Taking a Knee

I enlisted in the United States Army a few months after I graduated high School. I served for three years on active duty and several more years in the Massachusetts Army National Guard. I did not serve in combat or even get deployed overseas in the fight against terrorism. I did what my father did and his father before him, I enlisted to serve my country. Make no mistake I love America and the freedom that we enjoy here, and that I what helped to protect. On the day of my enlistment, and each time I reenlisted after that, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.

One of the main points of the Constitution is the idea of individual freedom. So important was this idea that it's enshrined in the very first amendment, the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and the freedom of religion. Freedom is a complex philosophy because sometimes we do not always agree with that freedom but we have to support it, and that is what we are now seeing with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem.

Kaepernick has, on many occasions, explained that he is doing this to protest the way black people are being treated in America. White America does not like to talk about how black Americans are treated. I was once told that black people need to just get over all of that slavery business. I responded by saying that the statement just made was the exact definition of privilege and that we "white folk" had no idea the amount of oppression the black Americans have to contend with on a daily basis.

Some of stated that Kaepernick is choosing the wrong way to protest and that may be but it is the way he has chosen, and it has taken root and is getting larger and larger each week. There have been calls for Kaepernick to be banned from the NFL and there have been incidents of his jersey being burned. There have even been calls for him to be deported. Not exactly sure how a person born in America can be deported or where they would go, but this attitude is just one example of how high tensions have risen around the issue of racism in America.

The very idea of America was born out of protest, and not everyone living here at the time agreed with the way the protest was being carried out. Americans have fought wars not only here on American soil, but we have sent our military, some of them friends of mine, to other countries to secure basic human rights, some of those rights are being denied to citizens right here in America.

My primary concern in all of this is the perceived fact that the symbol is more important than the people it symbolizes. I respect the flag of my country, and I fly one in my front yard, but if all of the flags were to disappear tomorrow, America would still continue. If the Declaration of Independence enshrined in Washington, DC was to be stolen and burned; America would still continue. America is much more than a flag and far more than the words of any song could possibly hope to contain.

To quote from one of my favorite movies, The American President, "America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight." You and I may disagree with the style of protest, but I hope we can agree that we all have the right to protest that is what I fought for and what I will continue to fight for.

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