I had been thinking of writing about this particular topic for a while. I’ve actually been writing down ideas and concepts for it for a few weeks. And then luckily for me, an event happened in the news and it made my idea even more timely and relevant.
A few days ago, a player for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick chose to not stand up for the National Anthem out of protest. The outrage displayed towards him on social media sites and on talk radio is exactly as expected. People are saying he’s a disgrace. They’re saying he’s unpatriotic. They’re saying he’s un-American. They’re also saying he doesn’t respect his freedoms and liberties given to him by being an American. I think the people saying that are missing the point. The point is the freedoms given to him by being an American allow him to protest the National Anthem by not standing up for it. And let’s be honest about it, in a country that allows such freedoms, standing for an anthem is not a mandatory thing to do.
Before you go off and crucify me for writing the above paragraph, please keep reading this entry. If you feel the need to call me names afterwards, go ahead, but try to let some of my points make an impact first.
I really believe that we, as a society, put too much emphasis on symbolism and certain ideologies. Since this is a Presidential election year, we’re getting a lot of that. The Republicans and Democrats held their respective conventions last month to name their nominee for the Presidency. The Republicans chanted “USA” more than the Democrats and waved more American flags than the Democrats, or so it’s been reported. Does that make the Republicans like America more than the Democrats? Does that mean that Republicans are more patriotic?
Simply put, NO. It doesn’t. It’s just the narrative created about it.
As a (mostly) independent voter, I don’t look at who waves flags or who sings “God Bless America” louder than the other person. I don’t really care who has a bigger flag. And that’s really what it’s come down to, who has the bigger flag. I look at who has the ideas, concepts, plans, and the platform to put into place a system that will benefit me and the American people the best. Who speaks about loving the country more than the opposition is not relevant.
To me, the flag is just a symbol. The Pledge of Allegiance, which I have recited thousands of times, is just a symbol. Standing for the National Anthem is just a symbolic gesture. If I chose not to say the Pledge or to not stand, it doesn’t mean I care about America less than someone that sings the Anthem at the top of their lungs.
I study history and I study politics. I see how divided of a nation we are. Personally, I think we’re as divided on many issues as we’ve ever been, notwithstanding, that whole Civil War thing in the 1860s.
Colin Kaepernick is being chastised for his stance…
He’s been mocked. He’s being insulted. The narrative about his story is now how unpatriotic he is. Why aren’t enough people looking at the cause he was trying to bring attention to. Kaepernick said he didn’t stand because “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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 paid leave and getting away with murder.”
The narrative has become about him. It hasn’t become even remotely close to what he was speaking about.
And of course, some people are also saying that somehow his actions have also turned into a show of disrespect to people in the United States Military and police. Again, I don’t see it that way. It’s possible to agree with his opinion and support military and police. They don’t have to be different issues.
I’m getting a little too drawn into this particular issue here. To me, the issue is still symbolism and false narratives. I believe words such as “patriotic,” “freedom,” and “liberty” have almost been taken hostage by politicians and pundits to be used against people that have differing views. My views are not the same as everyone’s. I’m glad they’re not. I like dissent. This country was founded on dissent. This blog entry’s title was taken from a quote by one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams, and nobody was better at dissent than he was. Adams knew about division and symbolic gestures. But, he also knew that actions and doing things that were unpopular could promote, or create, a greater good.
Just as simply as I got pulled into the narrative here about Colin Kaepernick, we as a country often get pulled into narratives that distract from the real story. The real story should be what he is protesting. The issues he’s attempting to draw attention to are more important than people getting upset with him. He shouldn’t be THE story. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know what team he was on or what position he played until the headlines about him, and I also don’t care about what his profession is. I don’t care how much money he makes. I certainly didn’t know about his bi-racial upbringing. That shouldn’t be held against him or used to somehow discredit what he’s saying. Those facts are not relevant or important. What is truly important is what he was attempting to draw attention to. Do you see how easily we get distracted here?
And that leads me to my next point. Again, as we tend to get distracted and angered by the narratives created by media and social networks, we really do fail to think about the real issues. Many times these narratives are purposely created to get us angered. They’re there to make us upset with the other side. They’re there to distract us and to make us dislike people and things with opposing views. We need to stop this from happening. When Election Day comes in a few months, we need to vote with our heads, not our hearts. We need to be educated on the real issues, not the made up ones. Our decision to choose one candidate over another needs to be done with a lot of thought and research into the issues that are truly important.
I’m not going to use this entry to try to persuade anyone to vote any particular way. Unfortunately, I believe many people’s minds have been made up, especially in regards to this year’s Presidential election. I’m hoping this entry persuades people to look at issues differently. I’m hoping people will see that what Colin Kaepernick did is NOT unpatriotic, it’s actually THE MOST patriotic act possibly under the United States Constitution. I’m hoping that people realize that there’s many more important things than symbolism. There’s more important things than just flags and songs. Very simply, the most important thing here are facts, not symbols.
And since the title of this entry is taken from John Adams and I’m saying that facts matter, I’ll end it with a quote from President Adams. I believe it’s an important one that we need to really listen to. He was a wise man that relied on facts for judgment, not popular opinion. We need to follow that example.
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”