First Word: Taking a stand so that others can kneel

Taylor J. Baker, Contributing Writer

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The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown” – 4 U.S. Code § 8 (i)

This is merely one small section of the United States flag code, the code that dictates what is and what is not “disrespectful” to the flag of the United States of America. The red, white, and blue napkins you bought for the Fourth of July are disrespectful to the flag. Your stars and stripes “I Love America” t-shirt is disrespectful to the flag.

Using the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the backdrop for your political commercial is disrespectful to the flag. The flag you currently have tapestried across your ceiling, the Old Glory embroidered on your hat, the Bank of America logo on your debit card. All of these are, in accordance with Title 4 Section 8 of United States Code, disrespectful to the flag.

What Title 4 Section 8 of the United States Code, entitled “Respect for Flag,” makes no mention of is the act of taking a knee. Kneeling down, quietly, respectfully. With a dignified stance and a composed but solemn expression. Not as a show of support to America’s enemies or as an attack on the military, but because, as Colin Kaepernick told the NFL: “This is bigger than football… there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” (Wyche, 2016)

No one can force you to support the Black Lives Matter movement. No one can force you to agree with Colin’s action or his motives behind them. The United States’ commitment to freedom of speech is world-renowned, and you have every right to be as upset with Kaepernick as he is with America. The purpose of this article is to convince you that your anger is misplaced, not that you can’t be upset, but that you shouldn’t be.  

It is infuriating that in 2015, an average of 20.6 active-duty service members and veterans chose death by suicide each day (VA National Suicide Data Report). It is enraging that the number of homeless veterans in the United States increased in 2017, for the first time in 7 years. (Shane, 2017).

No one would blame you for being angry at the Wounded Warrior Project, who fired their CEO and COO in 2016 are finding that only 50-60% of donations actually reached veterans (Reid, 2016). All of these are issues that directly affect the lives of our servicemen. These are the issues that need national coverage, national anger, and national action.

Colin Kaepernick taking a knee because he cares about discrimination is not an issue deserving of anger. A youth football team in Texas should not be receiving death threats for kneeling in solidarity. Colin Kaepernick should not be receiving death threats for taking a stand when Terence Crutcher is shot unarmed in Oklahoma.

Players shouldn’t be mocked, insulted, or belittled for taking a knee when protesting the shooting of a church drummer, a child with a BB gun, or an unarmed autistic counsellor. You may disagree that there is a growing trend of brutality, you can dismiss Kaepernick’s words as divisive, and you may personally feel that kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful.

But being angry is wasted energy, and there is no point in hating him with the passion currently being seen across America.

How can you decry Colin Kaepernick as disrespectful to veterans, scream at him, ruin his career, boycott the NFL and insult him on the news and social media, only to have veteran homelessness rise the following year, unnoticed?

Colin Kaepernick isn’t the reason 21 veterans and servicemen end their lives every day. Colin Kaepernick is not the reason we have more empty houses than homeless people. Colin Kaepernick is not the reason we have troops deployed in 134 countries. Colin Kaepernick is only taking a stand against the oppression he sees in America, and inspiring others to take that same stand by taking a knee.

 If you see Colin Kaepernick speaking on the news, or others following in his footsteps, do not get angry. Do not angrily dismiss their point of view and bitterly declare that America is perfect for everybody, and that Kaepernick is only insulting the men and women who made it so.

Do not deem protestors as insolent traitors, or privileged, or “divisive.” Listen to what Colin and the others have to say, and know that loving your country and protesting what it does are not mutually exclusive actions.

Colin Kaepernick was the most hated football player in 2016. The most hated player in a league that has an arrest every 7 days, on average. The most hated player in a league that has Joe Mixon, who plead guilty to a misdemeanor assault after breaking the bones in a woman’s face.

The most hated player in a league that from 2015-2017 had 16 arrests for domestic violence and 14 for assault. Kaepernick was voted most hated player in 2016, the year he pledged to donate one million dollars to charities across the country. He is still hated in 2018, the year he fulfilled that pledge. (Willingham, 2018).

When you want to chastise Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem, remember that protests are not meant to be pleasant. They are meant to be provoking. When you want to call Colin a traitor for being disrespectful to the flag and our nation’s veterans, remember the massive amounts of disrespect we all give them by being complacent in their plight against mental illness and homelessness.

When you want to hate him, remember that he is a human being and he wants our country to thrive just as much as the rest of us.

Taylor is pursuing a Political Science major, interns as a political canvasser and is the elected President of the Bloomsburg University College Democrats.