Credit: Wisegeek

I’m in the middle of exploring a few new topics, but a few people reached out to me and asked what I think about this #TakeAKnee controversy.  So here it is.

Workplace protests are common, players have a right to protest, the league has a right to handle that however they want, people have a right to support or boycott, and the president is just stoking the fire – which is exactly what he’s been doing the entire time — running his mouth. 

What do I think about the merits of the protest? Not much – the guy who started this whole thing (Colin Kaepernick) is photographed wearing socks that depict cops as pigs and his girlfriend is about as fringe left as you can get. Couple that with the petulance of a second rate quarterback who was about to be fired anyway and the quality of the messenger just isn’t very good. As far as the message itself it’s in the forefront of most discussions around politics and there isn’t one family in this nation that hasn’t thought about this. The facts currently available regarding law enforcement and the use of force don’t point to the extremes that the likes of Colin Kaepernick are claiming. I am always happy to re-evaluate new data but that’s a topic of another discussion. (if you want me to flesh out that data I’d be happy to)

That being said —what in the world is so shocking about all of this? Trump is doing exactly what you would expect.  He doesn’t believe in protesting the anthem at all and thinks the NFL should crack down on that type of behavior – and surprise – he’s not alone.  In late 2016 when these protests started 72% of Americans viewed the protest as “unpatriotic.” (SOURCE) Trump then, of course, ratchets up the rhetoric calling for “those sons of bitches” to be fired (SOURCE). Support for him has gone down after this (SOURCE).  The fringe arguments are what stoke outrage — and the more outraged you become generally the less you see the truth. In this case the truth isn’t that outrageous – people disrespect the flag and the anthem – we’ve known this forever (think of every wartime protest). 

That’s typical Trump and I’m not outraged about it because he’s a known quantity and we knew what we were getting—but let’s be clear.  I criticized President Obama for getting involved in these kinds of issues and I am doing the same with Trump.  The President of the United States should serve to unify and lead – not to divide. Trump fails miserably with this role as did Obama. We are seeing what happens to a country when culture wars infect every part of society down to the recreational things that used to bring us together.  Just two years ago the NFL was running commercials about how football brings people together — I guess they’re changing their tune a bit. This is the effect of two presidents that have spewed divisive rhetoric about already charged topics with followers who would rather worship their hero than objectively evaluate an issue. 

So here comes the core of the issue — what do we share if not general respect for our country and the anthem? It’s obvious that we have stripped down every part of American society to look for faults and evidence that we believe supports our view (as if the problem is outside of us). Do we share free speech? The right to protest? Our view of American History? Respect for fallen men and women of the military?  Obviously none of these — we have people on both sides of the political spectrum that are actively seeking to shut down free speech. I would endeavor to show my leaning and say that most of them reside on the left – but let’s not forget the truly deplorable Nazi enthusiasts and people that want others to be fired for their personal beliefs – or somehow forced to stand for the anthem. Or the people that want to use force to shutdown any counter-protester. The pendulum swings both ways and destroys everything in its path – from the google employee fired for an incredibly reasonable (and I’d say accurate) white paper to the aggressive and often erroneous firing of people for protesting (either for or against) at a free speech rally. We’ve got incredibly different opinions on what free speech is (even though there is only one way to look at it) — so I argue that we no longer share that either.

So what do we share? If we can’t come together and agree that America is the world’s best nation that respects individual rights, human rights, and has lifted the world’s quality of life to a place greater than in all of human history then we don’t agree on anything.  I grant almost every premise that we have issues to work out in this country (and I’m often the one ranting about them) — but I don’t see them as linked to the ideas of the founding and what America stands for.  We stand for our ideals and principles espoused in the founding and we STRUGGLE for those every day. It doesn’t mean America is perfect as a nation or in action — but I argue that we are perfect in our ideals.

Every person is born with human rights that no government can take away – and inside these borders we fight for those rights any way we know how.  So protest, talk, argue, etc but DO NOT disrespect the core of this nation – the very principles that have afforded all of us this incredible land, lifestyle, safety, and inspired men and women to step up and put their lives on the line to defend these things. Do it at a press conference, do it before the game starts (like jerry jones and the cowboys), do it wherever the law or the organization you work for will allow —but not the anthem.

So I will be standing at attention with my hand over my heart every time I hear the anthem – not because we are perfect in action but because our nation is the best expression of what humanity has to offer — and people die to protect it. It’s an ongoing struggle to get better and that’s something we have been doing for over two centuries.  We share that.  We share the process of getting better together – and I am truly honored to be a part of it. I wish more people would agree, but they have a right not to and I wouldn’t want it any other way.