I am proud to say that I have had grandpas, uncles, cousins, and a father in-law who all served in various branches of the United States military in WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Middle East. I believe this is important to note as I write what follows.
Colin Kaepernick, a popular NFL player, has made the news recently regarding his choice to remain seated during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner as a way of protesting the oppression of minorities within our country. The very reason my family members were willing to sacrifice so much was, in fact, for the very freedom that gives every individual the right to free speech, even if that means remaining seated during the playing of the national anthem. That is what freedom looks like and sometimes it doesn’t look like we think it should.
Kaepernick is using his influence to express his opinions and beliefs, as my family fought for the right for him to do so. My family did not fight for a flag, they fought for what the flag represents, freedom. Our flag is a symbol of the freedoms we enjoy (and often take for granted) here in the U.S., it is not freedom itself. Standing during the national anthem does not necessarily make one patriotic. Just as wearing a cross around one’s neck does not necessarily make one a follower of Christ.
With all that being said, if we make this a conversation about disrespecting a symbol as opposed to the very real struggle that many individuals have of pursing life, liberty, and happiness because of the color of their skin, it is then I believe we have disrespected the sacrifice and service of my family members. They fought for EVERY PERSON IN THE U.S. to live in peace and safety. We’re not there yet and one of the main reasons for this is the issue of racism. Kaepernick is making a statement about this issue and hoping to force the conversation regarding freedom and racism in the U.S, if we simply sweep this under the flag, we become part of the problem.