On Their Knees

I’m not a fan of football. I never have been, and probably never will be beyond my kids potentially playing for school someday. Even so, it’s been impossible to ignore the conflict that’s been part of the NFL for the past two seasons. I’m going to share a status that a friend of mine who served in Afghanistan wrote on Facebook, because his sentiments pretty much match my own, with the exception that I never served in the armed forces.

“I served in the Army in Afghanistan and I gotta say. I don’t feel disrespected when people use their first amendment right to kneel during the national anthem at a football game. I personally don’t think that’s gonna change anything. No asshole abusive cop is gonna be watching the game in his Cheetos covered boxers and see players kneeling and go ” damn I’m an asshole maybe I should stop. But it’s what they choose to do and they aren’t destroying our country like the increasing debt we are acquiring. Or the wars/ conflicts we keep plunging ourselves into.”

I do understand why people are upset. I understand how it’s perceived as disrespectful to kneel during the national anthem and why so many people feel as though it’s a slap in the face of our service members. I also understand why Mr. Kaepernick began his protest, and honestly I’m not upset by it. I’m not upset by his motivations, nor am I upset that he chose to kneel during the anthem. Why should you salute an entity that grants you the freedom of choice not to upon a moral disagreement? Like… I mean it’s a big part of the reason the country is what it is. Granting it’s people the ability to say: “hey, y’know what? I don’t respect what this flag has come to represent in terms of treatment for people of color. I’m not going to pretend that I do by standing in salute to the flag.”

That’s what makes the US, what it is. Taking that away from anyone (yes, unfortunately that even includes the ass backwards racists, white supremacists, and facists) destroys the core of why the US is different than many other countries in the world. If we begin to demand undying, and unwavering loyalty to the State, we really aren’t too far off from Russia or North Korea. At the very basic level of concept, seriously. It’s no different.

I know it’s infinitely more complicated than that. There are different nuances that can be debated and argued for eternity. I’m only saying that I think this division and drama over something so trivial, and speaking on behalf of “ALL veterans” or “ALL people of color” is presumptuous to say the least. Those who chose to kneel have the right to do so, and those who are offended have the right to be so.

Continuing to bicker over it week after week is ridiculous. If you don’t like why these athletes are choosing to kneel, how about you listen to what they have to say? They want to see a change for the better in their communities. It’s not like they’re kneeling because they’re lazy or want an extra million tacked on to their already, outlandish salaries. Mr. Kaepernick has spent his time off the field donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, and participating in positive community events around the country. He’s a rare breed of celebrity who actually wants to use his status to make a difference. He isn’t trying to sell himself by being as outspoken or outlandish as possible (Kardashians anyone?) he is standing up for his beliefs. Beliefs that will better the world as a whole. 

On a personal level, watching this debate unfold over the course of a week or so on my social media has really opened my eyes. I was very skeptical, from my privileged point of view, that racisim did in fact still exist in the United States. Now? I get it. I can stand here and say that racism and oppression of minorities does, in fact, still run rampant in the thoughts and minds of America. I can say that I was blind in my privilege. I can’t speak for the majority of the American population, but if nothing else Mr. Kaepernick’s actions have made a positive difference in my own life. So thank you, Mr. Kaepernick. #takeaknee