Freedom is a tricky thing to tackle down. It’s full of contradictions. We like to claim the patent on freedom in the United States, but in reality we are more much more restricted in our freedom than what we tell ourselves. I’m certainly not 100% free, and nor are many of us unless we’re granted permission to utilize those freedoms at a convenient time. Granted permission to be free. Is there no further irony? Do it outside of those boundaries and it’s a scandal. Raping someone and gaining freedom in 3 months’ jail time? Not nearly as much of a scandal as not rising for the National Anthem to bring awareness for a cause. Yet which one is illegal? Abhorrent? Have an entire body of civil servants refusing to do their job and fill a vacant position in the Supreme Court? Blocking every bill which comes there way? Not a scandal because they’re free to do so.
Is Mr. Kaepernick less free? Every person who speaks out against him is free to do so. But defend him, no, no, not allowed. Break no laws, no contracts, but don’t you dare. I’ve heard two different arguments. The first is that he is throwing away everything, chance to continue to play, his endorsements, funding, the whole lot on a stupid ill-timed and “disrespectful” move. The other is that he was a washed up player seeking attention because he had no further prospects. Those contradict. We railed against our poor, young Olympian Gabby Douglas, who during the Anthem stood at attention. She just won a medal and was berated for not placing her hand over her heart. For what? So she could feel the red blooded American pumping through her veins as she stood there? Does that change her allegiance to the USA after winning 2 golds? Her respect to stand at attention was deemed to be a scandal. And she apologized to her country after representing them in an honorable and prideful manner. She is one of our best, but we turned on her for the difference between standing at attention, and where her hand was. She is no uniformed service member required to salute on command. She is us. In 1968 when Tommie Smith and Peter Norman raised their fists people were outraged. But it was done for very similar reasons Mr. Kaepernick sat for that night. And both fall under their right as Americans to do so. So yes, both sides can be correct in how they feel and believe in this case.
Many claim they’re angry because it disrespects the flag, the service-members, the country, the Eagle, I don’t know honestly, but hey, it’s disrespectful so that means it’s wrong. But it’s not. It is neither illegal nor mandated. And if we are truly free, you can disagree with the choice to not stand, but understand that freedom means you can only disagree, not tell them they can’t. Yes, the US code 301 lists etiquette and behavior associated with the Flag and National Anthem. But it’s not a law. You cannot be penalized for not following it. It’s more of a guideline as Captain Jack would say. We follow it, most of the times. For instance, burning the flag is frowned upon (not illegal), but at the same time deemed the appropriate manner to dispose of one which is battered beyond dignity. It’s the context. But have you ever sat back and actually asked yourself why you believe so fully in mandatory pledging? Mandatory pledging to flags, and standing doesn’t seem like a Free state. Much of it became the norm during WWII and then raised further in the McCarthy era to root out communism and reinforce nationalism. Nationalism, not patriotism. True patriotism means that you believe in your country, love your country, and the true nature of what it stands for. Nationalism can be the more extreme version. For instance, in North Korea if you do not follow the standard for their anthem you face imprisonment or worse. That’s not Freedom. Freedom is sitting, standing, hand over heart, at attention, etc. Freedom means that you can disagree and still realize that you both can be correct on this, because both sides can be here. Freedom would be that Mr. Kaepernick wouldn’t face an end of career because of that choice, but he might, and that too can be considered Freedom. Our service-members fight for freedom at their own risk which not only provides them my enduring gratitude, but also respect and many years of my life in service to them, and we owe many of those freedoms to them, but this is not one they fight for. And many of our freedoms weren’t won overseas or by the military. The right to vote didn’t come from a war, it came from civilians. So do many others. So civilians also may take a stance and not be disrespecting our service members, or police as the new viral strawman story has circulated. You don’t have to choose one or the other.
So no, I can admit, I’m not always so proud, because I don’t see us as always free. I see a hierarchy of who can access all our freedoms, and until that hierarchy is gone I won’t be proud of my freedom because it comes at a cost. It comes with the cost of it being only when I’m told I’m allowed to be free. Or that some aren’t able to be as free as I am, or maybe I’m not as free as someone else. So yes, I’ll stand at attention for our anthem as I always have, but I will continue to want and fight for better, and respect the choice to not by others. And that means there might one day come a time I don’t rise for something; not because I’m not patriotic, but because I am, because I believe in the Freedom promised by our nation.
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