I normally try to avoid the highly topical, or at least political, subjects on this blog. I do this for a couple of reasons. For one thing, because I don’t like having my inbox shoveled full of napalm. But mainly because a simple google search or gaze into the ‘trending’ section of Facebook will offer you an armageddon of written viewpoints regarding any current event. That’s why I usually tell a little drunken story or passionately speak for an idea highly underrepresented because it’s highly unimportant. I try to keep it light. But another thing I do on here is observe a repeated pattern in human interaction and try to point out some of the common bends in logic that I find within it. That’s what leads me to make this post, one about a fairly divisive news story.
I’m going to be honest here, I can’t entirely address how I feel about Kaepernick’s choice to sit down during the national anthem, it’s a pretty complex issue. I can, however, tell you how I feel about Kaepernick and it’s the same as it was even before this whole shitstorm began. Kaepernick is a mediocre quarterback at best. When opposing teams were allowed more than two weeks of his film to study they dialed his sidearm bullshit in like a Papa John’s order. Off the field he has been known to engage in a full itinerary of fuckboi activities. He seems to be most of the rich and cocky dudes I knew in college, except this one graduated college, got to go into the NFL instead of getting a desk job, and got to live more years of college. This piece is not an all-around defense of Kaepernick as a person, this is an exploration of the type of shit currently raining down on him. I’m just using the man’s actions as a jumping off point, somewhere at the crux of athlete behavior and patriotism.
Every time an issue involving the flag or national respect comes into play the word ‘Military’ starts pouring out of the woodwork, as if the only thing this nation is comprised of is the armed forces. Now, it doesn’t take an esteemed historian to know that America’s military expenditure is bananas, or that we’ve played ‘just the tip’ in about every major military conflict since WWII, but to say that the Stars and Stripes only represent uniformed bloodshed is missing the point of a national symbol. The flag is all things American, the whole history, glorious and the shitty. Public schools? Yup. Japanese internment? Yup. Johnny Carson? Yup. Columbine? Mmhm. Miracle on Ice? Fuckin’ A yeah. Trail of Tears? Affirmative. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo? You bet your ass. And to pretend that, in the act of sitting, someone is denying only the ONE part that you think is good is putting words in someone’s mouth. Suddenly, you’re informing the man of what he’s protesting, and not the other way around.
But still, matters of Americanness demand some qualification, and boy do accusers love to flash their credentials. Facebook and media personalities alike all start playing Bloodline-Connect-Four, trying to string together as many military members in their immediate friend/ family groups as possible. Because somehow if they know somebody fighting for your freedom, surely any point you bring up against them will disintegrate and blow away in the wind. This is ignoring, of course, the fact that Kaepernick was demonstrating this ‘American freedom’ that lots of people had fought and died for, a freedom where zealous repetition of all nationalist material is not mandatory. But die countrymen did, just so people on this soil could work at a better country, something I’m greatly thankful for. I just wonder if 100% of American blood ever spilled really trickled toward the same cause.
What I’m getting at is that every man and woman lost on a battlefield with some version of the American Flag above their head probably had a different American utopia in their heart as they forever lost their grip on consciousness. Those in the revolution probably had a great deal of black slaves in their ideal America, the land in which ‘All men are created equal’. Both sides of the civil war probably had disparate visions of who was going to work the farms after it was all said and done, but could likely agree that it’d be pretty sweet if many of those vital railroads were built by the Chinese. In between our formative wars and the World Wars there was a great deal of good old fashioned Indian killin’ under that flag, too, to go along with the battles with global superpowers. My point is that a lot of people died with drastically different ideas of what that flag stood for, being asked to do ideologically different things for America. Not every lost soul would have respected Kaepernick’s freedom just to exist, even before he sat for the anthem, and yet still people act like that’s the case. But let’s take a second to think about that freedom that these people fought for, our freedom to do what we want and say what we want without fear of being killed by anything but a good ol-fashioned overly armed American.
FREEDOM is, of course, the operative word here, a word people start waving around like a turgid dick in situations like this. As a fraternity member I can tell you I heard it come up for four years straight when something remotely resembling flag colors waggled into view. I’ll admit I’ve yelled it before when I’d run out of other things to yell. I’ve just grown a little weary of people consistently dropping the word as if we invented the concept, or that we’re the only nation on the planet in which you can accuse your president of being a neon buttplug and get away with it. I love freedom as much as the next guy, it allows me to drive myself to work, to use the machinery at work to make Harambe memes, and write a blog that nobody reads, we just don’t have a monopoly on freedom. We’re among the most uncensored nations on the planet, but there are other nations where citizens are allowed to open their mouth with dissension and not have it filled promptly with a thought-police boot. I love having these rights, I do, but I don’t pretend that as I write this the only thing between those rights and Orwellian slavery is our military fighting a massive horde of thoughtless fascists mere miles beyond our borders.
