Questioning Patriotism

This past weekend my daughter and I attended what will probably be our last Connecticut Tigers minor league baseball game of the season. After passing through the turnstiles, she immediately stopped and pointed out the spot that we have designated in case of somehow getting separated. When the National Anthem played, she stood without prompting, put her hand over her heart, and turned towards the flag in center field. Proud moments.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a different approach this weekend. He not only refused to stand for the National Anthem, but says that he will continue to sit until “I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to.”

I’ve personally never been very impressed with this particular brand of social activism. I don’t find it as offensive as actual burning of the flag, but it’s still an empty gesture, an act more likely to bring attention to the individual and not the cause that inspires it. This isn’t a public figure using his platform and status to raise awareness to racial issues, it’s an act of petulance, similar to my five year old refusing to water the corner of the garden that contains tomato plants because she doesn’t like their taste.

 

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It’s his right to do so however, that makes this country great, that freedom and liberty that The Stars and Stripes represent. Only through our ability to question authority and demand change will those changes ever come. When Kaepernick says that “I don’t see it being a distraction. It’s something that can unify this team. It’s something that can unify this country” they may be the delusional words of somebody with an inflated sense of self-importance, but it is through words, spoken, written, sung or shouted, that will bring us closer to becoming the country that we all aspire to be.

Not everybody feels this way. Criticism was swift and it was bellicose. What I see as a well-meaning but misguided and disrespectful use of free speech deemed recreant and treasonous by some of the more histrionic defenders of our national honor. Donald Trump suggested that “maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”

I was given a similar suggestion for saying many of the same things I’ve said here. In the ¬†New England Sports¬†Facebook group that my wife founded and administrates, a statement was made questioning the ability of a millionaire professional athlete, raised by white adoptive parents in a 90% white city in Wisconsin to consider himself a spokesman for the plight of black Americans. The discussion degenerated into an ugly enough exchange that we were compelled to step in, chastising parties on both sides of the argument for inappropriate personal attacks and intolerant language.

Perhaps not realizing who I was at first and that I was sitting next to somebody with the power to remove them, I was called a hypocrite, a traitor, and an asshole. For daring to say that other people’s opinions needed to be respected I was told, in a far less articulate manner, that I was more concerned with being “politically correct” than I was in being right.

The truth is that I am very patriotic, and am raising my daughters to be the same. Apologies to my international readers, but I believe The United States of America to be the greatest country in the world.

That doesn’t mean that I should be compelled to ignore some of it’s fundamental flaws. A heath care system still in need of major overhaul. Banks, energy and insurance companies given free reign to screw over whoever they can. Prejudice and inequality.

My daughters will also be taught these things, with the hope that one day they can contribute in a positive manner to fostering change and doing what they can to make things better, for one person or for many. That they will never be afraid to stand up for what they believe to be right.

 

“This country was founded on a principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world,¬†No, You Move.

This line was spoken by Sharon Carter in the Civil War movie, but in Spider Man #537 it’s Captain America that delivers it. If telling somebody to leave the country for disagreeing with you is your idea of patriotism, I’m not sure you understand what actually makes this country so great. I’d also bet you wouldn’t have the balls to say that to Captain America.

 

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21 thoughts on “Questioning Patriotism”

  1. When I stand for the National Anthem, what does that mean to me.

    I’ll let one phrase from the oath every volunteer in the U.S. military takes when the join up to fight America’s enemies.

    “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic …”

    Focus on the word “domestic”.

    That’s what I’m thinking, and I’m a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Vet who also took that oath.

    I don’t stand for the United States.

    I don’t stand for the Washington DC and all the elected reps.

    I stand for the U.S. Constitution and the people it was meant to protect from a corrupt and tyrannical government. I also include corporations as potential enemies of the U.S. Constitution if the actions of those corporation subverts the protections for the American people the U.S. Constitution was written to protect.

  2. I agree with you regarding his stand (pun intended).
    I also view it as unprofessional. When he has the S.F. Giants uniform, he is at work and therefore is a representative of the team. If he wants to make a stand, he should do it on his own time.

