First, he sat. Then, he kneeled. Now, we talk.
That’s why Colin Kaepernick took the action he did during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. In declining to participate, Kaepernick intended to ignite a conversation and understanding of the oppression of black people and others of color, specifically as it relates to police violence.
Yet, in recent days, our nation’s political discourse has strayed from this simple truth.
Following the off-the-cuff comments made by President Donald Trump in Alabama last week, Americans have been divided on the issue. While in arduous defense of their position however, few seem to be discussing what Kaepernick’s original intent was.
Yet, here we are discussing, debating, thinking, and reflecting. Or possibly more significantly, challenging one another. So, at the end of the day, Kaepernick succeeded.
Solving difficult issues takes time. But does that mean they’re not worthy of our best effort?
Of course not. These conversations are uncomfortable, trying and even painful. But they’re necessary. This is a country deserving of great debate. The very thing Kaepernick wanted.
But as the debate unfolds, it appears we’ve begun examining the meaning of patriotism. Something, as it turns out, has a bit of an elusive definition.
On one hand, you have those offended by the actions of Kaepernick, while on the other, you have those inspired. So, why is that?
To some, the flag itself is a symbol of patriotism. For them, standing for the national anthem is a must. It honors those who have served our nation and even fought and died on its behalf.
But, to others, it represents, at least in part, oppression and subjugation that they feel has placed limitations on their lives and those of their families for generations.
And to others – it may even be both. But on each side, emerges a desire to love, to serve and to improve our nation.
Former senatorial candidate and Army Captain Jason Kander took to Twitter to share this thought provoking perspective, “Patriotism isn’t about making everyone stand and salute the flag. Patriotism is about making this a country where everyone wants to.”
Which brings us back to the question, why did Kaepernick not stand during the anthem?
Offending those who have served, fought or died for our country was not his intent, which lead him to kneel after originally sitting. He wanted to spark a national conversation and use his unique platform to do so, without violence, which is right.
This issue has tested us, but it’s not the first time. The American response has always been to grow, to overcome, and to triumph as a nation. Surely, we can do it again.
Peaceful protest isn’t partisan. It’s patriotic.