I wasn’t planning to jump in the fray, but a post on our neighborhood forum recently pushed a button with me, and I changed my mind. The author wrote, and I paraphrase, that we should follow his lead, along with all veterans, in boycotting the NFL until players quit kneeling and the owners and commissioners stop allowing it. Just to be clear, I don’t watch professional sports, so I wouldn’t be in a position to boycott in any case.
I do care whether someone would include me, a veteran, in a blanket statement. I am proud of my service and that I (and others) served to defend the right – no – the duty of those to speak up who see injustices. Up to this point, I have not said much publicly. Those who object to others kneeling during the national anthem have the right to think it’s the wrong way to protest. We are a country of free thinkers and speakers. With injustices that have gone on for many years without resolution, when less strident means of protest seems ineffective, some might think it needs a more dramatic means of bringing it to our attention. Honestly, kneeling is a less violent method than many methods practiced in the past.
Though I defend the right of kneelers, I do question its effectiveness. The backlash from citizens who feel them unpatriotic and disparaging to the flag or anthem will not stop to truly consider or think, acting from emotion instead of logic, and only see disrespect. When injustices are protested, they not only need to grab the attention of those who will be instrumental in change, but must bring about the viewer’s willingness to consider change might be necessary.
Of course, this all started with Colin Kaepernick kneeling. Did anyone bother to look at the photos of this and other “kneeling” instances with a view of others on the scene, including the crowds? If you did, you would see all manner of people not having “hand on heart” but talking to their neighbors, texting, talking on the phone, and scratching their behinds. Though unseen by me, I’m sure someone was scratching somewhere below the belt at a sporting event.
I always pay attention, having a hand over my heart during the national anthem. Even though I am a heathen, I always bow my head during prayers out of respect for the beliefs of others. But then, I am a white male born into privilege. Poor as dirt, but privilege nonetheless. I had the privilege of being raised in a rural area where neighbors helped each other, parents cared for their children, and community was not just a word in the dictionary. I was nurtured, loved, and worked as part of an agrarian lifestyle. Not only that, but I was whipped for things I fully deserved, and because it was done out of love, it did not scar me for life.
Some others have not had this privilege. Don’t tell me that just because a person is successful and makes millions that they are privileged. We don’t know their life and heart. Money never meant you didn’t ride at the back of the bus.
I’m a veteran. I’m a citizen of the United States. I make every attempt to live an honorable life and be a friend to my fellow man. Please show understanding and compassion, and do not judge so quickly those that are in need of redress or have a legitimate grievance. They may be as patriotic as you.