Colin Kaepernick Should Stand During the National Anthem, but We Need to Defend his Right Not To

Colin Kaepernick Should Stand During the National Anthem, but We Need to Defend his Right Not To

NOTE The following was published last year, at the beginning of the #takeaknee brouhaha.  I still feel the same about the flag, but there is much about my country of which I am not proud, not the least of which is an unrepentant, untruthful, uninformed president who stokes the fires beneath that which is most vile.

I am also deeply disturbed by the number of people who have tuned out reality and consider themselves “real” Americans simply for responding to slogans, jingoism and dangerous bravado. 

In the end, a song is just a song.  A flag is just a flag.  If you do not understand the values represented by those symbols, then you have no right to criticize those who choose to turn their backs on them.  So here it is, from August 30, 2016:

Friday was not the first time Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand during the singing of the national anthem and it may not be the last.  We can only trust that he takes sitting during the national anthem as seriously as do the rest of us when we stand for it.

For many people it’s a knee jerk issue, one that we react to automatically.  If we could look into a mirror and peer into our own souls though, some of us might see that it really is not quite that simple.

On Sunday I was part of group of motorcyclists greeting some World War II veterans at General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, WI.  They were returning from their Honor Flight and we escorted them to Stade’s Farm in McHenry, IL.


As we closed in on Stade’s Farm, the long driveway was lined on both sides with rippling American flags.  As many times as I have seen those flags rippling in so many different places, it never fails to choke me up.

For me, it’s pretty straightforward.  The flag represents the very best of America and all that it could be.  In recognizing the potential of America though, we have to recognize its failings.

There was a time in my life when I would have struck the match to light that flag on fire. For me, that time has passed.

Too many people have fought to defend that flag.  Too many people have bled to defend the principles underscored by that flag.  Too many people have died in defense of the country represented by that flag.  Too many veterans have been carried to their final resting place beneath the promise of that flag.

Too many.  For me.

That doesn’t mean that other people have to feel the same way, nor should they.  Americans are like snowflakes, each of us unique in our beliefs and our behaviors.

Colin Kaepernick will face the fallout from his actions, but we must consider his actions, as well.


Too many people believe that the symbol of the flag is more important than all that it represents.  Like freedom of expression, freedom to demand “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW,” just as it says above the portal to the Supreme Court of the United States is essential to our democracy

A Skokie couple I wrote about in a previous blog can’t understand why the responses out of Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD have to be so violent.  They’re the lucky ones, though.  They’ve never witnessed an unarmed brother, son or father shot to death for a misdemeanor.

Or for nothing at all.

Laquan McDonald was shot as he was walking away from the police and his body ripped apart by 16 bullets as he lay dying on a Chicago street.

Compared to that, kneeling during a song doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

I’m guessing that most Americans don’t know that the Star-Spangled Banner is composed of four verses.  The following comes at the end of the third verse:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It’s likely that Colin Kaepernick never heard the Star-Spangled Banner sung in its entirety.  He, too is probably unaware of the last three verses.  If you think about it, that’s probably a good thing.

For another perspective on this issue, please read Michael Helfand’s blog entitled America, Love It Or Leave It! 

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