OPINION- Do we live in a free country that is color blind and that offers equal opportunity for prosperity, liberty, and justice to all? Well, not yet. However that is the idea we have been taught that America represents. And while this idea of America has some way to come before every America truly experiences it, it remains a standard we ought to hold ourselves and our leaders to every day.
The biggest difference between America and the rest of the world is that America aspires to such ideas. And when some American institution fails, we have a right as citizens to hold our own leaders, governments, and other institutions accountable to that standard. Such a standard did not animate any country before as much as it has America, even if we still have quite a way to go before we achieve it.
The idea of America must always transcend the reality, because the idea is what is great and it is what we should always strive to achieve. This is the heart and soul of our national anthem, this is what our flag represents. It doesn’t represent the government, bad actions by some Americans, deviations from that standard by some institutions, or our failings and imperfections. It all represents our national vision for a truly color blind, free society with equal opportunity to every person to experience prosperity, justice, and liberty.
And so when football star Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem my first reaction was, “what’s the big deal?” I mean, you are free to stand or not to stand, and even if you don’t buy into our national vision, then you are still free to not stand! Why would we want to punish someone for exercising the very freedom which the flag and the national anthem represent to us?
But when he explained his refusal to stand for the national anthem, Colon went from exercising his rights to basically lying about our country and our ideals as a country. He said, “I am not going to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
He is entitled to his rights but not to the facts. America as a country oppresses nobody. We can argue about governments and people in America that defy our national vision, but the country is the people and the land. Overall, most Americans oppress not a living soul and harbor ill will to none. Most Americans wish that our national vision and the ideas represented by the flag and the national anthem were realized more perfectly in every day life. We can argue that through voting for certain people, parties, and policies they support things that oppress people, but this is most always a result of ignorance and deception, and not of intentions.
It is the idea of America that this privileged and pampered football star seeks to utterly destroy or deny. He looks at what is wrong and instead of saying “that’s not America” he argues that such injustices (as he perceives them) ARE America. But if injustice was the American idea, he would be a slave on a plantation and we would never have had a civil war because the southern plantation owners wanted to push slavery into even more territory. If injustice was the American idea, millions of white people would never have rallied in support of civil rights and Dr Martin Luther King Jr would not be held up to be a great icon of what America means, as he is today. Sure, people have abused and misused our genuine patriotism in wars abroad and bad policies at home, but we criticize them BECAUSE they were in fact a violation of our national vision!
Indeed our criticism of the American government, and of the experiences too many black people have, stems from our appreciation of and commitment to America’s national vision for a color blind society with equal opportunity so that there can be prosperity, justice, and liberty for ALL. Our arguments are strengthened when we appeal to America’s ideal, they are weakened if we deny the existence of that ideal. We argue for the protection of freedom based on the original spirit and intent of the Bill of Rights as applied to ALL citizens, regardless of age, race, creed, nationality, or sex. We stand on the firm foundation of what America MEANS, not the imperfections and failings often carried out in our national name.
Colin has every right to say what he wishes, but to do so from the bully pulpit of NFL fame, on the backs of millions of Americans who cheer him on, and with the money that ultimately comes from them, is the kind of insult we do not have to endure. How a man who America has so richly blessed can lay such charge (of being oppressors) at our collective feet , as if THAT is what America itself means, is beyond comprehension. Only bitterness and hatred produce such illogical and unethical statements.
Colin has every right to believe whatever he wishes. But he owns no right to demand our support, or the support of fans of his team, when he lies about our country, when he lies about about what our flag means, and when he equates injustices by individuals with the ideal of our nation. If Colin wants to wave the flag and say that we should live up to what this means, he would do his cause much more good than to lie about what that flag means and throw it in the mud with his lies!
Americans and institutions in America have at times and places betrayed our national vision and ideals. We should always hold them accountable for that. But America as a nation stands upon that national vision and to deny that is to undermine the very meaning of our country. Without such meaning our country has no reason to exist. And that may be what Colin and his friends on the left really want.
America is not the government or the state which goes by that name and our flag does not represent such transient things. It represents something deeper and when you disrespect that, which is your right, you disrespect our national vision as a people for a color blind society with equal opportunity for all to experience prosperity, justice, and liberty. When you conflate the actions of governments or institutions in this land with what our country as a people represents then you lie about who and what we are as a free people and what we aspire to. The fact we have not achieved our national vision doesn’t means we don’t have that vision.
When I salute the flag I am not saluting a state or a government or any person. I am saluting the idea and dream of a color-blind society with equal opportunity for all to experience prosperity, justice, and liberty and I am renewing my commitment to pursue that vision everyday. For Colin, that dream is dead and his America is the very image of lies and distortions painted by our enemies. I would encourage him to move to a better country since he lacks a basic understanding of what this country is really about and what our flag really represents.