Colin Kaepernick has decided to take a stand by sitting. In what he says is a protest against the treatment of minorities in the United States, the San Francisco quarterback has refused to stand during the National Anthem during the 49ers preseason games, and has vowed to continue to sit during the anthem until , as he puts it, “there’s significant change, and I feel like the flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.” This has people upset, feeling that he has slighted the military among other things (even though he clarified that this was not his intent), and this in turn has led to folks burning his jersey in protest of his protest.
Personally, I feel that standing to honor the National Anthem is one of the great privileges of being an American. It honors all those who have gone before to forge this great country – from the Battle of Lexington and Concord, to the leaders of the Civil Rights movement – we are all bound together and the strength of that bond will help us though the dark times this country faces.
Now here’s the deal: Kaepernick has every right to protest what he feels are injustices in this country. To see African Americans killed by the police documented on video with what seems to be little or no provocation is troubling enough, but when you combine that with the fact that very often the officers in question aren’t charged with anything, it’s very easy to be outraged. And just like Kaepernick has the right to protest, so too do the people who are upset with his actions. That is in fact what makes the United States the greatest country on the planet. That’s right, I said it, and I’ll say it again: this is the greatest country in the world, and it’s not even close. We have the liberty to disagree with one another, the government, and the ills that modern society breeds, and we can do this without fear that we will be taken out back and shot, or have our heads put on spikes. Is this a perfect place? Absolutely not, but then again, no place is. In fact, you might be interested to know that the actual Greek definition of Utopia is “no place”. Even Sir Thomas More, who wrote that seminal piece in 1516 understood that a perfect society can’t ever exist. But the United States comes as close to that ideal as any country ever has, and it’s through these protests, and discussions that we find a way to improve ourselves and make it an even better place.
I understand that right now, we are an incredibly divided country and have just a fool competing with a liar for our highest office. But that doesn’t mean that the country is broken – it can’t ever be, as long as the spirit of the American people stays strong. And it’s through this discourse that we maintain our strength and stay true to our moral compass. We are in danger of becoming a people who are too easily offended, and who will brook no opinion that does not fall into line with their own. This is not who we have been, and it cannot be what we evolve into – we are and will be better than that, and can remain a beacon of light to the oppressed throughout the world. We may not get things right all the time, but we work harder than anyone else to make things right in the end, and that truly is what defines the American spirit.
So while I disagree with Kaepernick’s decision, I applaud him for having the courage to stand up (or sit down as the case may be) for what he believes in. I would however challenge him to take this simple protest and transform it into something more. If he feels so strongly about this, then he should step out into the community and be a leading voice for change — hell, if he’s really serious about this, then he should leave the playing field and run for office – that way he could be at the forefront of effecting change. Maybe that’s not what he’s intending, but if you say you want change, then you have to have the courage to back it up with more than just “I’ll sit until things get better.” You’ve taken a stand, now you actually need to stand up for it.