KingMidget's Ramblings

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Kaep and the National Anthem


Before last night’s pre-season game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, Colin Kaapernick did not stand during the playing of the National Anthem.  He stated afterwards that he refused to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

I’ve had a mixed history when it comes to our National Anthem.  First, that our National Anthem is about a war speaks to something embedded in our psyche that doesn’t speak to me.  I would much rather have our national song be something like America The Beautiful.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

This speaks much more to the majesty of a country than does a tale of a tattered banner surviving a battle.

Second, I have had my times when I have struggled to stand for the National Anthem.  Times when I felt we were in the wrong and I felt my country was something other than what I imagined it could be.  Times during the Reagan presidency, when in my disgruntled youth, I attended baseball games and would rise but not place my hand over my heart.  Times in the early part of this century when we were destroying parts of the Middle East in misguided and illegal wars and torturing who knows how many people.  These were things my country was doing in my name and I couldn’t stand to be a part of it.

So, I get it, Mr. Kaepernick.  I really get it.  But I have a problem with your particular protest at this particular time in our nation’s history.  I will not deny that racism is alive and well in this country.  I will not deny that people of color and of less favored faiths continue to struggle for equality and fair treatment in many corners of our nation.  However …

In a time when our President is African-American, I simply cannot understand how you can think that “our country” continues to oppress black people.  Your refusal to stand for the National Anthem and your decision to call out the entire country for what you see as oppression of minorities is a generalized attack on all Americans.  It is an attack on me.  It is an attack on not just those who are involved in discrimination and oppression, but also those who fight it every day of their lives.  Because we are just as much a part of “our country” as the racists are.

Your protest, in tarring the entire country with the labels of oppression and racism is just as wrong as racial profiling by cops, different levels of force used against people of color as compared to white suspects, and the myriad forms in which racism exists.  We are not all racists and oppressors.  But you have just labeled us as such with your actions and particularly with your words.  Just as bad cops label any black male as a suspect.

Stand up for what you believe in, fight to save the oppressed and I will fight with you.  It’s time, however, to target the real oppressors, the real racists and not suggest with such blanket criticism that it is “the country,” that it is all of us.  It is not.  There are far more of us who support your objectives than who oppose them.

I’m guessing that the white couple that adopted you, took you in, raised you and provided you with the opportunities needed to become an NFL quarterback are the furthest thing from racists and oppressors.  But they are this country, too.  The flag and the anthem represents them just as much as it represents the oppressors.  Or at least it should.  If you can’t see that and stand for the National Anthem because of the good parts of our country that it represents, you should try a little harder.  There are other ways to attack the problem than to attack all of us.

[Edited to add:  Just to be clear, I am not denying that Kaepernick has the right to do this.  I firmly believe in the right of protesters to burn the flag, of a person’s right not to stand for the National Anthem, to speak publicly or privately their feelings about our country and the issues we face.  I just think that in this particular case, it was a misguided and somewhat ignorant act.]

[Edited to add yet more:  Over at Old Road Apples Junk Chuck just wrote about this also. He mentions a third reason I’ve struggled with the National Anthem tradition.  My general discomfort with mass oaths and mass allegiance statements.  It’s probably why, even if I ever change my mind about God, I won’t ever be a fan of organized religion.  Over the years, I have felt uncomfortable with the somewhat herd mentality of everybody rising, removing their hats, and covering their heart for the National Anthem.  There is something vaguely authoritarian and anti-democratic about the whole practice.  But lately, I have started having a different experience connected to the National Anthem.  In the good moments it is because I can look around me and see such a beautiful mix of people who are rising and showing their respect for something that isn’t material, isn’t technology, isn’t anything other than a statement that we, the masses gathered there (typically made up of every gender, every race, every everything) can stop everything else for about 2 minutes and 20 seconds and respect the same thing.]

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10 responses to “Kaep and the National Anthem

  1. Trent Lewin August 27, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Yeah but he got peoples’ attention, didn’t he? He wasn’t spitting in your face Mark, by doing what he did. He wasn’t targeting good honest people like yourself, and I’m not sure why you feel you are being labelled as such. His particular comments around the incident seem to be targeting some people in particular.

    Black President does not mean black people are not oppressed.

    Protest is a matter of choice, as you indicate. He did his thing. At least he did something.

    • kingmidget August 27, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      I can’t necessarily disagree with anything you’re saying, but I think the problem is with his sweeping comment about the problem. It is “the country” that is oppressing people of color. No, actually it isn’t. There are elements within the country that are responsible for horrible things that are happening, but the country as a whole is not responsible. As I think I said, there are far more people in this country who are not racists and not oppressors who support equality and fair treatment for all. To object to “the country” oppressing people of color is akin to calling Islam a terrorist religion.

      • Trent Lewin August 27, 2016 at 4:09 pm

        He had many other comments that clarified that thought. I don’t think he was saying the whole country is the problem. He seems to be targeting law enforcement.

      • kingmidget August 27, 2016 at 4:12 pm

        I’ll have to go find the interview. One of the things that bothered me as I wrote this was that I was relying on media reports, which frequently fail to accurately portray what somebody is saying. I’ll go see if I can find the interview.

      • Trent Lewin August 27, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        Let me know what you find, kind of curious.

      • kingmidget August 27, 2016 at 4:23 pm

        Couldn’t find the interview. Just a larger quote. Yes, it’s clear he is talking about law enforcement and there are legitimate issues with law enforcement in this country. But not everywhere. This is my problem with the whole thing. Yes, there are bad cops and bad police agencies, but there many that are not. We should do something about the bad ones without defaming the good ones and without defaming the entire country.

      • Trent Lewin August 27, 2016 at 11:07 pm

        I guess he did what he thought he could. I’m sure in his mind he did do something of value that might change things, but as with most protest, it won’t resonate with everyone but certainly will with some. As a football player, I kind of have to hand it to him. I sure as hell haven’t got off my ass to do anything at all.

  2. hirundine608 August 27, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    In general, I find national anthems nasty jingoistic things. I love the Earth. Borders are artificial devises. The delineate our planet. The politics of any particular place, does not deserve to define that place.

    Once the human race was free to wander, where they wished. And they did. national anthems are warlike cries. Designed to separate us from the fact that, we are one people on one planet. Cheers Jamie.

  3. JunkChuck August 30, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Well said, my friend, even the parts where our opinions diverge! It is pleasant to have this kind of discourse from thoughtful folks–one of the main reasons I miss this corner of my world when I’m distracted elsewhere. Thanks for the shout-out. I’m envious of the dialogue you’ve got going here.

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