People really?? I know I recently have been waxing on about the backsliding we have been going through the past few years regarding Social Justice and race relations. But after the firestorm over Colin Kaepernick’s protest at the playing of the National Anthem, I am shocked to once again hear: “America: Love it or Leave it!” Are you kidding me? I had a ’60s flashback! All of the sudden I was not a high school US History Teacher, but back in high school, as a student during the heyday of the Vietnam War. The protest that was a part of everyday life came back in a bad dream. Not the protests themselves, but the division that literally and figuratively tore the country in two. Back in the ’60s & early ’70s we were becoming (some say became) 2 countries. Sound familiar? Have we learned nothing from past mistakes. Do these self-proclaimed “Guardians of Patriotic Values” even understand the history of our country?
This country has always been about social protest against injustice. Anyone remember a meeting in Philadelphia around 1776? Our founding fathers, our greatest patriots, were, in reality, protesting the perceived social injustice and the curtailing of their rights imposed by their own government! Who can forget that little Tea Party or that incident on King Street in Boston! These were not just civil action protests, but violence against the ruling government.
Our founding fathers understood the importance, if not the necessity, of the right to protest. Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth; and I am sure…we both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our Constitution, not to cherish its exercise even where in opposition to ourselves.”
Jefferson was quite clear; difference of opinions, protest, is the only way to get to truth and the rights of all.
If people had not protested and voiced dissenting opinions, women may not yet be voting (or running this country) and schools may still be segregated. Urban factories would still be fire death traps, and etc., etc.
What many of these “patriots” fail to realize as they are shouting down the legitimate right to take a stand, is that the protesters are patriots. People who love this country are the ones who want to see the changes that will bring about the true American ideals of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” How can anyone feel this country is fulfilling its obligation to its citizens if we are not granting all rights to all people. And just as important, the right to voice an opinion that may or may not be the majority opinion. Those who love this country are those willing to stand up (or kneel down) to face oppression and face the consequences.
While discussing this the other day, a friend told me agreed with the reasons for the protest, but thought the way the NFL players were going about it was disrespectful. “Why do they have to be so public about it? Can’t they just donate money to a cause?” That is not the point. The high visibility of being in the NFL is exactly what makes the protest effective. Silently giving money may help, but who would know, and how does that promote the cause? If the players held a press conference to announce their contribution, they may be seen as self-serving. It’s because Kaepernick and the others want this country to be the best version of America that it can be, that they take advantage of the stage they have. I have had friends and students tell me they think the protest is disrespectful to the National Anthem. My response is this: “The protest is not disrespecting the flag, the anthem, or the country. It is the American value of allowing your voice to be heard.” To me the real disrespect comes from the television networks who broadcast the games. Except when it’s a playoff or Super Bowl and a superstar is performing, when do they even broadcast the anthem? The answer is they don’t. Why? Because they can sell the time for big buck commercials. That to me is disrespectful! They only are showing the anthem now because it’s way to boost ratings.
Protest does not work in a vacuum or hidden in a closet. The protest in the ’60s was championed by the slogan, ” The whole world is watching!” That’s the point: To inform the public, to make others aware! If we silence other voices, we are doing all a disservice. If we are apathetic to the events around us, if we say nothing, we are stifling protest, we perpetuating the wrongs
Those who protest are doing their patriotic duty. Everyone has the right to disagree with them; you have the freedom to disagree with the protest, but you MUST allow them the right and privilege to voice their feelings and use the tools they have to make their case. Just like the anti-war movement of the past, the protesters are not out to destroy the country they love, but to ensure America live up to its promises to all its citizens. The people who protest are attempting to hold America accountable for its actions, and to uphold its founding ideals. Those who protest are patriotic, as are those who serve to defend these rights. On this we are all on the same side. We can agree to disagree, but we must allow all sides to be heard and to use the tradition of America to protest.