I cannot understand the anger being directed at Colin Kaepernick and his decision not to stand during the national anthem at a football game. Why the anger? Why the vehemence? Why the assumption that it is an affront to the men and women of the armed services? I don’t get the logic that equates a personal protest at a football game with treason.
What do we honor when we stand for the flag? We honor the men and women and their families who sacrifice in the service of our country. Yes, of course. But is that really the only thing? Certainly not. Military might isn’t the only thing our country has going for it, and it isn’t the only thing our flag represents. It also represents our freedoms, and our liberty. Our rights. And our continuing fight for justice. And the brave men and women of our armed forces who have fought foreign oppression aren’t the only people who have fought and died for those things.
How about the hundreds of thousands who fought on American soil 150 years ago to end the scourge of slavery. Don’t we honor them? How about Ruby Bridges, a little girl who bravely went to school in New Orleans in spite of threats and hatred to begin the long slow process of desegregating our schools and our communities. Or a woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus. And the thousands of people who marched in the streets to bring civil rights to all Americans.
Our flag also represents other struggles and other victories. It represents people who marched at Skokie, and at Stonewall. It represents people who marched and fought and struggled in order to bring the vote to women, and about all the millions of people who fulfill their promise every election and cast their vote at the polls, sometimes waiting in long lines, sometimes against threats of violence.
And we stand to honor the flag because we are moved to stand. We aren’t forced to stand. We don’t live in a country where we are required to stand. We aren’t required to take an oath, or recite a pledge. We are free to do so. And sometimes our freedom moves us not to stand, because we feel that the time has come for certain injustices be addressed. And that is our right. Specifically because we have the freedom to honor our flag as we feel is appropriate.
Our flag stands for different things to different people, and different things at different times. And sometimes it stands for many things at the same time. And we can honor all of those things, and continue to fight for all of those things, and for the promise of all of it, for everyone. For the promise of liberty and justice for all.