat. Time for all of us to stand up.

This is what freedom looks like.

Class dismissed.

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