The Kaepernick Mirror

The Colin Kaepernick / National Anthem story is dying down a bit since it’s a week old and the media’s attention span isn’t that long anymore but, personally, I think now is the best time to actually use the situation and see if we stand up to the scrutiny we are giving Kaepernick for sitting down.

  1. An Empty Gesture towards an Empty Gesture
    My first reaction to the news of Kaepernick’s refusal to stand was that it was an empty gesture. But let’s be honest, at this point, standing for the National Anthem is a fairly empty gesture as well. How many people who bashed Kaep for sitting and claim he was insulting veterans actually go out and do something to help veterans? For what percentage of people is standing for the Star Spangled Banner the most time or effort they’ve spent all week honoring their country or improving their community? 
    The internet and modern journalism have helped create a world in which vitriolic reactions and judgements are immediate and unceasing while actually going out and doing something to help is swept aside in favor of empty diversions and distractions. And I’m confident enough to say this because I’m guilty enough to realize I need to make a change. If I took all the hours I spent just on message boards and and instead used them to support a charity or work at a homeless shelter, the world would be better off. And so would I. 
    (Related Note: For starters, I am pledging that from now on, each month I’ll tally every dollar spent on booze, fantasy football, and other vices and give a matching amount of money to charity.)
    The cynic in me wishes a Veterans’ group would come out and say, “Yeah, what Kaep is doing is rude but it’s not like the rest of you standing are doing anything but getting off your duffs for a few minutes before a game.” 
    Of course, I don’t imagine the media will ever get into this. The situation has become, as expected, all about whether people should stand for the Anthem or if sitting and protesting is a right we should respect. We’ve got Veterans struggling to get health and mental care, out-of-control violence in Chicago, an all-too-often fatal disconnect between the police and people they are supposedly serving and protecting, and countless other issues but, seriously, let’s ignore why Kaep is sitting and just talk about his physically whereabouts and posture during the National Anthem. (And don’t get me started about the nonsense that Gabby Douglas had to deal with. That was just ridiculous on a whole ‘nother level.)
  2. Disagreeing While Saying the Same Thing
    It’s now been pointed out ad nauseum but one of the craziest parts of the backlash is that it’s led by people who avidly support a candidate who spends most of his time saying American isn’t great anymore (and also has insulted the military on a few occasions.) 
    The one good thing about having two lousy candidates for President is that, after the election, there might be a chance that we’ll have a more proactive citizenry since NOBODY trusts either candidate to do what they say they will. Everyone will have to be on point to make sure the new President lives up to their standards. (Side note: Citizenry? Not sure that I used that correctly but I’m going with it.)
    I mean, it won’t happen but it’s nice to think that there’s a chance. 
    The reaction to Kaepernick was just another example of how quickly we jump to defend one side of what everyone, upon a second’s thought, would agree is a multi-faceted issue. If Kaep doesn’t intend to insult veterans, he should stand for the National Anthem, if just because in some cases, the Anthem is stated as a moment to honor our military rather than honoring America as a whole. But how can so many people bash him for taking a stand that America has deep rooted issues when it seems like most everyone believes that America has some deep rooted issues that we need to fix?
    What if Tim Tebow said he was sitting for the Star Spangled Banner because he couldn’t honor a country that allowed abortion and what pro-lifers see as the slaughter of millions of innocent children? Texans threaten to secede over every law that they don’t like but still often consider themselves patriotic. The same people who claim Eric Garner was to blame for getting choked out over untaxed cigarettes rally around the Bundy family and Co. who are pointing weapons at Federal law enforcement. (And vice versa; despite how many liberals feel, conservatives clearly don’t have a monopoly on hypocrisy.)
  3. Optics
    Ultimately, the biggest issue with protests in the Occupy Era is optics. I really don’t think Colin thought about the various views that people have on the National Anthem and how he might be unintentionally insulting people he respects. Similarly, a bunch of people sitting around complaining that they don’t have jobs or can’t pay their college loans isn’t a good look. It plays into the hands of “Well, look at these lazy bums wanting a handout.” Hell, the amount of focus on simply the name “Black Lives Matter” would make me consider coming up with a new moniker. Obviously, you can’t please all the people all of the time but I feel like we spend so much time fighting over what are little more than superficial elements that we fail to fix the problems that we all agree need to be fixed.
    But mostly, I think we need to stop putting these efforts out as protest and start presenting them as proactive steps to make a positive change. And also, as much as protests crave national attention, the focus needs to be local. It’s more likely that small steps like getting pols like Angela Corey (the D.A. who botched the handling of Stand Your Ground in the Trayvon Martin & Marissa Alexander cases and had a penchant for charging minority kids as adults) out of office will get us to where we need to be rather than searching some one great leap forward.
    (ADDENDUM: In this crazy election year, how many athletes are using their wealth and status to help promote local candidates who echo their beliefs and who will be shaping the law and how the law is handled in their cities?)

8/2 EDIT: Kaep is putting his money where his mouth is and giving $1 million to community organizations. Apparently, Kaep has a history of donating to the community, which is something I wish was covered more in the stories surrounding him.