This absurdity has become the most divisive issue in America….till some new news cycle sweeps it away with a new brand of absurdity. It is the way it is in our nation ever since the Mainstream Media has decided that it alone should serve as the moral compass for the land. We all know the story. The protests have been percolating for over a year now, when Colin Kaepernick decided to sit out ….and eventually kneel out several national anthems in protest against what he saw as systemic institutionalized racism. A few other players began to kneel in support. Then this last weekend, President Trump began to speak out – and tweet out – and the NFL reacted. The President let it be known that he felt the S.O.B.s – those players that would not stand up – should be fired by the NFL owners. Well, the players didn’t like being called names, didn’t like being told how they could protest – and the owners didn’t like being told how they should run their business. So this last weekend saw owners and players take to the field together in many cases, to show solidarity.
If you ask the protestors they will tell you the protests are about racism. Seeing as they were originated by the now unemployed former Quarterback of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Colin Kaepernick, let’s go back to his words for an explanation. Kaepernick spoke at a time when there were a number of high-profile cases in the news and the courts involving black men being shot by police officers. [Each circumstance was different and justice fell on both sides of the racial divide.] Kaepernick: “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.”[i] Ahhh! It sounds like such a noble cause, social / racial justice and all that. But there’s a little more to it. The general form of the protests took the form of locking arms while some players knelt if they felt so led. The Pittsburgh Steelers sat out the anthem in the locker room, with the exception of their lone military veteran, LT Alejandro Villanueva, who did three tours in Afghanistan. (Villanueva later apologized for letting his team down.)
A couple of totems found in Kaepernick’s history give away the game a bit. First it was the socks. [Remember the Dockers commercial….and the Seinfeld episode? The pants, the pants, it’s all about the pants. Forgive me my digression.] At training camp last year, the erstwhile QB thought it would be a smart idea to wear socks with pigs dressed in police uniforms on them. It was part of his protest. The QB explained. “There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it, and they’re government officials. They are put in place by the government. So that’s something that this country has to change.”
And then there was the shirt; a T-shirt featuring pictures of Fidel Castro meeting with Malcom X in 1960. And it wasn’t just a poor wardrobe choice. Kaepernick has defended his protests as taking up the cause of “people being treated unfairly, being harassed, being terrorized.” But isn’t that the very defining characteristic of Castro’s life? Castro was a Communist dictator who held sham trials that led to the execution of tens of thousands of people, ordered mass imprisonments and squelched all dissent over the course of decades. [Other than that, I suppose he wasn’t such a bad guy.] Malcom X was a Black civil rights leader and minister and number 2 man of the Nation of Islam from 1952 to 1964. During that time he faithfully advanced the Nation’s doctrine which included principles that said that Blacks are the original race and that they are superior to Whites. In fact, White people were really devils.[ii] [iii] In addition he rejected the non-violent tactics of the Civil Rights Movement espoused by Dr Martin Luther King. So the shirt had quite the pedigree. In defending his choice of garment, Kaepernick talked about the great education system in Cuba. And he stated outright that he supported “Malcolm X and what he’s done for people.”[iv] [Would that include teaching division and racism? It’s a question that needs to be asked.] In fairness, it must be noted that Malcom X recanted his racism in 1964 after a pilgrimage to Mecca. That was a year before his assassination by Nation of Islam members.
So if we go back to the original intent of the protest as framed by Mr Kaepernick, it has to do with shining a light on racial inequality. But due to the leanings of its progenitor, it brings with it a labeling of law enforcement as being intrinsically biased; pigs, if you will. Further, it embraces a nod – perhaps in ignorance – to the advancement of the ideology of Communism – but also to the error of racism. [After all, the meeting between Malcom X and Castro happened in 1960 – before Malcom had repented of his positions.] So all of that is baggage that is – (possibly unintentionally) – dragged along whenever a knee is taken.
Now all of this was exacerbated when President Trump brought this to the forefront. However, it is interesting that while the NFL owners were willing to stand in solidarity with players taking a very political position – that by one poll is against the wishes of 71% of its fans – it was not willing to let the Dallas Cowboys wear decals to honor the dead policemen who were ambushed while trying to keep order during a Black Lives Matter march there last year.[v] Apparently they don’t like to get political except when it’s to their liking. The Bears’ Brandon Marshall was fined for wearing green shoes to raise awareness for mental health issues. Yet in 2012, Bob Costas made an obviously prepared statement on Sunday Night Football arguing in favor of strict gun control. Interesting what passes muster and what doesn’t.
As the situation grew hotter, teams looked for solutions that would minimize the controversy. Linked arms, with some players standing and some kneeling seemed to satisfy many. That doesn’t include the fans. 72% think it unpatriotic and 61% disagree with the protests contention. So when Colin Kaepernick – and by extension – those that join him in this protest, say they won’t stand up for a flag that “oppresses Black people” they are in effect saying that the principles of freedom do not really apply. But the facts are that America was founded as a nation dedicated to God. (See The Mayflower Compact as one example of such. You can add in the founding documents of the Jamestown Colony and the prayer meeting that broke out at President Washington’s first inauguration – in St Paul’s Chapel in the temporary capital of New York City, right at Ground Zero.) Further, the Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal. The United States, like all nations, has often struggled to live up to that ideal, but the striving has never stopped. This nation fought a Civil War that was largely based around the struggle for human freedom. And though imperfectly applied, the struggle for freedom has never waned in the American psyche. And though there may be forces that resist, the pull of the ideal is etched into our founding documents and from there into the American conscience.