    1. The NFL regulates just about everything else, it actually surprises me that they don’t think that they have the right to fine him for this. I think he should stand and be appreciative that he lives in a county where he makes millions of dollars to play a game, I don’t think anybody should make him

  3. Great post, it’s a thought-provoking issue. Kapernick does have the right not to stand, I get it. Soldiers fought and died for us to have those rights, even the ones we don’t like. He has a celebrity and a platform and he’s using it.

    That said, I think it lacks a certain sincerity, not refusing to stand, but the way he’s going about it.

    Kapernick should remember this, although the NFL has no policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem, individual teams don’t like distractions. If he has a good season, the 49ers will probably look the other way and state, he’s exercising his civil right to do this. If he doesn’t produce, they might cut him due to non performance on the field, a big-money contract, and the distraction he created. The bigger the distraction, the harder it will be for another team to take a chance on a distraction and the potential loss at the box-office or in revenues a distraction brings.

    1. I still don’t agree with it, but I actually find it easier to believe he is sincere based on the fact that he isn’t gauranteed a spot in the league right now. The attention isn’t doing him any favors with his career but he’s going forward anyway

  4. A great post Jeremy and I am feeling your passion. I totally agree that the act was one of petulance rather than one based on any sound or intelligent view. I get really incensed if our sportspeople don’t not only sing our National Anthem but even put some effort into it. #momsterslink

  5. I love that you are proud to be American. I’m like you, proud to be English. Of course, every country has it’s flaws and we should never sit on our laurels and think we can’t all make our home countries better but if you fundamentally don’t like the country you live in, you should move to one where you can be happier. I love all the things that make England English. I can’t help it.

    Sally @ Life Loving
    #AnythingGoes

    1. Nothing wrong with being proud of the ideals that your country stands for, even if we can’t always live up to those ideals. We are very fortunate to be able to live where we do, and it’s something that I think people should recognize

  6. Oh I love this post Jeremy! I don’t follow football (not like I used to anyway) and I haven’t been watching much TV lately so I didn’t know about the quarterback doing this. I agree with you on both points. I, personally, think it’s disrespectful to not stand for the national anthem but as you said, our soldiers have fought and died for him to have the right to stand up for what he believes in. I don’t think it was the best way to protest. There are so many other ways to protest against what our government has done to our country but I can understand his motive behind it and his willingness to stand up for what he believes in is the American way.
    I absolutely love that quote from the movie! I didn’t know Captain America was the original person to say it in the comics but either way, that quote is badass and pretty much sums up the American Spirit. We desperately need to get back to that but we just can’t seem to agree on how. Thanks so much for your post Jeremy! I love it! Popping over from #anythinggoes

  7. As I read more and more about this whole debate and now also a member of my own favorite team doing the same damn thing it makes me question what my true thoughts are about it. When I hear that song it makes me think of our troops. And now that I have a son who is currently in boot camp, it really makes me think about them. There are people dying for this country so that some privileged football players can be free to play an American game, get paid in American money, and live in America. I understand that it represents their freedom of speech but it still doesn’t help me understand the fact that somehow they are disrespecting those who are fighting for that freedom of theirs. Thanks for linking up with #momsterslink…as usual I am behind in commenting but hope to see you this week! Great post!

    1. I immediately think the same thing, but I don’t think that they think they are disrespecting the troops. Its a military song, so we automatically tend to associate it with the military, but I do think its possible to support the people in uniform and still want to show a dissatisfaction with your country. Players have been doing this off and on for years, across multiple sports, but it seems like all of a sudden its the thing that the media wants to focus on

  8. You make some really interesting points. I’m from the UK so I don’t really feel I can comment in depth as I believe all national anthems are different and mean different things to different cultures. It’s great you feel so passionately about your country and national anthem. Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

    1. I’m starting to realize that they can mean different things even to different people withing the same country. Thanks for reading Janet

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