Why These Soldiers and Veterans Are Standing (and Sitting) With Colin Kaepernick

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Answer by Jefferson Li, Military Reservist:

Because, believe it or not, many veterans and service members are smart. We read voraciously and try to understand the politics behind each conflict we are involved in: the why, the how, and ultimately, the "Why the heck are we here?" As such, we have a pretty solid understanding of the Constitution and what it implies, both the original as well as the amendments created and ratified over time. The first amendment is sacred because it is literally the first, as well as the basis of the founding of this country: representation. You know the whole "No taxation without representation" slogan and movement? One of the primary grievances we had that led to the War of Independence? To have your (and others', even if conflicting) voice and opinion heard is vital for improvement in all matters, whether political or personal. Albeit, some opinions are brighter than others, but nonetheless, all opinions matter. However, just because all opinions matter, not all opinions matter equally. You wouldn't take the town drunk's opinion on how to perform a brain stem surgery (nor should you take mine, because I don't even know if this is a feasible operation) compared to a neurosurgeon's, would you?

Because of the first amendment, we fully support his right to voice his discontent about the state of affairs in regards to policing in minority communities. It means there's room for improvement, at least from his point of view and those that agree with him.

As Churchill said, "To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often."

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Answer by Greg Dill, Air Force Vet who played semi-pro football for USAF:

Flags are inanimate objects with no feelings. Flags in and of themselves cannot be disrespected. It is only people who can be disrespected, and that is a choice of each individual as to whether or not he/she feels disrespected depending on their level of attachment to that object.

There are certainly many people in America who feel disrespected by Mr. Kaepernick's recent actions, but there are just as many who don't and I'm one of them. As a military veteran who served ten years in the Armed Forces, I proudly sit with Mr. Kaepernick who is merely exercising his right to free speech and peaceful protest. Protests are not always meant to be pretty or agreeable.

I agree with Mr. Kaepernick that our country has fallen behind in dealing with racial inequality and police brutality; more must be done. I will also add to Mr. Kaepernick's reasons for sitting because I believe there is a connection. More must be significantly done to deal with the unmitigated sales and distribution of guns in this country, which results in high numbers of violence and deaths in America.

Not only is gun violence perpetuated by criminals, but it's now committed by "good guys" with guns, including some of our own police forces. I too refuse to stand, salute, and honor a symbol (the flag) that no longer symbolizes what our founding forefathers originally created and intended, in that, all men are created equal and should be treated as such.

All people should be free, void of tyranny and oppression, and not bothered by police that tend to single out certain people simply because of the color of their skin, with incidents that often end with violence or even death. A person should be free from the fear of oppression or tyranny, of being shot in a movie theater, a school, a church, a restaurant, or even in their own car.

I'm saddened to say that this is not America "the land of the free". It is has become America the land of fear, hostility, racism, and violence. I will gladly sit with anyone who will do the American thing, the right thing, by helping to bring change to that. It is only through peaceful revolution, peaceful protest, and peaceful change that this can happen. And so I sit with Colin Kaepernick and others like him.

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Answer by James Beck, Ph.D:

I may as well be upfront; I did my time in the Army, but I don't mind Kaepernick's stance in general. I don't recite the pledge of allegiance. I will sing the national anthem, but I don't especially care for it. I would prefer if we chose something else. I wouldn't object to replacing the flag, either. US history has too many dog-whistles. The flag, pledge, and anthem rank high among them. They come with a lot of baggage, not least of which is the notion that 'freedom' means freedom to deny others their rights to equality and due process. To Kaepernick, standing with them is the same as standing for them.

Trump, twice prosecuted for red-lining, is one of them. By my lights, he appears to believe that he should be able to do what he wants, when he wants, to whomever he wants. I find him repellent and grossly disrespectful. Not just to the Constitution, which is bad enough, but to work.

As we approach Labor Day, it might be worth remembering that America has a long tradition of respect for work. Trump seems to have little respect for women, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Muslims, among others, but work itself? That's another matter entirely. Hiring illegal workers and then refusing to pay them is not just hypocritical, it's theft.

Who really cares what a known bigot, thief, and liar thinks about the flag? It's almost a shame that anyone who has stained it so much should get an opinion.

I'm happy to side with Kaepernick. He might be wrong, but at least he has a notion that there's a difference between right and wrong. He may change his mind later, but Trump's stripes are probably forever.

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