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Kaepernick’s Folly

America (the United States) is, generally, a very patriotic country. We don’t have very many symbols. We have a flag. We have a national anthem. We have a constitution, a declaration of independence, and a few other important symbols. Generally, we tend to be pretty proud of those symbols, as they represent something pretty special. It causes a lot of offense when someone deliberately tramples on them.

Our Independence Day is coming up this Sunday. It is a time of fireworks, picnics, and reflection on the things that make this country great. So, with that, and also with that woman who thinks she is smarter than she is who turned her back on the flag, I thought this would be a good time to tackle this topic. I know most of my readers are overseas, so for y’all, just take it as an opportunity to learn a bit about us and our culture. You can easily get a counterpoint if you want elsewhere.

I am not one for ceremony, and I realize that the symbols I mentioned are just that. We have a tradition of putting our hands over our hearts and standing for the national anthem. I don’t do that. We also have a tradition of, on occasion, reciting a pledge of allegiance. I don’t do that either. I consider them somewhat useless ceremonies. But not in a million years would I ever consider kneeling or turning my back for the national anthem, or ever desecrating or burning a flag. I recognize that our constitution gives people the right to if they choose, but to me, it’s not by any means an acceptable thing to do.

The fact is that this country has a very specific sense of unity. We are not a perfect country, and we have made many mistakes over the past two hundred and fifty or so years. There are some things in our past that we certainly should not be proud of. But the unique thing about our country is that its unity is not in any racial identity, as is the case with many middle eastern, Asian, or European countries. Its unity is not in any political identity, such as is the case with China or maybe Russia. Its unity is in the adherence to an ideal: that even though we are not and never have been perfect, that we will try our hardest to do right by our people and the world. And our national symbols represent that ideal.

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,” as the declaration of independence said. Yes, they said men. It took us a while to shake off some pretty toxic ideas. But I think even the founders would be okay with most of the progress we’ve made since their time. That is what they built, and what we’ve tried our hardest to build on.

So when you kneel, or turn your back on the flag, what you are really doing – maybe unintentionally, and maybe ignorantly, or maybe deliberately – are insulting the symbols that represent that which makes our country unique. This country isn’t perfect, as I’ve said several times. We miss the mark in many ways. But our flag, our anthem, and our constitution are some of the few things that bind us as a cohesive people. It’s all we have. If you disrespect those, if you turn your back on those, if you insult those, if you say “eff you” to the millions of truly well intentioned people who would absolutely get behind fixing any issues that prevent true equality (not equity, that’s whole other thing), then all you’re doing is dividing and destroying the country.

Generally, you have the right to. That is both one of the greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses of this country- that you can speak against it and everything it stands for with impunity. And I’ll defend your right to do it. While, t the same time, I’ll be wondering why, if you hate it here that much, you don’t just find somewhere else to go that’s more in line with your vision of how things should be.

Honestly, I suspect the answer is “there is no such place.” And perhaps that’s something you should consider before you set about opposing and trying to take down the things that actually make this country great.

You can kneel if you want. You can turn your back if you want. You can even burn flags if you want. But that’s where you lose me. Just because I’m uncomfortable with ceremony doesn’t mean I don’t stand behind our symbols and what they stand for. There’s plenty of room for you at the table, but it’s your choice whether to sit down at it. If you stand on the other side of the room complaining that you don’t get to eat, well, that’s on you.

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

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