Thursday, October 20, 2016

Taking a Knee: Saluting the American Soldier

Not too long ago, Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality agaisnt African Americans. He made this protest, which was an act in a larger movement called Black Lives Matter, because too often in America, Black Lives are treated as if they matter much less than white lives. And nothing demonstrates this better than America's bogus War on Drugs. But while his protest has been described as being disrespectful of American soldiers who died fighting to defend his freedom, in truth, it should properly be understood to be the very opposite of that. 

Kaepernick's justifiable protest about America's systemic racism that clearly illustrates just how much Black Lives matter less than white lives (which is why white people would never agree to trade places with black people in America), has been hijacked and re-framed as a slap in the face of soldiers who died fighting for freedom and justice in America's wars abroad. But by reframing Kaepernick's protest as an insult agaisnt dead American GIs, those who attack Kaepernick insult all those who died in the fight agaisnt racism, and for civil rights.

Kaepernick's detractors re-framed his protest of the national anthem as not only a slight toward dead American GIs who fought for his freedoms, but as a direct denigration of the very freedoms that allowed him to make such a protest in the first place, while collecting a paycheck of 19 million dollars a year just to play football.

The same people who claim to be the most upset with Kaepernick's protest, claim not to be upset about what he is protesting about (which they are less uncomfortable with, apparently), but about how he chose to protest (and this from many arch Conservatives who regularly accuse Liberals of being dominated by their emotions, ironically enough). They argue he has every "right" to protest the things he is unhappy about, of course, but that he should not protest the American flag by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

Despite the fact that plenty of football fans, and countless other sports fans around the country, regularly fail to stand for the flag during the playing of the national anthem,  it is Kaep's deliberate protest, they argue, that directly disrespects all those who died defending our flag, and preserving his freedom. That Kaep's detractors are directly disrespecting all those who are forced to suffer under the brutal inequalities that such systemic racism produce, is either overlooked, or is just considered less important.

It is irrelevant to such detractors, in other words, that Kaep's protest agaisnt police brutality and systemic racism in America, is simply a continuation of the very same fight that so many American GIs died fighting agaisnt in Europe. Both forms of racism, after all, were not only exercised through laws, but were equally defended in the name of patriotism.

The problem is that simply "believing" that America is free and equal, does not mean that America is either one, especially for large numbers of minorities who are disproportionately treated like their lives matter a whole lot less than the Brock Turners of the world.         

Indeed, a country is not free simply because it claims to send soldiers off to die for "freedom" on foreign soil.  It is free because people have the courage to stand up to oppression and injustice, both on battlefields abroad and on buses here at home. And all those who demand respect for the soldiers who were killed on the former, only disrespect all those who were murdered trying to desegregate the latter, even though all of them died fighting for the exact same thing.

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