Let’s Get This Straight about Colin Kapernick by Thomas Martin Saturday

arrives at the ESPN's BODY at ESPY's Pre-Party at Lure on July 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

arrives at the ESPN’s BODY at ESPY’s Pre-Party at Lure on July 15, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

The Santa Clara Police Union has threatened not to police future San Francisco 49’ers football games at the stadium that is in the San Francisco suburb until “they do something about their employee” presumably make him stand during the national anthem or fire him. They also are livid over Kapernick’s wearing a pair of police depicted as pigs socks at a 49’ers practice earlier this summer. It has put the focus also on just what real patriotism is.

The 49’ers back-up quarterback has received wide public condemnation for his simply remaining seated during the national anthem. We have now learned that he has made the decision to raise consciousness of the issue of race in America and how the nation continues to deny African-Americans, and all people of color the full enjoyment of their Constitutional rights.

This requires of us some time to think about why we should stand for the flag or national song at all? What does each of us see in the flag? Why do we make a public show of our loyalty and support for the nation? Why do our children have to say the pledge each day in school?

It must be said that it is in dictatorships and totalitarian nations where you must toe the line of perfect support for your leaders and the nation simply to continue to exist as part of the polity of such nations, and so avoid political persecution and even death. Is the United States a totalitarian dictatorship?

Those who have condemned Kapernick are employing their right to free speech, guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It would seem to be simply fair play to afford Kapernick the same right enshrined under our Supreme Law to in an exercise of personal conscience, make a non-violent means of protest.

Wearing pig police socks at a team practice is also protected speech. One would think that the police union would be able to withstand the withering attack of Kapernick sitting on a bench for a minute or two at the start of games. And now that the season is underway he’ll be wearing 49’ers team socks too.

It leads any thinking person to ask themselves why do I stand for the national anthem, salute the flag, put my right hand over my heart, and say the pledge mindlessly a thousand times over in school. Should I actually think and make a conscious choice to support the nation publicly by standing for the national anthem? My answer is yes. We all should think and be more conscious of our motives for doing so.

What do we see in the American flag? Many of you would be shocked to learn that I see all of the political activists who have fought for civil rights and social justice over the entire history of our nation. People like Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Eugene V. Debs, Jackie Robinson, Cesar Chavez, and millions of everyday Americans who stood with them. I see also a more traditional picture of the men of the United States armed forces hitting Omaha and Utah beaches on June 6th 1944 in Normandy, France to destroy a great tyrannical dictatorship that was killing millions and threatening the continued existence of what we DO have in these United States.

I also see my own parents who served in World War II, and who provided so many examples of good citizenship for me to see and learn from over the years. That is why I can stand for the national anthem.

If we have certain rights under the Constitution and are hounded for simply employing them what kind of rights are they? Of what value do they have if we know we are going to be publicly harassed for even using them? What freedoms do we have if we will lose our jobs if we do or say or express anything?

It has been truly wonderful to see and hear all the veterans of our multitude of wars coming forth and saying “that’s what I fought for.” Some have agreed with the protest, and others have not, but I think people who have put their lives on the line not only for their buddies in a battle, but for the nation at large when they have had time to reflect on their service know a thing or two about patriotism.

Patriotism is not simply displaying a flag and waving it as high or as vigorously as you can, it is working to make the nation live up to its high ideals about freedom, liberty, and justice that gives me goosebumps just thinking about them. “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

A nurse who cares for patients in a hospital is part of that national fabric of the flag. Teachers who instill a knowledge and respect for what has been done in a positive way by action and not just words to make the nation live are part of the fabric of the flag. Yes, those same Santa Clara police officers are part of it too. Our fine soldiers, sailors, and airmen prove their worth, and are channeling real patriotism by their actions in life– not by some mindless demonstration of supposed automatic loyalty to the nation. They take a solemn oath, and when they do it means something.

Fighting for justice and insisting our nation live up to its ideals is central to Colin Kapernick’s protest. What good are our protestations of loyalty and patriotism if we do not respect the use of the rights and protections afforded citizens under our Supreme Law? We are mocked every time we deny those sacred rights to others, not uplifted by our hateful spite directed at another American.

We have the right to condemn and to hate Kapernick if we want. There are plenty of you who do. It is your right. It is my sacred right to exercise my freedom of speech here in this blog and in this editorial. Let us think on why we wave the flag and stand for the national anthem, and then comply with the etiquette of the flag and citizenship from real conviction and not just fear of reprisal or social condemnation.

Perhaps someday then, we will need to be a Colin Kapernick ourselves.

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