Unless you’ve been comatose lately, you are well aware of the controversy in the NFL surrounding the appropriate posture during the National Anthem. This all, of course, started with Colin Kaepernick deciding he was going to protest social injustice by sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem.
Not surprisingly, this has left a bad taste in many peoples’ mouths. It is not a stretch to conclude that someone who takes this action is being blatantly and purposefully disrespectful to toe flag, to the country, and to all those who have fought for our country, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the process.
Kaepernick sees it differently: “The media painted this as I’m anti-American, anti-men-and-women of the military and that’s not the case at all. I realize that men and women of the military go out and sacrifice their lives and put themselves in harm’s way for my freedom of speech and my freedoms in this country and my freedom to take a seat or a knee so I have the utmost respect for them.” [source]
He’s not anti-American, I guess, but he’s not proud of the country, either: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
OK, I won’t regurgitate the obvious points about the color of our current President, how blessed Colin is in both status and income, etc. I also won’t rehash the argument about how the National Anthem has nothing at all to do with the thing he’s supposedly protesting.
What I’d like to do is compare this to the controversies around flying the Confederate Flag.
While the Confederate Flag controversy has basically died down, mostly because those who oppose the flag have largely won the day by eradicating it from most public spaces with great fanfare, I would like to revisit their arguments in the context of the protests during the National Anthem.
Many people flew the Confederate Flag not to celebrate slavery, nor as a statement of racial superiority. Quite frankly, some people I think just thought it looked cool and didn’t give any thought whatever to the “meaning” of the flag.
In full disclosure, I never really got the whole thing one way or the other. I’m a northern boy who is perfectly satisfied with the U.S. Flag. If I’m being perfectly honest, most of the people I’ve personally witnessed flying the flag on the back of a jacked-up pick-up truck were not really the circle of friends I would naturally gravitate towards. I am fairly agnostic about the whole thing. I could actually see and understand both views. I can see how some like what it symbolizes from a traditional and culture aspect apart from the slavery issue, but I can also see how it can be very difficult to view it as a symbol completely divested of the slavery issue.
Be that as it may, let’s review the arguments given for why the Confederate Flag is not racist:
1 – It represents Southern Culture – similar in meaning to “Don’t Tread on Me” – it’s a symbol that screams “don’t mess with us!”
2 – The flag has nothing at all to do with race – it’s a historical symbol devoid of any specific meaning
3 – It’s just cool looking
4 – Many people – relatives and ancestors – died in the Civil War. This is a way to remember and honor them. The Civil War was fought over many issues other than slavery, after all, and not all those fighting were fighting for that reason.
5 – We are just too politically correct and sensitive and we are reading way too much into things.
I am not saying those are good or bad arguments. What I am saying is that many, many people actually do revere the Confederate Flag because of those arguments, and that many many people who fly the flag are not intending to be racist, or hold feelings of racism. Many aren’t even trying to make a statement, they just want to fly the flag and be left alone.
I am sure there are others who do fly the flag to make a statement, and also fly it at least in part – whether they openly admit it or not – that there’s a racist component to it.
But let’s explore the person who claims to fly the flag with zero racist motivations. How is that viewed by those who consider the flag a symbol of racism?
This article is a bit dated, but it shows how many states have taken actions or have proposed removing the Confederate Flag. In none of the states where the flag has come down has there been an actual admission that the Flag is racist, or represents racism. It is an act, however, of unity. Why? Because perception becomes reality.
You see, whether intended or not, there is at the very least an indirect tie to the issue of slavery that is represented in the minds of folks in the Confederate Flag. Right or wrong, there are people legitimately bothered by its presence. You need not prescribe to the idea yourself, nor do you need to even accept the premise of it, but those who oppose it will say that you are – de facto – supporting or celebrating racism and slavery if you support the flying of the Confederate Flag.
I am not here to argue that point as much as to question where the same people who make that argument fall on the “is purposefully kneeling during the National Anthem anti-patriotic and anti-military?” I am only guessing here, but I would guess that those people would say “no.” And if so, they are being hypocritical.
The U.S. Flag represents many things. Yes, our country has its warts, but that is not what the Flag represents. The Flag does not represent the police or individual lawmakers or anyone else you have a beef with. It represents the ideals that our country was founded upon, as delineated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. It represents our country in battle, as a defender of Freedom, and directly corresponds to those who have served.
It matters not one iota if Kaepernick or anyone else says that his actions don’t mean what everyone in the country thinks they mean. It matters not that he wants to blame the media for mischaracterizing his intentions. You cannot make the argument on the one hand and dismiss it on the other.
If you are going to argue that intentions don’t mean diddly in the one case, then stop arguing that intentions are what matter in the other case. You can’t have it both ways.
Simply put, the actions by these players ARE anti-America, anti-Military, and anti-Patriotic. Whether they believe it or not is irrelevant. At least that’s what we’ve learned from them during the Confederate Flag issue.