Seriously. How many people actually think “taking a knee” disrespects the military or the American flag? And, Crom knows, why? The flag isn’t a rule book; it stands for the values that have made this nation great. You know, values such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, the right to own guns, freedom not to be forced to house soldiers, the right to be secure in “persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures…” And that’s just the first four amendments to the United States Constitution. They were passed in 1791.
Here’s an absolute fact: no matter who or what granted you any freedom(s), you do not possess those freedoms until you have successfully exercised those freedoms. For example, just try to buy a new car in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin on any Sunday. It’s illegal. It can’t be done. Even for those with a rudimentary understanding of the American language, blue laws are antithetical to the United States Constitution. I should have the same right to buy a car from any open dealership on a Sunday as the next person has on a Saturday. Stop ramming your religious ideals down my throat; they are yours and not constitutionally mine.
Which brings us to Colin Kaepernick.
Mr. Kaepernick decided to protest the long-standing tradition of American police shooting unarmed black folks. Yes, yes, I know: there’s a mandatory rule that states one must append the phrase “only a few bad apples; most cops are choir boys.” To this, I say bullshit.
Most cops never rat out those bad apples unless it’s their ox that’s being gored. As such, they are complicit in the act of murder, making them accessories after the fact. The police, and probably only the police, can stop this sort of violence, which is a tradition that dates back to before the founding of this nation. “But,” you might say if you’re a cop, “these guys have my back – I don’t want them to balk at saving my life.” I understand that. I appreciate that. But, hey, you know, we’re talking about fucking murder here.
So Mr. Kaepernick decided to “take a knee” during the onset of his work day – he’s a football player, so that means when the game starts. Sadly, many Americans conflate football with the American flag. I’ve never understood that. What if Mr. Kaepernick had been a musician who decided to take a knee before each Grateful Dead concert?
His act caught on anyway. And the man who, as of this writing, fraudulently occupies the White House has not stopped calling Mr. Kaepernick and his ilk traitors.
You know, like Muhammad Ali, who protested the Vietnam war on April 28, 1967 by refusing induction into the United States Army. His license to work in his chosen profession was suspended, and his title was stripped. Ali could not obtain a boxing license in the U.S. for the next three years. Oh, did I mention at the time he was heavyweight champion of the world?
Times change. Thirty years later Ali was given the distinct honor of lighting the Olympic Torch at the Atlanta summer games. In return, he was showered with praise, admiration and respect.
This month, Nike, the people who make really expensive yet extremely popular gym shoes, started a new ad campaign. Prominent in that campaign is a close-up of Colin Kaepernick’s face with this legend overprinted: Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. The reaction was as instantaneous as it was predictable: the great American right-wing and the great American bigots went apeshit. Amusingly, some of them set fire to their own Nikes. Amusingly, some of these fools didn’t realize Nike already had their money.
Nike put its profits where their corporate mouth is. Kudos to them.
Times change, but I’m not as sanguine about the end to police killing unarmed black people within my lifetime… or yours. And before too long, Colin Kaepernick is going to need some help getting off his knee. Time change, and we all age. Trust me, the knees are among the first to go.
I have a list of my personal heroes; I suspect most of us has such a list somewhere in our brainpans. Muhammad Ali is quite high on my list.
And, now, so is Colin Kaepernick.