American troops haven’t fought for anything resembling our freedom from tyranny since, conservatively, World War 2. Our lack of ISIS overlords has less to do with American tenacity and more to do with the fact that we live far as fuck away from the conflicted parts of the world, are protected on both sides by entire oceans, and are sandwiched between a nation so cold you can’t leave your home for four months out of the year and our soccer-nuts weed dealer. Our army is fighting an evil contingency that has the potential to inflict domestic horror on our nation in future, no doubt, but potential safety is only a small portion of freedom. Barring globocorporate oil-scheme theories being true, our military is fighting for the freedom of the Syrian people and the safety of the European subcontinent. It’s more about keeping French people from getting blown up on their commute and less about defending your freedom to put that fucking sticker of Calvin peeing on the word ‘liberals’ on the back of your car. You’re more likely to have that personal freedom stolen from you by Congress or our next president.
Are we having fun Yet? Great.
Now that I’ve likely pissed off half of the 3 readers of this post, I’d like to say a few things. For the record, I’m not selling short the bravery it takes to join the armed forces and face death, nor am I underestimating the crucial roles our military victories had in forging this nation. This nation would not be where it is today if people hadn’t died with that flag sewn onto their shoulder. But the rights entailed by that sacrifice, i.e. not being dragged to a state-run gulag and shot through the head for not singing the state hymn, are pretty varied. I’m just casting some doubt that everybody everyday is honoring that sacrifice. “People fought and died and this is how you repay them?!” People fought and died for everything that happens here. People fought and died so you could spend all day jerking off and playing Rainbow Six. People fought and died so you could get a third tattoo of a Chinese symbol you don’t understand. People fought and died so that apple could kill the headphone jack. People fought and died so that the lawyered and wealthy could dodge taxes. People fought and died so that our legal system could incarcerate nonviolent offenders for life. I think that there are people who have used their American freedom with much more detrimental effect to this nation than Colin Fucking Kaepernick.
This brings about that age old question, though, levelled at the man like so many before him “If you don’t like it here why don’t you leave?” That might be a fair question if many of the people asking it weren’t the same kind of memesmiths who have complained nonstop about how Obama is single-handedly ruining the country. Suddenly, when it’s about something you like, complaining isn’t allowed? Once again, this country is far more than one aspect. I don’t like how a bar charges me 7 dollars for a two ingredient drink I could have made at home for $1.37, but I’m not leaving till the lights come on and I hate myself. The man has come out and explained his protest (accurate or not) and all people have seemed to gather is that he thinks every single thing about the country is terrible and that the VA should be burned to the ground.
Such a belief would justifiably rile people up, if, you know, that’s what he was getting at. Though, when esteemed internet patriots start breathing fire on all who disagree with them it’s easy to see what point they agree upon: troops=good. But one thing this internet mob can’t seem to agree upon is just exactly what the worth of an athlete/celebrity is. The hive mind never seems to settle. Are these ‘just athletes’ whose opinions mean nothing because they don’t understand the world, or are these role models who use their platform for good? The formula is actually quite simple. If they don’t agree with your opinion, you’re a ball hucking dum-dum, if they do agree with you, you’re a true hero. This explains how Facebook can be chock full of people telling Kaepernick to ‘shut up because he plays football’ by using picture-quotes from other NFL players against him. E.g.:
“I think aspects of this country are really fucked up.”
*hisses* *boos* *California is once again reclaimed by the sea*
*eagle screeches* *bombs burst in air* *1000 monster trucks ejaculate*
I don’t think the man is a superb role model but his profession shouldn’t be used to dock his explanation about what he did. Actors, musicians, artists, garbagemen, drug dealers, even homeless dudes are equally as capable of dropping insight as politicians, mostly because they also have thoughts. Am I saying that you have to agree with everything they say and do? God no, but I’m going to weigh Kaepernick’s athlete argument as heavily as the one of somebody who sits behind a desk and reads their opinions off a teleprompter for a living. Never forget, at some core level everyone is just some asshole with an opinion.
So he did do the thing that he had a right to do, and people supported, and people raged, and people posted links of other people supporting or raging, and here we are weeks later. No more free, from the looks of it, and about the same amount of American. People may have ven examined the concept that there are ways to fight for the betterment of this country that don’t involve artillery support. And while reaching out into the local community is not the same amount of sacrifice as watching the top half of your best friend bleed out in a haze of concrete and ash, one does not negate the other. The man did force people to talk, or at least punish their keyboards in an attempt to get their opinion out there the loudest. We raged less, in my observing, about police brutality, and more about the act of being an American, but the man’s protest was certainly more impactful than the college campus ones that Gawker covers for about four days before moving on. People are still covering the instances of people exercising their freedom, and much to the chagrin of many, its lingering effects are specifically because he throws a rubber ball for a living. Because sometimes in America the only way to get people to pay attention to you is by grabbing a bullhorn, lathering yourself up in ketchup, and sticking your penis into a hornet’s nest. That’s the American way.
Also, you have to get it on film, that how it works here.