My grandfather (a WWII veteran, whom I was inspired by to join the Navy) and I once had a conversation about flag burning…I was in middle school, I think, and I remember exactly what he said to me (because I wrote it down afterwards, and I’ve reread it over the years from time to time)–“I hate the idea of someone burning the flag. I think its disgusting and disrespectful and that is why I would never do it. But I support their right to do it–otherwise, I’d be no better than the Nazis or the Soviets. And I’d like to think I’d never considered the person doing it to be disgusting or disrespectful. I’d like to think I would think it was a tragedy that someone felt that way and I’d like to think I was man enough to ask them why and really listen to their answer, even if it made me uncomfortable. I’d like to think that I would want to figure out how to fix things so that they no longer wanted to burn the flag.” Given that bending one’s knee is hardly burning the flag, I think that even were he disappointed in the form of protest, he’d be more concerned with fixing the ‘why.’
I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
–James Baldwin (among the greatest writers of the 20th century)
The NFL anthem protest is not disrespectful–and I say this as a veteran–it is within the strongest traditions of this nation; indeed, the right to protest the failures of this nation to live up to its promises IS what makes this country great. This nation was founded on the very notion of protesting the status quo to overthrow tradition for tradition’s sake when that tradition is being used to deny the natural rights of mankind. And of those rights, the very First Amendment (its actually six rights in one amendment) gives us the right to assemble peaceably, to redress grievances, and to speak freely. Don’t get me wrong, I joined the military primarily for health care and education benefits, but the only reason I take pride in that services is because I do believe in the duty to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic (and sadly, most of those enemies are domestic, wrapped in a flag, waving a gun, and toting a Bible).
Kneeling before the symbol that represents the failed actualization of this country’s ideals to certain segments of its population is far more respectful than blindly obsequious posturing before it as some metric of patriotism.
I’m more astounded at what this says about the American character than anything. We’ve effectively said “Hey, we’ll watch your murderers, your rapists, your child and spouse beaters, your animal abusers…we’ll give you money for permanently disabling people through traumatic brain injury. And its not just football–we’ll pay sports figures so freaking much their players can fucking build schools and shit, because our society can’t be bothered to just pay for schools–for our future’s fucking basic education,” (It is possible to think Lebron James’ actions are amazing AND think that the fact that *this is what funding good schools has come to* is a terrible stain on our national character–they are not mutually exclusive ideas).
But, you know, we white people just can’t seem to handle the idea that there might still be some aspects of our government and society where we aren’t living up to the values of this nation. Kneeling silently during the anthem–we can’t handle that. It’s somehow just the last straw, a bridge too far for far too many. I mean really, how pathetic is that? The NFL never even really required teams on the field until the DoD bribed them into it (maybe), and all of the sudden we are going to act like this is some travesty of unpatriotic behaviour? The only unpatriotic thing I see is the burying of thousands of heads in the sand over the very real problems this country still has with regard to equal protection under the law for all Americans.
And as a veteran (yeah, I’m gonna play the veteran card), you know what else really pisses me off about the conservative snowflake crowd? Don’t fucking tell me how patriotic you are and how much you love this country when you are exploiting my fucking service and deciding for me what disrespects my service. Especially if you haven’t served. I mean, if they really want to respect my service, they should stop electing people that get us into shitty wars, stop voting for assholes that cut VA funding, and stop using shoving their interpretation of their Bible up my vagina.
This “its disrespectful of the service of our military, blah, blah, blah” stuff pisses me off immensely. How dare someone else tell me what disrespects my service?!? As a veteran, I put more stock in the Constitution I took an Oath to protect and defend than I do a piece of fabric that half these yahoos deface and misuse regularly as a fucking rag for their sweaty head or a piece of fabric to hold their boobs at the pool. Let’s face it, they only care about “disrespect” when its something that makes them uncomfortable–like other people wanting to actually have the same level of civil rights in practice that they take for granted.
And another thing, if taking a knee is SO disrespectful to the flag that its a reason to boycott football and deface Nike products, where the fuck were these bigots when it came time to decry Tebow’s disrespect of Jesus every time took a knee to pray? And really, that shit actually took place during gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, I can think of half a dozen reasons to boycott football and Nike…but peaceful protest is not one of them, whether I agreed with the reason for protesting or not (though I do) or the method of protesting or not (while I would not choose the same for myself, I completely respect not only their right to do so but I also respect the manner in which they have chosen to exercise that right). After all, it was a veteran (and NFL player) that suggested kneeling in the first place–
But I thought kneeling was more respectful, and I will say that being alongside his teammates was the biggest thing for me.
And, you know, people – in my opinions and in my experience, kneeling’s never been in our history really seen as a disrespectful act. I mean, people kneel when they get knighted. You kneel to propose to your wife, and you take a knee to pray. And soldiers often take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave to pay respects. So I thought, if anything, besides standing, that was the most respectful. But, of course, that’s just my opinion.
–Nate Boyer, former Green Beret and NFL player, in an interview with NPR
What little hope I have held on to, that this nation might live up to its promises in my lifetime, have been gouged out by the stunning realization (more of my white privilege) that completely reasonable peaceful and respectful protest is somehow more offensive to other white people than the continued and unapologetic disregard for the safety of their players on part of the NFL, or the continued employment of the players who have committed rape and domestic abuse, or the exorbitant fees they get paid while teachers have to sell plasma and drive for uber to afford supplies for their classrooms and make ends meet….or fuck, the subject that has caused this protest in the first place.
I mean, you can’t just get more misdirecting than this entire protest having been turned into a racially-privileged commentary on protest instead of the subject of that protest.