Thursday, September 1, 2016

Allegiance: To a Song, Flag or Our American Ideals?

Colin Kaepernick said: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color," Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.

There are bodies in the street and people getting away with murder." The biracial athlete, adopted and raised by white parents, has become an outspoken supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement." 

As an honorably discharged Army veteran (if I need to establish my credibility to speak on this) my opinion is that Colin is simply protesting the repeated daily dangers, including murders, facing civilians from police officers. I don't know how I could reject that sentiment, or undermine the American righteousness of Colin's protest.

Almost 70% of the NFL players are black. Imagine the statement they would make this season if they remained seated during the National Anthem. Worldwide, there are an estimated 400 million American football fans - imagine the impact!

It's a difficult choice, as Myke Tavarres, the Philly Eagles rookie free agent, realized.

"Really, what's at stake is my pride and what kind of man would I be and what kind of African-American would I be if I didn't stand my ground on this issue we have today."
It wasn't easier for Josh Earnest, speaking for President Obama. 
"What I can say is that I certainly don't share the views that Mr. Kaepernick expressed after the game in explaining his reasoning for his actions," Earnest, the White House's top spokesman, said."
It sounds like more divisiveness from a white man parsing words instead of listening for and hearing the authentic message. Actually, his position statement sounds at odds with his boss's, when President Obama spoke about two police-involved shootings in July.
"When incidents like these occur, there's a big chunk of our fellow citizens that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not treated the same - and that hurts," Obama said, ... "And that should trouble all of us. This is not a black issue. It's not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about."

The national anthem was penned during an 1814 battle, but its most poignant and, in this case, applicable stanza to this controversy was penned by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

"When our land is illumined with Liberty's smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
the flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave."
"Yes, Kaepernick is an American success story, but that shouldn't cause him to shrug off what he recognizes as injustice. Rather, it gives him a chance to speak about an issue that many don't have the platform to address. There are large segments of the population who feel the police are both empowered and immune to prosecution for their misdeeds. There are people who live in fear, every day, that they will be shot and killed for a broken taillight simply because they are black. For those people, America is not the "land of the free."

It is a place where a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland can be fatally shot outside a rec center because someone deemed him menacing. It's a place where a citizen vigilante can pursue a teenager for the crime of wearing a hoodie. It's a place where one false move - or no false move - carries a deadly risk. For many of us, the American flag is reassurance that we will be protected. In the minds of others, that flag offers no such guarantees. Those are truths that some hold to be self-evident, even if they are hard for the majority to see. If the rich and famous do not shine a light to that inconsistency, who will?"

I don't support Colin grudgingly, but rather with pride, for he speaks to the highest ideals our nation espouses, and has yet to fulfill, to all its citizens, regardless. Blacks and people of color may be "unchained" but each day they face lives filled with the abject possibility of being harassed, ostracized, injured and murdered by police, secure in the conspiracy of silence among the thin blue line.

So when a man protests the inequality of oppression of those who are forced to exist without the birthright promise of America, it is my duty and my honor to support him.

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