The meaning of patriotism evolves as our divided nation continues to quarrel about taking a knee.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gained widespread attention in the past year for kneeling during the national anthem prior to NFL games. His polarization spotlighted the ongoing racism in our country.
For instance, Donald Trump called Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” for taking a knee, yet he defended white nationalist protesters as “very fine people” following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In addition to the “son of a bitch” comment, Trump said that “players [should] stop disrespecting our Flag & Country” or risk getting the boot.
As a result, NFL players locked arms and kneeled during national anthems, which signified a big middle finger to an unfit president while siding with Kaepernick.
The peaceful gesture of taking a knee represents the suppressed truth of the American flag as a symbol that “oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick.
It was also in particular response to police brutality and the criminal justice system against African Americans in the United States. However, not everyone is positively moved by his influential gesture.
Naysayers believe that kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” is just a slap in the face to our military veterans, but they fail to recognize the bigger picture. Kneeling before the national anthem isn’t targeting the people who fought and died for our country, but rather the hypocrisy of patriotism.
“It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel,” said strong safety for the 49ers, Eric Reid. “It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”
Patriotism means devotion to one’s country, but it’s much more involved than its conservative, flag-waving point of view. Honoring our troops is one thing, but black homicides by racist white cops prevent me from being a proud American in every respect. U.S. Navy veteran Mohammed Jahanfar was burdened by Trump’s discriminatory travel ban earlier this year, which also stigmatizes the idea of unconditional patriotism. These and a myriad of other problems in our society make me a halfhearted patriot.
All in all, the prevalent oppression of people of color is embarrassing. They put to shame the customary concept of patriotism when you factor in these contemporary realities.
The national anthem is still relevant to honoring our soldiers and veterans, but that’s not what taking a knee represents. It’s about refusing to pledge allegiance to racial injustice and persecution of marginalized peoples. Think about the hate-filled rally in Charlottesville, Virginia the next time you decide to express your wholehearted loyalty to the U.S. Think about Eric Garner who repeated “I can’t breathe” as police choked him to death on a sidewalk. Until these enduring social issues come to an end, I can’t fully agree to be a proud American.