First off, as a veteran, I support anyone’s right to peacefully protest. As many have already said, that is a fundamental right paid for with the blood and lives of our finest men and women.
Now let’s talk about one of the fundamental flaws in our country right now: the treatment of patriotism as a religion.
Religion is comprised of a combination of faith, rituals, symbols, and ideology. It’s the mixture of faith and symbolism that make attacks on the symbols into attacks on the religion. Defiling a crucifix, taking the Lord’s name in vain, depicting images of the Prophet, burning sacred texts… these all translate into personal affronts for those that hold those symbols dear.
Patriotism, on the other hand, doesn’t have to rely on faith. True patriotism is acting in support of the ideology and protecting the home.
The flag and the national anthem as symbols of patriotism aren’t worth very much if the ideals that they represent are not being followed and protected.
I’ve spoken before on this blog that I’m not a very good patriot. In light of current events, I’m forced to re-evaluate my position.
I support the Constitution and I’m willing to fight for it. I support the ideals that my country was founded on. Every individual is created equal and endowed with rights and freedoms that shall not be infringed, because these rights are not granted to them by a faceless state. These are rights are inherent, and some of them are redundantly spelled out as amendments to our Constitution.
From 1993 to 1999, I served in the Air Force. If my country had called on me to bleed or die to protect it, I would have done my duty. It is now 2017, and I no longer have a uniform. But if my country called on me to bleed or die in the service of the Constitution, if I was called to protect the rights that I believe are so important, then I would do so.
Maybe I am a patriot, after all.
But even as a patriot, I don’t subscribe to America as my religion. The flag is a symbol. A useful symbol sometimes, but the flag is not my country.
The ritual of standing when the flag is presented and the national anthem is played… that isn’t part of my religion, either. I usually stand because it feels rude not to, just as it would feel rude to use profanity in certain company. But if I felt that it would make a difference to sit or take a knee… if I believed that in silent protest I could fight to protect the rights and lives of American citizens, I would do so, without hesitation.
That’s what Kaepernick is doing. That’s the movement he’s started. He kneels because American citizens are dying in their own country. They are not receiving the protection that they deserve. He’s fighting for their lives, and he’s doing it without a gun or hurting anyone.
Kaepernick and those other athletes that are kneeling with him are demonstrating true patriotism.
I think it’s important to examine your actions from time to time and evaluated the reasoning behind them. Looking at someone taking a knee and understanding why they are doing it, I see true patriotism.
When someone complains about the silent protest, I have to examine that action as well. What is the motivation behind trying to make someone stand for the national anthem?
If we are to be a great nation, we must regard the ideals more highly than the symbols. We must honor the Constitution, the rights of all Americans, and the rule of law. We must put those ideals above the flag, the national anthem, and the religious trappings of American Nationalism.