Everywhere, U.S.A. — Dear America — when it comes to logical consistence with the putative American freedoms you claim to hold dear, patriotism, and where blame appropriately rests — you’re doing it wrong. Completely.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on his resolute decision not to stand for the national anthem over the epidemic of police brutality and the endemic racism fueling it.
But this wasn’t an un-American affront to patriotism — no matter what the corporate media and jersey-burning football fanatics might have you believe.
In fact, it is the excoriation of Kaepernick’s ethical stand — not his sitting out some sacrosanct patriotic song — that perfectly illustrates the height of hypocritical logical inconsistency and is, itself, antithetical to just about every principle on which this country was supposedly founded.
Indeed, superciliously castigating the athlete for exercising his right to freely protest — saying he has no right to do so — is the crow-stained epitome of all that is un-American.
It seems, however, countless media pundits, sports fans, and sudden experts on American patriotism collectively forgot the actual meaning of freedom — not to mention the text of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and the very reason British colonists rebelled against authoritarian rule — in their scramble to see who could lambaste Kaepernick most vehemently.
Have the nationalists lost their minds?
Although by far, Kaepernick isn’t the first athlete, and won’t be the last, to make a protestation of the national anthem — gymnast Gabby Douglas refusing to place her hand her heart at the Rio Olympics earlier this month to similar misguided moralistic outrage immediately springs to mind — his doing so during a potently divisive election year could at least partly explain the unending commentary since. With Americans at each other’s throats over Donald Trump’s rabid demagoguery and Hillary Clinton’s unabashed mendacity — two of the least popular candidates in American political history — perhaps the quarterback’s bringing up an issue of substance couldn’t come at a more opportune moment.
Unfortunately, his message has largely been lost on the overwhelming majority — so let’s address their daft self-righteous ignorance of freedom encased in a misbegotten understanding of what it means to be a patriotic American — before this sniveling moralism becomes an acceptable response.
Standing and placing your right hand over your heart whenever the Star Spangled Banner plays — while considered a show of respect for the country — is not a mandatory obligation, in part because we aren’t yet under the governance of a fascist dictatorship like, say, that of North Korea. Though more than a few criticisms of Kaepernick’s refusal to stand claimed personal liberty ends with his position on a team, both the National Football League and San Francisco 49ers issued statements affirming that though they don’t necessarily agree with the choice, it’s his to make.
“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony,” the 49ers’ statement reads. “It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we respect the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Team head coach Chip Kelly echoed the sentiment, saying the act is Kaepernick’s “right as a citizen” and that “it’s not my right to tell him not to do something.”
Fans have been less … neutral … and astonishingly clueless.
An excess of Kaepernick jersey-burning videos have been uploaded to YouTube and social media, most with sanctimonious narration similar to that of Nate3914, who said, among other things, “if you don’t love our country, get the fuck out of it. You should never play another down in the NFL. Move to Canada.”
Nate3914 and the rest of the narcissistic nationalists farcically ignore the fact the freedoms afforded us include the right to speak and express freely those stances which might not be acceptable to all — and which, in fact, might be cause for execution in a less-than-at-least-somewhat-free society. Which is also, of course, kinda the point.
Kaepernick arguably sees epidemic-level violence by police — and their near wholesale impunity —wrought disproportionately against the minority population as a sign our freedoms are being frighteningly curtailed. Thus, as a public figure, a protest under the glare of the national spotlight could focus needed attention to increase calls for reform. Or, at least, that was his intent.
Instead, the impetuous masses focused on the indignance of his ostensibly unjustifiable protest — not the unjustifiable assassination of Philando Castile as he reached for his wallet, precisely as he told the officer he was doing. Not the unjustifiable assassination of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who played with a toy gun in a park in open-carry Ohio. Not the unjustifiable throwing of a flashbang grenade into a baby’s crib by an abhorrently incompetent SWAT team. Not the unjustifiable parallel epidemic of puppycide by police across the nation.
Not thousands upon thousands of unjustifiable acts of lethal force, maimings, assaults, harassment, and intimidation of the populace by police — because indignance against that might force a much needed national acknowledgement we allowed a corporate police state to replace our once-cherished, so-called Land of the Free.
‘Murica, if you will, took out years of frustration over its own shortcomings in vigilance on an athlete who dared stand alone to say, ‘Hey, this police violence … it needs to end.’ Because it’s easier to disguise that frustration with Old Glory and a tune than it would be to confront the burning question, ‘How the hell did we go so wrong?’
It’s similarly easier to vilify one person speaking out than it would be to admit voting to validate the establishment put us in this position, that we allowed the propaganda of fear to divide us, install a surveillance state, let the police act like arrogant trigger-happy Mafia henchmen, and engender the Bill of Rights — the heart of the issue — to little more than fading mnemonic.
Remember, there exists as much right to protest Kaepernick’s actions as there does in Kaepernick’s protest — freedom does not conditionally fall on some arbitrary sliding scale.
But, by all means, let’s crucify Kaepernick for refusing to stand during a song — because, who cares aboutactualfreedom when you can worship the red, white, and blue phantom of its memory.
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