Monday, September 19, 2016

Dissent Is Fine But Don't Diss The Flag

It seems that it has now become fashionable to not stand for the National Anthem.

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers started the current trend by refusing to stand for the Anthem in a pre-season game explaining that "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during National Anthem

Kaepernick's actions have been followed by several other athletes (including some high school athletes) the most prominent of which was Megan Rapinoe of the USA Women's National Soccer team who also refused to stand for the National Anthem even though she was representing the United States on the national team.

I often say that there is really nothing new in the world. This is no exception. I am old enough to remember the 1968 Olympics when USA track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the podium to receive their gold and bronze medals in the 200m race and raised a gloved black hand and looked down during the playing of the National Anthem. The reason? To protest African-American poverty, to show solidarity within the Black community and to protest global social injustice.

Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right)
1968 Olympics

In contrast with Smith and Carlos there was another African-American Olympian by the name of George Foreman who took a totally different approach at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games regarding the American flag.

Foreman won the Heavyweight Boxing Gold Medal at those Olympic Games. After he won the championship bout, in contrast to Smith and Carlos, he walked around the ring waving a small American flag.

George Foreman at the 1968 Olympics

Things did not work out real well for Smith and Carlos over the remainder of their lives. This seems to happen more often than not to those who harbor bitterness and resentment in their lives.

On the other hand, George Foreman went on to become the Heavyweight Champion of the world and a popular corporate speaker. However, his biggest claim to fame is probably the fact that his name is on the famous George Foreman Grill for which it is estimated he has received in excess of $200 million for the use of his name.

George Foreman and his grill

Foreman understood something that Smith, Carlos, Kaepernick and Rapinoe did not. Dissent is fine. Dissing the flag is not.

I am sure George Foreman had his own experiences with racial injustice growing up in the 1950's with a single mother and six siblings in Marshall, Texas. However, he also knew what that flag represented. The blood, sweat and tears that went into providing the freedoms that we do have. The opportunities and blessings that others that do not live under that flag will never know. The promise of a better tomorrow for those that have the privilege of living under that flag. When you refuse to respect the flag, you have crossed the line from dissent to disrespect.

Kaepernick and others who refuse to honor the flag argue that that they are not happy with our country (and by extension our peace officers) in the area of social justice. That is the argument they make for their actions.

When you look at the life story of Colin Kaepernick you have to shake your head and wonder why he thinks the United States flag is not worthy of his respect?

Kaepernick was born to a single, teenage white mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His birth father, an African-American, left before he was born. His teen mother put him up for adoption and he was adopted by a loving and supportive white couple with two other children. I dare say that there are not too many countries on the face of this planet that would have afforded Colin Kaepernick the blessings that he has received in the United States of America. That includes the $126 million contract that he signed with the 49ers in 2014. He seems to not be able to put things in their proper perspective.

Like Kaepernick, I can also tell you that there are  things going on in our country today that I am also not happy with.

However, I dissent with my right to free speech that this country provides me, I write about it on these pages to let others know how I feel and I cast my vote in a country that has been provided that right to its citizens longer than any other country now existing on the face of the earth.

I also recognize that the greatness and goodness of this country far outweighs anything that I might find fault with.

It is something that I hope Colin Kaepernick and these other misguided souls soon recognize for themselves.

Dissent is fine but don't diss the flag.

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