Stand Up For Your Rights

     San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has decided to express his freedom of choice by refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem in protest of perceived injustices against African Americans and minorities in the United States. Kaepernick feels he can’t show support for a country that oppresses its citizens. But as a form of protest, his actions backfire and send the wrong message. Especially when photos of veterans in wheelchairs are shown lifting themselves on their arms to rise up any way they can to show respect for this country even after everything they sacrificed.

     The protests are catching on with other sports teams, some inventing their own forms of protest such as raised fists or interlocked arms. All of those symbols of protest take a backseat to the touching scene of New England Patriot’s Danny Amendola stepping up to lend a hand to help support the giant football-feild size American flag unfurled during the NFL’s season opener in Arizona.

     When people join a protest without knowing why they are protesting, it takes away from the underlying message. I can’t tell if people who “take a knee” as the anthem is played are protesting or not. If you can’t commit it’s time to quit. One protesting high school football player said he was “tying his shoe” after he was threatened with disciplinary action for not standing up when the national anthem was played.

     The Star Spangled Banner was written during the War of 1812 by Francis Scott Key who was happy to see the United State’s flag flying over Baltimore despite the best attempts of the British navy to blast the city to rubble. Protesting during that song is not relevant to the problems of race that need to be addressed in the United States. Instead of generating sympathy for the cause it just deepens the lines of division and moves the healing process further from our reach.

     When I was in grammar school, it was unthinkable not to stand when the national anthem played. We sang the words to the song every day. We pledged allegiance to the flag, with our hand over our heart, and we dared to utter the phrase “under God” and no one gave it a second thought. We honored the song to pay respect to our forefathers who fought for our freedom We are still reaping the benefits of their sacrifices today. The Pledge of Allegiance to our flag ends with the words “and justice for all.” While America isn’t perfect, we still believe in justice for all, not justice for a select few.

     Let’s not denounce the progress our country has made on race and equality in the past fifty years. As we get further and further away from ideas that formed our nation, people are losing sight of everything we’ve gained.

     America still has a long way to go to solve the problems of race relations. Our society is a “melting pot” – a strange expression, but it’s a metaphor for many different types of people who blend together as one. We must somehow unite as a country before the flames of unrest melt the entire pot and we have nothing left to hold us together.

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