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I Was Wrong…Again!

October 6, 2017

There have been times in my life when I’ve felt strongly about something and just knew that those feelings were supported by facts; but then…
I’m not exactly sure when Colin Kaepernick first ‘took a knee’ during the playing of the Nkaepernick-colin040116-getty-ftrjpg_uud2ztbqm3ni1fqoqvm69pcsdational Anthem, but my reaction was rather visceral (especially when others began to emulate this behavior).  It seemed to go against all that I’d ever learned or known and I felt was disrespectful of our nation’s flag and those who have died to protect us.  That we do have problems still in this nation between ethnicities is all too true.  We have made great strides in establishing a more level playing field for employment and housing, but there is much more that needs doing.

Mr. Kaepernick felt this strongly and struggled with how to express his concern.  The average person can just yell, protest or even post to Facebook (enough surely do that, regardless of the veracity of their claims), but those protestations are usually lost in the din of life every day.  As a second-string quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, he perhaps had a wider audience than most.  He spoke with other players, including a veteran, and decided that ‘taking a knee’ during the playing of the National Anthem was a way to garner the most attention to his concern.  Unfortunately, in the furor following this, his remarks as a way of explanation were mostly ignored.  His previous work in the community to better the plight of the disadvantaged was overlooked as well as his continuing efforts on their behalf off the field.

In the weeks and months since that first time, others have ‘taken a knee, ’ and the NFL has taken a huge hit in its’ revenues as well as having some long-time advertisers back away from their commitments.  It seems that in all the furor and vitriol, we have lost sight of what the original concern was; it has become (to many) an issue of patriotism and disrespecting law enforcement. But is it?
A vast majority of law enforcement are worthy of the badge and responsibility they carry (witness the recent mayhem in Las Vegas where only Veterans and police were running to the gunfire to save lives); sadly, there are many within both the military and law enforcement community who are not so honorable.  The very real fear that any black person may feel, especially at night, when pulled over by the police we cannot ignore.  It seems what is lacking in our sound-bite centered news cycled world is empathy.  Can we not at least try to put ourselves in their place?  Is it beyond the realm of possibility to recognize that this is an issue that must be addressed?

Let me be clear; I hate that this has become a shouting match between two ‘sides’ when we are all Americans.  Our country was founded by disparate groups, speaking different languages, with different cultures, but they TOGETHER forged a new nation dedicated to the fact that ALL men are indeed created equal.  After serving in the Navy during the Vietnam era and having my uniform spat on by those who saw it as a symbol of evil I am very much offended by anyone who does disrespect our flag or those serving to keep us free.  It angers me (as Mr. Kaepernick’s protest), and most of the time I refuse to even listen to the reasons why someone would do this.  What is equally true, however, is that those doing so are exercising their First Amendment rights.  If we prohibit such, what other ‘free speech’ is next?

Colin Kaepernick’s action had consequences that he probably did not foresee.  Could he have done this in a better manner or forum?  I don’t know; I’ve never yet met the man and can only go on what I’ve uncovered regarding his motivations for doing so.  In that research, by no means comprehensive, he has my respect for using the forum he did to garner attention to those who have no voice.  I wish there had been a better way that was not so controversial, but then the Boston Tea Party must have caused a stir when the patriots of long ago carried it out.

​Those who have jumped on this particular bandwagon may have done so out of good motives; again, not having spoken with them or known any of them, I cannot and will not condemn them outright.  As a citizen of this country and Veteran of military service, I love this nation and all it stands for (that is all it can and should stand for).  My hope as a citizen of America is that we can get past the vitriol and LISTEN to each other.  This nation is more divided now than any other time since the Civil War; as one lady in our community group at The Bridge Church ILM put it, “We need to be kind to people.”  As a citizen of God’s kingdom, that is something that resonates deeply within me; we need to be kind to each other.

I am and will always be a patriot and proud of being an American, but this does not mean that I have overlooked those things in this country that need changing. We can be one nation undivided, but it will take work and, as my old friend James put it so succinctly, “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19 ESV)

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