Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Honor, Courage

It is an honor to respect the flag of the country I've served and which has been a blessing to me since birth.

... the republic, for which it stands, ... 
The country today is far from perfect, however, and there are troubling issues of inequality and discrimination that provoke a response in a citizen of conscience.  I can understand an individual taking the opportunity to express their pointed concern and disapproval.
I remember the '68 Olympics when gold medalist Tommie Smith raised a black-gloved fist. He was widely criticised as a Black Power advocate, but he explained afterwards that it was a 'human rights salute'. He was accompanied on the podium by bronze medalist John Carlos who also raised a black-gloved fist, and by Australian silver medalist Peter Norman. Smith and Carlos were shoeless and in black socks representing black poverty.  All three wore Olympic Project for Human Rights badges on their jackets. All were ostracized; Smith and Carlos were expelled from the games.  They and their families received death threats. Norman was similarly treated in Australia. All were later honored multiple times for their courage. There are statues, movies, and music in their honor.
Rather than presuming a lack of patriotism or commission of some sacrilege, I'm inclined to see such behavior in light of its provocation. We are currently a polarized and in many ways a divided nation. Perhaps we'd be better served if we embraced the protesters and listened to their heart concerns rather than vilifying them (or pepper spraying them like we did the 'occupy' participants or shooting them like we did to the Vietnam war objectors at Kent State; four killed, nine wounded).  
Kaepernick"The message is that we have a lot of issues in this country that we need to deal with," he said. "We have a lot of people that are oppressed, we have a lot of people that aren't treated equally ... there are a lot of issues that need to be talked about, need to be brought to life, and we need to fix those things."

Little of the emotional vitriol flung back in response seems to contain any understanding of Kaepernick's concerns.  Much of it reveals in the critics the very problem which he was doing his best to address.