Image courtesy of Mike Morbeck's Flickr page - Colin Kaepernick: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikemorbeck/11060149136/in/photolist-dNkGvN-hRma1u-f5NoJt-dJymVD-e1zfHG-dQVHhX-dNhwoi-dNhwAZ-e2fWbD-u1LRYd-dTajyh-e2fUSz-BrLYXq-jm67kV-gFAgX3-jmhrPK-jmh2wB
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Okay, so, I am still in that zone of writing all about the recent trip out west, and will continue to do so shortly, although that will be interrupted in order to address an issue that seems to have generated considerable controversy recently.
I am talking about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game last week.
He did not burn a flag. He did not hurt or kill anybody. All he said was that he would not stand for a flag that he felt did not represent all of it's citizens fairly.
And there was an explosive outrage that followed, as if he had done something truly horrendous and unthinkable.
What's more, most of the outrage are by some of the very same people who will criticize anyone who does not feel like they do about issues for being too "sensitive." People who will say, "Oh, come on! It was just a joke!" after they tell a racially sensitive joke, or will tell others to "toughen up" and pick themselves up by the bootstrap if they find themselves in need.
Yet, here they are getting completely derailed because a football star refused to stand for a symbol. A symbol, I might add, that represents an ideal that this country has not always lived up to, which almost everyone can agree with if they have even a small measure of objectivity.
Certainly, the numerous shootings and episodes of clear police brutality all across the country disproportionately targeting minorities earlier this year served as evidence that there really is a problem, although you might never know that by the reaction (or decided lack of reaction) by many whites, including many people who I know, and even consider friends. There were people who made a point of showing their unconditional support for the blue, which is seen by many as positive. But it also stubbornly refuses to acknowledge what has clearly become a serious problem.
Even less helpful was the reaction of one guy in particular, who will remain nameless. But he put up a post surely intended to be humorous, claiming "All Black Sabbath Albums Matter."
Showing support of law enforcement in general under such circumstances is one thing. Actively deriding and mocking the legitimate concerns of a minorities after a long period with one episode after another of police officers with itchy trigger fingers killing black men for no good reason is something else entirely. Yet, I would be willing to bet that that guy would not consider himself a racist, and claim that it was just a "joke."
Don't be so sensitive, man.
Yes, but I would also be willing to bet that this guy got all worked up because Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem.
Would it be a surprise to reveal here that this guy is a Trump supporter? Well, be that as it may, I have also seen similar strong, negative reaction to this whole story from people who would identify themselves as having a more liberal stance. And to me, that is a problem, because one of the main things that I feel people in the rest of the world simply do not understand, and cannot relate to, regarding Americans is their excessive self-worship, and their focus on outward displays of nationalism. I am not talking about the Chinese here, or Iraqis, Iranians, Somalis, Syrians, or even Russians. There was a professor of mine from Great Britain, who suggested that the "Pledge of Allegiance" was downright "creepy" and that most British people did not understand it, and felt uncomfortable with it.
My father, who is not even an American citizen, opened my eyes when younger by taking exception to something that far too many Americans take as fact. Namely, that they are the "greatest country in the world," that they are Number One.
He countered by asking who was number two, number three, number five, ten, fifteen, one hundred? For that matter, who is dead last? And what does that mean, anyway? Does that mean that our lives, as Americans, are automatically more significant, more important or noble, than those of other nationalities?
If the history of the last century should have taught us anything, it is that excessive focus on nationalism and symbols representing the nation can be very dangerous. Americans might have an easier time acknowledging the dangers of Germans singing 'Deutschland über alles', or of seeing Soviet/Russian military parades displaying an obvious military might. Many Americans will shake their heads in disgust today when they see similar images coming from North Korea or China. Yet, somehow, they cannot see that the rest of the world views such things here in the United States with suspicion?
That is the danger of making such things virtually sacred, so that all are almost mandated to participate, to show proper respect and reverence for what are symbols. This can become particularly dangerous when such gestures seem to replace actual thinking about real issues that the country faces, and I hardly think that the United States today is above suspicion in that regard.
Here's the thing: Kaepernick did not break any laws. He knew what he was doing, knew that it was risky. After all, he lost what had been an automatic starting position on his team last year, and it definitely is not a certainty that he is going to get it back. There were whispers that he might be traded, which is often a sign of the beginning of the end of a formerly high-profile career's end.
Yet, with all of that at stake, and with him even acknowledging the likelihood that he would lose a lot - if not all - of his sponsors, he still went ahead with his protest. Still refused to stand, and then waited for what he knew would be a massive amount of criticism.
Afterwards, of course, many of these same people (again, the criticisms that I have seen and heard have been almost exclusively by whites, and certainly the most vehement and dismissive ones have been entirely by whites) showed images of members of the military standing at attention and showing support for the flag. However, there is another side that many of these people have not been acknowledging, and that is those members of the military who actually support Kaepernick's actions. At the end of this blog entry, I added a link to an article showing that quite a few members of the military actually support Kaepernick's protest.
Many other athletes have also voiced their opinion, with opinions varying. One that seemed particularly interesting was from a guy who has himself been the center of controversy at times, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks. This is what he had to say about the whole thing:
"You can't ever stand against the flag. A lot of people have sacrificed for it, but there is also a deeper meaning to what he did. He's talking about the oppression of African-Americans in this country, and that has been going on for a long time. I think a lot of the focus has shifted away from his message. ... I think there's also things in this nation that people need to remember and take heed of and also acknowledge.
"This country is the same country that had 'whites' and 'colored' signs on the bathroom. We're still in that country, we're still in that nation. And that needs to be acknowledged and that needs to be changed. There are people with that mentality that still exists, and that needs to change. There are people that still treat people of color with subjectivity. They treat them a certain way. They categorize them. They put them in a certain category.
"There are certain statistics that are put out there to make sure that police profile certain people in certain neighborhoods, and that needs to change. So there is some depth and some truth to what he's doing.
"I think he could have picked a better platform and a better way to do it, but every day they say athletes are so robotic and do everything by the book. And then when somebody takes a stand like that, he gets his head chopped off."
For that matter, other high profile athletes have voiced their support of Kaepernick's protest, including Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I particularly liked Jabbar's response, and his definition of patriotism, which I can certainly relate to, as he reminds Americans that there is more - much more - to patriotism then outward signs of showing respect to the flag and reverence for iconic symbols representing the nation. Here is what he had to say:
"In truth, both men, in their own ways, behaved in a highly patriotic manner that should make all Americans proud.
"The discussion of the nuances of patriotism is especially important right now, with Trump and Clinton supporters each righteously claiming ownership of the “most patriotic” label. Patriotism isn’t just getting teary-eyed on the Fourth of July or choked up at war memorials. It’s supporting what the Fourth of July celebrates and what those war memorials commemorate: the U.S. Constitution’s insistence that all people should have the same rights and opportunities and that it is the obligation of the government to make that happen. When the government fails in those obligations, it is the responsibility of patriots to speak up and remind them of their duty."
Here are links relating to this story, including two from which I got the quotes used above (Sherman's quote came from the CNN article, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's quote is from the USA Today article below:
Colin Kaepernick and a Brief History of Protest in Sports Mahita Gajanan, Aug. 29, 2016:
Tony Stewart calls Colin Kaepernick an 'idiot' as more reaction pours in Jill Martin-Profile-Image By Jill Martin of CNN, August 30, 2016
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Colin Kaepernick 'behaved in a highly patriotic manner' By Andrew Joseph, August 30, 2016:
Military personnel voice their support for Colin Kaepernick on Twitter By Andrew Joseph, August 30, 2016: