It’s his right. Many commentators have said that about Colin Kaepernick’s refusing to stand during the “The Star Spangled Banner” at NFL games. They are correct. It is his right. But that’s not the issue.
Suppose as a comparison I got to meet President Barack Obama, and, instead of shaking his hand, thumbed my nose at him. I have that right. But should I do it?
No, because the issue is respect. Not standing up during the national anthem is disrespectful to America. Standing and even putting our hands over our hearts is a deeply embedded patriotic ritual by means of which we honor the founding ideals that still instruct us, a remarkable history that has worn down so much evil, our fellow countrymen and the godly landscape around us.
Maybe you don’t like the music or the lyrics or Francis Scott Key, the writer of the lyrics. None of that excuses disrespect because the national anthem and the flag we look at are symbols of something greater than themselves.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color....There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, is quoted as having said in an interview.
Serious racial issues still linger in this country. But understand slavery was ended after a Civil War in which more Americans were killed than in any other war this country has ever fought. Understand the essentiality of basic American principles in a civil rights movement that helped end all kinds of evils. Understand we elected a black president who told Howard University students not so long ago how much better the world, America and race relations were since he graduated from college.
But President Obama is one of those who emphasized the non-issue that Kaepernick had the right to kneel during the national anthem. He has also spoken frequently about systemic racism in police forces. It’s a widespread, unfair impression rendering police work more difficult. Tuth is, police kill far more whites than blacks in shootings even though blacks commit more violent crime. Additionally, some of those policemen accused of misdeeds in the shootings were black. Of course, we should fix faults, but police are vital to our welfare and most deserve high regard.
Of course, whether one agrees with Kaepernick and Obama or not, most of us would concede some important matters are amiss in our country. It hardly follows that the country as a whole is amiss. It is the good of this country that enables us to address the wrongs we perceive, and my guess is more is accomplished when respect is at hand.
Incidentally, I recently read about Kaepernick’s wearing a T-shirt showing Malcolm X and Fidel Castro meeting in Cuba. He ought to ask some Cuban political prisoners about rights and oppression.