In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines and created controversy across America when he refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem at the start of a pre-season game. Kaepernick said, “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.”
In 2016, this was a major story that made Kaepernick the villain to a lot of people.
In 2017, Colin Kaepernick’s resistance seems, well….quaint.
This past weekend in Virginia, a consortium of nationalists, white supremacists, and other miscellaneous assholes got together to protest the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, along with other Confederate statutes, monuments, and memorials from public spaces. Not surprisingly, the demonstration quickly spiraled into violence as protesters opposed to the removal of the memorials clashed with protesters in support of the removal. The following day, the entertainment value of the alt-right neo-Nazis dressed in their best Banana Republic khakis and collared shirts sporting jaunty tiki torches turned to horrific tragedy as a man intentionally crashed his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing thirty-two-year-old Heather D. Heyer and injuring nineteen others.
What began as an easily mockable protest with dummies turned into a bloodbath.
So, a little about me. I consider myself a political moderate and centrist with left-leaning views, particularly with regard to social issues. Many of my right wing friends accuse me of being a leftist liberal, while many of my left wing friends (especially the hippies) accuse me of being a boxy conservative. I am a military veteran and a police officer.
I have zero tolerance for political violence. My belief is that we are a nation of laws and that nearly every concern that faces American today, regardless of your position on the political spectrum, can be solved with a conversation, a protest, a petition, or a lawsuit. In short, we have the means in place to make damn near anything happen legally. When you step outside the bounds and visit violence on another person, you have broken the social contract. I do not support violence against cops or peaceful protests turning into riots and melees. We have a First Amendment that affords each of us the right to free speech and free assembly and the worship (or lack of worship) of the god or creed of our choice.
I also think that makes us pretty amazing as a society and a country.
Not everyone agrees. As human nature would have it, we frequently disagree and sometimes those disagreements get REALLY heated. And that’s okay. As long as we hold on to our civility and keep our hands in our pockets. There are very few excuses for putting your hands on someone without their consent. They exist, but they are few and far between.
This brings me back to Colin Kaepernick . Kaepernick did something I like a lot—he expressed himself. He took a stand. Full disclosure: I don’t agree with everything he said about America or the criminal justice system. I did agree with some things. You may disagree. It doesn’t matter.
The point is that Colin Kaepernick used his First Amendment rights as a citizen of the United States to express an opinion and to voice a concern. We all do that. Most of you have a couple hundred friends to express that opinion to. As a writer for such great outlets as the Havok Journal and Ranger Up, I might have a few more. Kaepernick had millions. Far more than most of us can imagine, and he used that audience to express a concern and to make a point. Like a Facebook status update on steroids.
Here’s another thing about Kaepernick—he gives literally millions of dollars, plus his time, to charities he believes in. Charities for children and the underprivileged and others who don’t have the same opportunities that he has had. Kaepernick has expressed great respect for the American military, which is dear to my own heart as someone who has spent nearly thirty years in the service of his country.
I don’t put a lot of stock into empty patriotism. While it is great that you stand for the pledge or wear an American flag pin on your lapel or buy patriotic t-shirts from your favorite veteran-owned business, what are you really doing? Do you vote? Do you volunteer at your local VFW or homeless shelter? Are you involved in helping seniors in your community or teaching something to children or helping your neighborhood in some concrete manner?
At the end of the day, I have more respect for someone who doesn’t fly the American flag or say the pledge who helps out in his or her community than someone who flies the flag loud and proud, but ends their patriotism right there.
More importantly, here’s what Colin Kaepernick did not do. He did not throw a punch. He did not beat up his wife or girlfriend. He did not fight dogs for sport. He did not even use his six foot four frame to intimidate anyone.
He did not kill anyone.
He exercised his Constitutional right to free speech and took a knee. And he gave his money and his time.
Maybe in 2017 we need more Colin Kaepernicks and a lot less Nazis and Communists.