Patriotism And Spots As A Political Stage

Marc Elliott

WALKER…. I have, for the better part of my life considered myself to be a good American citizen.. And not just because I was born here, I fully embraced the culture and the meaning of what it was to be an American. Being a baby boomer I went to school at a time where civics were still taught and there was at least some basic study of our political system and of how it works. Some would say that my generation was one of the last to go through the full public school indoctrination and conditioning of a curriculum that included beginning each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and perhaps even a morning prayer in some schools.
That was brought to a halt when challenged in a court of law and it was determined that those things could no longer be done in public schools. There is still some outcry over that and minor movement’s here and there to reinstate the Pledge and morning Prayer in our schools still exist. That is quite a deep debate and isn’t what I wanted to shed light upon today. Rather, there has been some recent fervor over whether or not an Olympic Gold Medal winner should hold hand over heart when our National Anthem is played. To double down on some Red, White and Blue controversy, the San Francisco Forty Niners QB, Colin Kaepernick decided last week, that during the playing of the Anthem prior to his NFL games that he wouldn’t stand up for the Anthem as has been a sort of unwritten custom here.
In the hand over heart issue the athlete in question was American Gold Medal Gymnast Gabby Douglas. While the Anthem had played during her medal reception she didn’t hold her hand over her heart. This set off a firestorm of criticism. The twitter world was all over her but many came to her defense as well. She was affected by the outrage enough to issue a statement the next day that she did not mean to offend anyone and that she normally prefers to stand at attention while the anthem is being played. I believe she was genuinely hurt by some of the quotes against her and should be. Some people can’t just make a point, they also have to make it personal and harmful to the individual involved.
Kaepernick’s gesture generated even more heat then Douglas’s, which I believe was probably more innocent then deliberate. Kaepernick’s can be brought right to the “deliberate” department as he acknowledged after the game. He offered this quote after the tilt had ended; “I am not going to stand up for a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger then football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”. Well, not much to debate there. There are  cases where law enforcement has little choice but to defend themselves and sometimes that involves the use of deadly force. But there are many documented situations where that same force has been wrongly used  and few people are held to account.
The Black community should be upset. More often then not they are not getting justice in these incidents and you would be upset too. Place yourself in their shoes. While looking into this to get a deeper sense of understanding, I came across an article that stated “Almost no one seems to understand that even if the United States were a perfect country today it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for The Star Spangled Banner. Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of  African-Americans”. Yes, there are more verses to the Anthem then most people realize. I am not certain if Kaepernick knows this or not but even if he does not, there are legitimate reasons to his cause. I encourage you to look these up, they are quite interesting.
He went on to state that he will continue on with this for as long as he feels is necessary. Well, Colin, given how long the battle for some semblance of freedom and justice has gone on for oppressed people here, you may never stand for another anthem in your career. I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and one of their sports talk radio venues question of the day had to do with Douglas not applying hand to heart during the anthem. Callers were all over her. Tomorrow morning they will probably be foaming at the mouth over Kaepernicks action and statements.
So, what to make of this matter? First off, to the best of my knowledge there is no standing law that makes it mandatory for anyone to hold their hand over their heart for the playing of the Anthem, just as there is no law that I am aware of that states one must stand during the playing of the anthem. Whether anyone likes it or not, this is one of those things that involves an individuals “freedom” to do something, or to NOT do it. It is just that simple. Neither Douglas or Kaepernick are under any obligation to do anything from a legal standpoint. Many may find it distasteful but will have to live with it.
For me, I usually place hand over heart at sports events. But I never began to do so until probably my late twenties. And you know what? No one ever said a word to me, and I wasn’t alone either. There were no “patriotism” police out and about, no people running around defining and redefining what the word “freedom” meant. Remember the recent flap over whether candidate Obama had a flag pin on or not? Really? This is just an example of how dysfunctional and immature this country has become. Instead of acknowledging Kaepernicks rights, he is being dragged through the mud of our current faux militaristic patriotism. I offer up that not many in this country know what “true” patriotism is.
But here is what freedom is; ability to act freely. A state in which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses without being subject to ANY undue restraints or restrictions. And as far as I am concerned that applies to EVERYBODY like it or not….  PEACE