What is patriotism? Do the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem have American values? Or are they disrespecting the troops? Are they patriots or traitors?
(09-26-2017) NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem! They’re trampling on American values! That’s not patriotism — they’re traitors! They’re disrespecting the troops! You are confused, but I understand. The symbols have become so important to you that you forget what they stand for. Do I need to remind you what your ideals are? Well fine, if you insist. Here’s a little refresher, from an immigrant. You’re welcome.
Ideals and Symbols
Just as there are symbols that (again, supposedly; I’m being generous) represent American values, there are tools, means, ways to work toward those ideals. The military is one of those tools, if you will. The military is not the ideal; the military is one of the means to an end, to the ideals.
So what were those ideals again? Anyone? Anyone? Life! Liberty! (Including individual liberties, Yay!) The pursuit of happiness! Equality! Justice for all!
The flag is not the ideal, the National Anthem is not the ideal, the military is not the ideal. The flag and the anthem are symbols of the ideals of freedom and equality, and the military fights for the ideals of freedom and equality, if you believe the American foreign policy folks at their public word in every case, but let’s–for the sake of argument–not argue about that right now.
What is Colin Kaepernick Doing?
When Colin Kaepernick kneels during the National Anthem instead of standing with his hand over his heart, and when many football players follow his example, they don’t disrespect the country, the military, the flag or a song. NFL players kneeling are pointing out that the symbols–the flag and the song–represent American values (freedom, equality, justice for all) that don’t seem to be meant for Americans of color. They refuse to keep on pretending that everything is hunky dory for everyone in this country when it’s clearly not. Just as the flag and the anthem are symbols of the ideals of freedom and equality, when the football players kneel during the anthem, they are making a symbolic gesture that expresses sorrow about the failure to live up to those ideals. When he kneels during the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick is a patriot.
Do you so-called patriots even listen to what you’re singing? Land of the free, home of the brave? If it’s true, if you believe that this is the home of the free and the land of the brave, or that that is at least something Americans strive for, and if you stand by that, then the NFL players are free to express their feelings. And they are the brave. Not our tweeting bully-in-chief and everyone who snickers and jeers and eggs him on from behind.
It’s in Writing
If you want to know more about your country’s ideals of freedom and equality, let me suggest the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
The Declaration of Independence describes what the founders meant by freedom and by equality: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Sound familiar?
In the United States Constitution the Founding Fathers laid out how government is to be organized, and the Bill of Rights–which is the first ten amendments to the Constitution–spells out the civil liberties and rights of American citizens in relation to the government.
The First Amendment spells out the right to free speech, freedom of the press, the right to religious beliefs and practices and the right not to have any religion imposed by the government, and the right to assemble to–among other things–protest the government.
Trump is Not a Patriot
What is patriotism? Standing by the country’s ideals. Freedom and equality. Unalienable rights. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are the American ideals that the flag, the National Anthem, the bald eagle and any other American patriotic symbols you can think of represent. Or used to represent. Or were supposed to represent. However, we now have a president who exacerbates an already bad relationship between the police and people of color in this country by suggesting openly that the police use more brutality, that they revert to pre-Civil Rights tactics. He is not respecting the ideals of freedom and equality.
When the president claims that there were also “some very fine people” among the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville, when he refuses to denounce outright the violence against people of color and the mowing down of dozens of counter-protesters, he disrespects the rule of law and therefore the individual rights to life and liberty and justice for all. Colin Kaepernick and the other NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem at the beginning of a game call attention to this disrespect. They have every right to do so. According to the First Amendment, they have the right to free speech. When the president says that those “sons of bitches” should be fired for kneeling during the National Anthem, he disrespects the United States Constitution, which he swore on Lincoln’s Bible to uphold on January 20. That’s his job as president of the United States.
All You ‘Patriots’ Are Disrespectful
And everyone who roars their appreciation and agreement during Trump’s speeches, when he spews his disrespect for the rights and ideals of this country, is equally disrespectful. That is not patriotism.
And don’t give me that “they are paid millions of dollars so they should just shut up and play ball” argument. What? Because they’re there to provide you with entertainment, and they shouldn’t remind you of the fact that they are also human beings? Your own income and job description aren’t stopping you from giving your opinion, so why can’t they? Or the argument that they are there to play ball and nothing else. The kneeling NFL players make a symbolic gesture before the game, during a ritual that also has nothing to do with football. Who chose sports as a venue where the national anthem had to be sung, anyway? It’s completely random. Why not at the Greyhound station, or McDonalds? Or when first seeing the Grand Canyon? Or before a movie in the movie theater, like the British used to do?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely glad you don’t you don’t all burst out into nationalistic song at the edge of the Grand Canyon (yet). I just want to remind you all of the ideals you are supposedly celebrating with those symbols. And that maybe you should not only celebrate them, but practice them as well.
(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title:To Respect Symbols or to Respect Ideals”, “09-26-2017)
- “United States Declaration of Independence”. Wikipedia. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence
- “Constitution of the United States of America”. Constitute. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/United_States_of_America_1992?lang=en
- “The Bill of Rights: What Does it Say?”. (Bill of Rights). America’s Founding Documents. Washington D.C., National Archives. https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights/what-does-it-say
- “Trump to Police: Please Don’t Be Too Nice”. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000005320670/trump-to-police-please-dont-be-too-nice.html?mcubz=0
- Deaton, Chris. “Protester Would Be ‘Carried out on a Stretcher’ in the Old Days, Trump Reminisces”. The Weekly Standard, February 23, 2016. ttps://www.weeklystandard.com/protester-would-be-carried-out-on-a-stretcher-in-the-old-days-trump-reminisces/article/2001211
Header image: In: “Dozens more NFL players took a knee in protest on Sunday”. Newsela, 09/25/2017. https://newsela.com/read/nfl-protests-trump/id/35647/