Colin Kaepernick, and The True Greatness of America (or Lack Thereof)

Colin Kaepernick was roundly criticized by the usual suspects for sitting down during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the onset of a NFL preseason game. He doubled down on the action by explaining afterwards that he would not honor a country that allowed his people to be killed by police. He insinuated that America wasn’t great, and thus riled up a crowd of people who mostly support a candidate for President that claims just that, that America isn’t great and must be made so again.

The disconnect between those who want to “Make America great again” and those who believe the nation isn’t great but don’t have a trite slogan backing them up is what they believe makes a nation great. Critics of the embattled NFL quarterback think that things like songs and flags make nations great. How dare one criticize the flag; people died for it, but only white people and good little Negroes who signed up for the armed forces, or more specifically, were conscripted against their will and didn’t have the money or clout that someone like Muhammad Ali did to resist.

People like Kaepernick and others who desire the United States to become great know that it’s not glorified symbols that make a nation worth defending, but its people. Right now, the United States only cares for a certain percentage of its citizens. The elites in this country are waging war against poor people through withdrawal of full-time work, automating as many jobs as they can, and moving labor out of the country. Unsurprisingly, a disproportionate amount of People of Color are poor than their White brethren. The police and government aren’t making it easier on those oppressed peoples either. Black people are targets of police violence more disproportionately than White counterparts (although as Dylan Noble proved, White people feel the sting of extrajudicial actions too, but #AllLivesMatter was still nowhere to be seen protesting HIS death, much in the same way they were invisible wanting justice for Michael Brown and Sean Bell and Sandra Bland and the countless other Black lives who died). Donald Trump is building a campaign legislating against Mexican and Muslim peoples, while the Republican Party that falls over itself to dissociate itself from him gleefully attempts persecution of LGBTQ+ people.

How can a flag or a song mean anything if they don’t stand symbolically for all peoples within a nation? Why should Kaepernick stand for an anthem of a nation that has little regard for his brothers and sisters? IS it because he’s rich? On one hand, if he’s rich, then he’s the perfect guy to stand up for his less-than-lucrative brethren, because he has the real power. But is he really that rich compared to the owners who make billions off of him and his peers and brainwash the fans and genpop of the country that the players are the greedy ones? Either way, those criticizing him are wrong.

Anyone who lives in a given plot of land on this watery rock the human race calls home should want that piece of land to be great. Those criticisms should not be met with a call to leave, although I wouldn’t be too unhappy if Trump and all his supporters got on a boat and left tomorrow. If anything, Kaepernick’s protest should shine more light on America’s problems with inequality and violence. But much like Sandy Hook and the nation’s gun problems, if videotaped footage of police unlawfully killing black people won’t change opinions of some people, then nothing will.

And because of that, it’s going to be a long time before America can even sniff greatness again.