Thank You Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem is something with which I deeply disagree. Nevertheless, I am enormously grateful for it at the same time. What Colin Kaepernick is doing is quintessentially American. This amazing nation not only affords people this freedom but gives us the confidence to follow what we are convinced is true. This is what makes the United States of America the greatest nation on earth.
Monsieur l’abbé, je déteste ce que vous écrivez, mais je donnerai ma vie pour que vous puissiez continuer à écrire.
(I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your right to say it.) — Voltaire
There are two sides to this question.
1. Every nation has historical and present evils that are scandalous and infuriating. That so many African Americans both feel and are treated differently based on the color of their skin is disgusting and to the extent it is institutionalized structurally, our nation must move both culturally and legally for change. If someone experiences such bigotry and injustice personally and communally, why should we take away their voice or peaceful protest? Perhaps it is a prophetic act analogous to that of Shimei:
As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”
Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”
But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”
David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”
So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. (2 Samuel 16:5–13)
2. In protesting an evil present in society, even an “institutionalized” evil, the one protesting ought not fall into the error of equating an evil with the entirety of society or the entirety of a nation, its history, its present, its ideals, and its goodness. When one considers his own act “prophetic” he ought to make clear that he does not seek to dishonor the men and women who have laid down their lives for our freedom, including the freedom to protest.
In the end, Colin Kaepernick is exercising a freedom afforded him by this amazing nation. Although this situation is depressing on so many levels, it is also a testament and a witness to the incredible gift of the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of these United States of America.