“To sin by silence when they should protest, makes cowards of men.”—Abraham Lincoln
A year has elapsed since the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit the media and launched an international phenomenon. Today, thousands of athletes, owners, coaches and citizens are emulating his pursuit for social justice by taking a knee during the national anthem, but this is just the start. What was intended to be a respectful gesture, a peaceful protest, has been interpreted as an act of disrespect to the flag, military personnel and America.
Amidst all of the controversy, I still believe we are missing the point.
Whether you deem this rally as an endorsement for social equality or a dismissal of patriotism, men and women all across the globe have sacrificed their lives so that our voices could resonate with volume.
In my own observation, more often than not, conversation on this topic has frequently devolved into acts of childish petulance.
If you need further explanation, just look at the direct verbatim from the president of this nation—Donald Trump:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!”
Here’s a tweet from him as well:
“Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!”
This country was founded on protest, both literally and metaphorically. The Boston Tea Party was one of the major protest that led us to the American Revolution. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington? They were the avid protesters who penned our Declaration of Independence, which is why we can proudly identify as the United States of America.
If so much progress has been accrued through protest and demanding that our voices be recognized, why are we still oppressing individuals who exercise First Amendment rights?
I’m not here to decide whether Colin Kaepernick’s action against police brutality is admirable or condemnable. If a citizen knelt during the national anthem in some other countries, the consequences could be imprisonment for life, or as extreme as execution. You have the right to be heard through expression, the person next to you has the freedom to speak out in protest, and we all are permitted to go against our government and leaders. That is what makes this nation so beautiful.
Let us not spread hate, but celebrate this privilege.
You have a brain, a heart, and most importantly, a voice that demands and deserves to be heard. I hope you use them wisely.