The First Generation fought and bled and died for those ideals. So did the Greatest Generation, vanquishing Nazism and Fascism in World War II and resisting Communism in the Cold War that followed. [To see it now raising its ugly head in the form of Antifa – (ironically and improperly named) – and White Supremacism, serves as a painful reminder of the vigilance needed to maintain the shining ideal of the American worldview.
That there is remaining racism in the American experience is truly a fact. That some individuals should wish to draw attention to it is both understandable and justified. That the American Ideal and the First Amendment to the Constitution both guarantee the right to speak out is also true. But there remains in the act a degree of blindness to the hurt and harm it does to a major portion of the American veterans, as well as other portions of the public. There is a tone-deafness to the whole situation. Some large portion of the veteran community believe that not standing at the playing of the anthem is an insult to the flag, the nation that it represents as well as the men who fought and died to defend that flag and nation. Army vet Bill Robertson of Nebraska put it this way: “I think that they ought to stand and honor the flag, honor all of those that give the ultimate sacrifice.” Desert Storm Vet Kirk Blakeman weighed in with this. “They’re disrespecting the flag and the country. It stands for something and I understand they’re standing for something also. That means something. I honor they’re intent, but they’re choosing the wrong place and time to do it.” Yet many vets do understand the intent of the movement. They see the perceived injustice and desire to be sympathetic to its announced goals.[vi]
So what honor should be bestowed upon our flag and the nation that it represents? To put this in context, I’d like to recall the story of the first Black man to be awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sergeant William H Carney. Carney was the Color Sergeant of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which meant that he was in charge of carrying the flag. He was awarded the medal for his actions in the battle at the Battery Wagner, part of the defenses of Charleston, SC. Following is a portion of his account of the action. “We had got but a short distance when we were opened upon with musketry, shell, grape shot and canister, which mowed down our men right and left. As the color-bearer became disabled I threw away my gun and seized the colors, making my way to the head of the column. . . In less than 20 minutes I found myself alone, struggling upon the ramparts, while the dead and wounded were all around me, lying one upon another. Here I said, ‘I cannot go into the battery alone,’ and so I halted and knelt down, holding the flag in my hand. While there, the muskets, balls and grape-shots were flying all around me, and as they struck, the sand would fly in my face.”
Sergeant Carney was wounded several times in the attack. At one point all his mates were down around him, dead or wounded. Finally help came. A soldier from a New York regiment offered to carry the colors (flag) to the rear – but he would not give them up to anyone who was not from the 54th Massachusetts. Then as he was being helped to the rear, he was shot in the head. Still he hung on to the flag. “An officer came, and taking my name and regiment, put us in charge of the hospital corps, telling them to find my regiment. When we finally reached the latter the men cheered me and the flag. My reply was, ‘Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.’ It is then said that he fell to the ground in a dead faint, weak from the wounds that he had received.” He recovered from his head wound and lived until 1908. He received his medal in 1900. He had determined that he would not dishonor his flag.[vii]
This was the flag of a nation that was NOT perfect. Slavery still existed in the South. Even in the portions controlled by Union forces, slavery was still legal in some areas. And yet Carney and so many other African American soldiers fought for the nation that proclaimed the promise of the freedom that would one day come.
So I will give my nod to those who kneel but with this exception: I believe that while your cause and intentions may be noble, your medium of choice is ill conceived. It offends many of the very ones that have bled and died to defend your right to exercise your freedom. That freedom is sacrosanct but your vehicle of choice is poor indeed. Still I respect the cause of equal justice before the law and pray for the day when we live to see a more perfect freedom.
In the meantime I will stand. I will stand for the young boys and farmers that dodged the bullets of British regulars in the brush, in search of an ideal. I will stand as an act of consecration to a nation of brothers, North and South, that determined en masse to follow conscience in order to give meaning to the word “Liberty.” I will stand as a humble offering to the generations that crossed wide oceans to put an end to war – and barely a generation later to do it all again. I will lay that offering before the men that fell at Argonne, on Flanders fields, on the beaches of Normandy and the Pacific, in the cold snows of The Bulge and Korea and in the jungles of Saipan, the Philippines and Viet Nam. I will dedicate my rising to the men who walked the line in Southeast Asia, that ate the dust in the deserts and wilderness of Iraq and Afghanistan, the men that lay their lives on the line….even today. I will make this meager offering to all the men and women who ever wore the uniform and served this great nation. We, ‘the served,’ are so small before you. And to all that have – or will offer that sacrifice of service in the future: I pray that the God of all the universe watch over you and draw you to Himself. That He would guide you and give you the wisdom to seek the eternal value and righteousness through the only means possible – His Holy and only Son, Jesus the Christ.
That is why I will stand.
[i] Taking a Knee, Independent (UK), September 26, 2017
[ii] Louis Lomax, When the Word is Given, World Publishing, 1963, pg 55
[iii] Louis Lomax, When the Word is Given, World Publishing, 1963, pg 115
[iv] Armando Salguero, Unrepentant hypocrite Colin Kaepernick defends Fidel Castro, Miami Herald, November 25, 2016
[v] NFL won’t let Cowboys wear decals, CBS Sports, August 11, 2016
[vi] Military veterans have mixed reactions to NFL protests, WWLTV (New Orleans, LA), September 25, 2017
[vii] First Black Medal Of Honor Recipient’s Act of ‘Defiance’: He Never Let The Flag Touch The Ground, Zero Hedge,
September 24, 2017