It's been pretty hard to avoid all the hubbub this week surrounding the growing movement within NFL football players (and in some cases coaches and/or owners) to "take a knee" during the national anthem. This was started last year when Colin Kaepernick first sat, then knelt on one knee during the anthem. His reason for doing so has been clearly explained
. He has been very honest about his actions and feelings
Along the way, some people criticized him, and the handful of other players who joined him. This year, the occupant of the White House decided he wasn't getting enough attention, and blasted them (in a tweet, natch), calling each of them a "son of bitch", and demanding they be fired.
As expected, that revved things up a bit. The following Sunday, the "protest" ramped up exponentially. Entire teams stood with locked arms in solidarity. The Pittsburg Steelers stayed in the locker room. Some of the Cleveland Browns had a prayer circle - which had to really
confuse the God & Guns crowd.
Cue the outrage from the armchair warriors.
Most of the push back comes in the form of "disrespect for the military's sacrifice" to "disrespect for the flag an/or the anthem", to "this is not the time or place", and even the REALLY lame "spoiled millionaires should do more off the field". Let's take a look at these arguments..
The first one is absurd. If you read about how he went from sitting during the anthem to kneeling, it was on the advice of a member of the military!
Numerous vets have come forth in support, some to say "I fought for the 1st Amendment rights to do this" to actually kneeling themselves, saying they fought for an America where everyone was treated equally, and that innocents being killed by cops does not belong in the America they signed up to defend.
The self-righteous indignation over the flag and the anthem rings hollow. As kids, we were forced in school to stand every morning, hand over heart, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It was just a rote going-through-the-motions that sounded like a drone. No one felt inspired and patriotic doing it - not day after day, year after year. It was just part of the morning routing, like taking attendance.
When people are at home or at a bar watching a game, how many of them actually stand every time the anthem is played? I imagine there are the odd one here or there that does, but most people just sit there waiting for the game to start.
The worse part is the fetishization of the flag and the anthem. Someone referred to it as a "golden calf", and that metaphor is apt. If the flag represents the USA, then it represents everything
about the USA - not just the good stuff. It represents slavery codified in the Constitution (and 3rd stanza of the national anthem, which is never sung). It represents Jim Crow. It represents cops disproportionally killing innocent black people.
If you don't remember these types of over-the-top salutes to the military from your younger days, it's because they didn't exist. In our post-9/11 world, where the flag, the anthem, and the military are all inextricably intertwined in some sort of holy trinity (as if the only thing that really matters in this country is our ability and willingness to blow shit up), the military is using that emotional response as a marketing and recruiting tool. Yes, the presence of military personnel, the giant flag on the field, the flyovers are all funded by the military for recruiting warm bodies.
for a gross disrespect towards the flag and the anthem?
The "not the time or place" comments are the typical holier-than-thou nonsense that comes from people who don't want to face or talk about the real problems. We hear this after every mass shooting. We heard this after the Sandy Hook massacre, when that was really the BEST time to have frank discussions about gun laws and gun violence. But no - white people comfortable with the knowledge that they won't ever be shot for Driving While Black don't want their happy comfortable little lives sullied with truth.
Returning to the original link, Kaepernick donated the first $1M he earned to help young kids. Most players do some sort of community service, donating their time or money (or both) to keep kids active and out of trouble. Still - there are two things wrong with the "they should do more off the field instead" argument:
1) It's not either/or - they can do both
2) There is no better place to force a discussion about inequality than while being watched by millions of people. It is just not possible to raise that kind of awareness (or change the actions of the police) while on some high school football field.
And there's the rub - those who are NOT comfortable with having a discussion about racial inequalities at the hands of power are desperately trying to frame the debate as being about patriotism. They complain that the actions of the players are bringing politics into the game, but the murder of a racial minority by police (with no punishment as a result) is not a political issue. It's the deniers who are trying to make this a political issue... and they are getting help from the White House.