Colin Kaepernick set the internet ablaze with his stance, or kneel, against the national anthem at a pre-season football game last month. Since his lone act, others have joined in the viral protest, from an entire NFL team to high school football players. Kaepernick has now taken to kneeling during the national anthem for the foreseeable future, and it’s driving continued debate over the role of nationalistic rituals in American society.
Kaepernick is carrying out this protest because, as he said:
“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”
In particular, his national anthem protest is focused on shedding light on the epidemic of police killings in the United States and the lack of justice for victims, who are often unarmed and innocent.
“Patriotic” critics of Kaepernick’s cause typically argue the emotionally-driven point that people should blindly support American nationalism regardless of the egregious acts carried out under the banner of the American flag. Over 1,000 police killings per year should be ignored, they say — don’t judge all cops over a few bad apples. Kaepernick is disrespecting the troops who died for his freedom to, apparently, be forced to stand for the National Anthem(!?)
The problem with this narrative is that many military veterans have sided with Kaepernick, not the blind keyboard “patriots.”
You see, the entire point of freedom is that you are free to do or say things that may be unpopular or uncomfortable, or even offensive. You can criticize the government when you feel it’s doing something wrong, and that’s the message Jesse Ventura has for America.