And neither is America. We would do well to remember that. While San Francisco 49ner’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick’s method of protest might not be the wisest politically, we are forgetting what is important here. Isn’t the real issue that we now live in a land that has a criminal justice system unbecoming of a free country? And isn’t the right to express oneself, no matter how unpopular, sacrosanct? Isn’t that what real freedom is about?
Those voices that label Kaepernick un-American or even a traitor, do not understand what America is about in the first place. They choose symbols over substance. National symbols like a national anthem and the patriotic pageantry that goes with it before a sporting event feel good. They unite us.
This is all fine, except when we choose to uphold symbols at the expense of ignoring problems that challenge what those symbols claim to represent in the first place. That is when symbols and patriotism cross over into nationalism.
Throughout history governments and their lackeys have promoted nationalism disguised as patriotism in order to turn attention away from their misdeeds, failures, and oppression. Are we yet oppressed in America? No, but a country that locks up more people than any other nation in the world is certainly not free, and while we can all be subject to the whims and bureaucratic lunacy of modern day American justice, people of color are more likely to be on the receiving end of the tip of the spear.
When freedom is under assault by the justice system as it is today, Colin Kaepernick has every right to do what he is doing. Could he have chosen a different method? Maybe, but would it have mattered? Probably not. The voices that are assailing Kaepernick for his protest would likely have come after him anyway, even had he protested in a different manner. What really bothers Kaepernick’s detractors is that he dares to challenge perceived authority. Respect for the law and for those who serve us in that capacity is good, but let us remember that they are serving us. The same goes for our cultural symbols like the national anthem and the flag. They are only as good as the values and the freedom they represent. Ultimately, freedom, and the respect and pride it inspires for our national symbols has to be earned. It is not deserved, just because. Freedom is earned day in and day out. Colin Kaepernick is earning it.