|Words and photo by F LoBuono|
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
This is what San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick told an NFL Media crew in a post-game interview as his reason for not standing with his teammates for the playing of the traditional pre-game National Anthem.
The public outcry in its aftermath has been swift, visceral, and, mostly vicious. His action has caused a firestorm, literally, as thousands have set his team jersey to the torch. Most people are incensed by their perception of the hypocrisy of a million dollar athlete who has reaped the riches of American culture while condemning it at the same time.
They have a point.
But, I would like to take this conversation in a different direction.
There is not only hypocrisy in such an endeavor, there is irony, as well. Like burning the Flag or any other desecration of it, not standing for our National Anthem brings out the very paradox of what it means to be an American. We prize freedom above all else. Time and again we have proven our metal by our willingness to die for it as a concept. We are willing to fight to keep that freedom. And, the Flag and Anthem represent that concept AND sacrifice. Now, here's the irony: The very ideal for which billions have given all, protects the freedom of his RIGHT to act his conscience. We, as a free society, don't get to choose someone else's sense of duty. Yes, even if that means the perception to millions of being an arrogant asshole. THIS is the irony and the CHALLANGE of American Democracy. It has always been there and always will be.
We, as a society, also have a right to our expression. If the people are outraged, then so be it. And, Mr. Kaepernick will have to understand that part of being in a democracy is acceptance of the responsibility for one's actions. Let's see if he will reap the whirl wind.
In the meantime, call him a fool, or selfish, or a hypocrite. But, also acknowledge the irony of his actions; they are not un-American. In fact, in many ways, they were ultra-American. It's what the sacrifice is all about. Those who know, know.