Freedom necessitates nuance in Kaepernick debate……

I actually thought the only news we would hear about Colin Kaepernick this summer would be that he would be traded or cut. Little did I know that Colin had something else on his mind

Regardless of where you stand on the Kaepernick and SitGate you have to admit, he has made himself relevant again. Albeit in a way that has nothing to do with football.

Let me start with this. I fully support Colin Kaepernick’s right to sit during the national anthem. If he wants to make that statement, he is fully entitled to do so. He is entitled to use his celebrity however he sees fit. Personally, I am not a huge fan of how he is making his  statement, but it’s his choice not mine. He is free to protest however he wants.  I also fully support those that are vociferously voicing their displeasure at his actions because they see it as a slap in the face to the  men and women who have died for our country. Some have gone completely overboard in their criticisms of Kaepernick and they are free to do that as well.

It really doesn’t matter what you think about the wars and “police actions” we as a country have engaged in. If you believe that flag and the anthem represent those that fought for our freedom and you take offense, be offended. What has emerged in this whole debate is what the anthem and the flag mean to so many of us, and in this regard I think this debate is important.

Kaepernick sees great injustice in how African-Americans are treated by law enforcement. I have never seen injustice suffered by African-Americans and being supportive of law enforcement as diametrically opposed. I have always believed the rules and perceptions of behaviors by minorities have been scrutinized and punished at a higher rate than whites. In fact, statistically its inarguable.

With the recent spate of high-profile shootings and arrests many in our country see this as a chance for real change. The way we can change things is by sitting down face-to-face and having some difficult discussions. These moments for change can’t take place if one side or the other refuses to open their minds and at least put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

If we can agree that a man selling CD’s on a street corner out of the back of his car does not deserve to be shot to death and that ALL police officers are somehow looking to frame, shoot and incarcerate African-Americans, then maybe meaningful dialogue can take place.

The problem is patience is growing thin. When is enough….enough. How many more minorities have to be shot for the most trivial of infractions. Social statements are a way of bringing attention to matters of race and equality. We are seeing these statements in the case of Kaepernick.

I love the national anthem. Have always had great reverence for the song that represents this country. During the last week though I have learned a little more about the man who wrote the anthem, Francis Scott Key. Key was not a great guy. Key was deep-seeded racist. I had no idea he was a slave owner who wrote a verse that glorifies the killing of slaves who left for Canada during the War of 1812. As you can imagine that verse is not included in our anthem. You can read more on this in Jon Schwarz great piece on The Intercept website…..

This revelation while surprising doesn’t change the way I feel about the United States when I hear the song. I told you “nuance” was coming and here it is. When I hear the song I think about all the men and women who had to courage to answer the call to fight for this country regardless of what was at stake. I seem to always think about those young kids who stormed the beaches of Normandy, scared, alone and knowing they were probably going to die, but fought  for us anyway. I think of the Tuskegee Airmen. Despite the great inequities of the time, they STILL saw promise in this country to fight for it and make a better life for themselves and their families. They didn’t bitch about life being unfair, and it clearly was. They fought ferociously for our country. That is what I think about when I hear the anthem and put my hand or hat over my heart.

This brings me to more nuance. In a free society the song can mean anything to whomever hears it, ingests it and thinks about it. Freedom and having liberty is not easy. How boring would our nation be if everyone agreed ? How would we cultivate change without our vast array of differences in thought and perspective ? The song and reverence I feel for it does not mean I glorify and celebrate slavery. The song, the flag mean something unique to all of us. It gives all of us a chance to reflect on the great sacrifices of soldiers, family or people we haven’t met. And, the song can also represent an opportunity for someone to protest what they see has been great injustice in our society.

The freedom to disagree. The freedom to criticize those who we disagree with. The freedom to think. The freedom to be our unique self. There is nothing more American than that.


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