Let’s get something straight up front. I am a military veteran, a former Air Force officer. I volunteered for service through the ROTC program during the Vietnam War, but my concerns about showing proper respect for the American flag, and the country it represents, goes back much further than that, even to my elementary school days. (Please read the blog article I last republished in connection with the 4th of July holiday back in 2015 – We No Longer Show Proper Respect the American Flag – to get the proper context for my following remarks.) My concerns about the casual manner in which Americans today treat the American flag, such as using it a decoration, has bothered me for a long time.
I will even admit that I got a bit upset sometime ago when some ultra liberals supporting Bernie Sanders on a Democratic website bragged about sitting down while the national anthem is played. It seemed that they were protesting our country in general and I just couldn’t wrap my head around that concept. One woman posted that she had not stood for the national anthem since George W. Bush made her angry. Wow, she was still protesting W? That was beyond my comprehension and I reacted accordingly.
When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the anthem I remember thinking that I understood and even supported his protest, but wished that he could have found a more appropriate way to express himself. I have since changed my mind. It was undoubtedly a very courageous thing that he did and he has certainly since paid a price for doing it. However, sometimes to get the attention of far too many Americans you have to hit them between the eyes with a two by four. Colin certainly got everyone’s attention, even if some of them never bothered to find out what he was protesting.
However, it took the President of the United States calling those NFL players who took up Kaepernick’s cause “SOB’s” who should be fired for their protest to bring out the anger in me. This isn’t about the flag or the anthem. This isn’t about patriotism. What a loathsome human being he is to use his high office to encourage cultural and race divisions in this country purely for his political advantage and to deflect attention away from his failing presidency. He has no real legislative accomplishments, the repeal and replace legislation is failing yet again, his idiotic blustering has lead us closer to war in Korea, and people are dying in Puerto Rico for lack of food, water and fuel for hospital generators, and this is where he puts his attention?! What a scumbag!
I am proud of the NFL – their players black and white, their coaches, and their owners – who came together in defiance of Trump to support their protesting teammates and players. Even Tom Brady, Trump’s buddy, rebuked Trump saying his remarks were “divisive”. The history of black athletes leading cultural progress is long and proud, from Moses Fleetwood Walker, through Jackie Robinson, Mohammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and now Colin Kaepernick. Black athletes have a special platform to speak to white society. Here in Alabama, black football players on the Alabama and Auburn squads are idolized and regarded as heroes, even by white red neck fans. However, to use that platform to push for social change takes real courage and often comes with a high personal price.
Now the question is how can I support the NFL’s player’s protests and their defiance of Trump’s attempts to set us at odds with one another? No, I am not going to sit or kneel during the national anthem. I just can’t do that. My normal response when the music starts is to come to attention, face the flag, put my right hand over my heart and try to keep from tearing up. There are just some things that I can’t ask myself to do. However, I have toyed with the idea of in addition raising my left arm and making a fist – the black power salute – during the anthem. Now that would get the attention of my conservative friends in Birmingham. However, I’m still open to suggestions.