Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Kaepernick Kerfuffle -Why All The Fuss?

The essay of a former Marine caught my attention, appearing as it did in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times. There Brian Adam Jones wrote:

"I’ve been out of the Marine Corps for a little over three years, and I still get chills when I see an American flag billowing in the wind. More times than I care to remember, as a young corporal in Afghanistan, I stood and saluted at ramp ceremonies as the bodies of the fallen were carried into an aircraft for the journey home, their caskets draped in American flags."

Jones went on to point out that one of the freedoms he fought for was the freedom of speech that Colin Kaepernick demonstrated in refusing to stand for the national anthem.  As he wrote:

"One of those central values is freedom of expression, which Colin Kaepernick has every right to evoke. If the flag symbolizes freedom of expression, Kaepernick was absolutely correct to focus his protest on the flag. If the flag is a sacred symbol for America's values, we should honor it by rigorously debating what those values are, and whether we are doing them justice.

As a veteran, I revere the flag. As a black man, I share in Kaepernick’s anger and concerns over violence toward black men. And as an American, I respect his right to share his voice, and I admire his willingness to subject himself to scrutiny and to risk his career. Standing with his teammates, following along with everyone else, requires no courage. Blind obedience to the flag is not something I, or anyone I know, fought to defend."

And it is indeed freedom of expression Kaepernick exhibited, irrespective of what we may personally think about it. It also harks back to what Charles Reich once ruminated on in his 'The Greening of America': Do national symbols dominate and control US, or do we as free agents have the right to question and control them, say in terms of our own expressions of our first amendment rights?

The issue also came up for consideration some years ago when the Right  tried to get a constitutional amendment passed that outlawed flag burning. In this pursuit they clearly believed that a piece of fabric, cloth ought to dominate the lives of citizens. Thankfully, the Supreme Court  ultimately made it clear that flag burning is protected speech even after a lower court said the same.

As I pointed out in a post from two years ago (July 24):

"in the case Texas v. Johnson (1989) flag burning was upheld as symbolic free speech which could not be curtailed under the 1st amendment. "

And further:

 "In 1990 another conservative congress tried to pass a law to outlaw burning the flag but again it went down.  This was in the case United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).  While the Johnson decision only affected a Texas state law this decision was broader. . In the wake of the earlier decision, the federal government  had enacted a law that also prohibited flag burning. In order to try to get around constitutional challenges, that federal law prohibited all types of flag desecration, with the exception of burning and burying a worn-out flag, regardless of whether the action upset others.

The Supreme Court held that this law did not cure the constitutional defect and the same 7-3 majority from Johnson held that the law still impermissibly discriminated upon viewpoint and struck it down."

Logic and good sense dictate that if flag burning is permitted free speech then not pledging allegiance to the flag at all, period, must likewise be. One is here not burning or destroying a flag but simply passively not pledging any allegiance to proclaimed principles that others insist are behind it. This was Kaepernick''s right and those who are aware of the NFL's own rules also know that they do not demand a player MUST stand and pledge allegiance.

Common sense here also tells us that the SYMBOL of a nation cannot have more import or viability than the principles it is supposed to protect.  Nor have soldiers "fought and died for the flag".  No, you do not fight and die for a piece of fabric, you fight and die for the PRINCIPLES the flag stands for - all listed under the Bill of Rights (including free speech)! That some 'Muricans can't or won't get that through their skulls is beyond belief.

 In the end this issue should not be about Kaepernick being "un-American" or a "secret raghead" but in fact being an American and patriot in the fullest sense of all - by exercising his first amendment principles just as other so daringly declare and self-proclaim in their assorted blogs.

See also:

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