My editorial policy for mentalunrest is simple, if not to a fault: write about events, ideas, truths and creators that others don’t see or attempt to neglect.
So — I chose not to write about the Star Spangled Banner sit out by Colin Kaepernick.
As a person who decided to sit out the National Anthem at 15 years of age — a decision that had nothing to do with any imaginary scant hatred for America, but rather my inability to rationalize the violent themes raised by the song and the concurrent absence of freedom for the African slaves who lived or were killed when Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics — I figured that everyone had that historical background, even if they disagreed with Kaepernick’s actions.
I was wrong about that decision.
I learned that many people weren’t aware the song’s racist roots, while others have drowned Kaepernick’s intent and meaning with Trumpesque memes and cherry-picked their targets of anger.
But even if there was a broad awareness of the song’s history, I’m still wrong for not raising my pen.
A number of you — and I’m specifically referring to the right-ringers who I know are reading this — are more angry with Kaepernick’s sitout than you were with Dylann Roof killing innocent Americans and burning the country’s flag.
The case of Colin Kaepernick has taught me that there are times when I need to shift my focus away from being a solitary voice in favor of joining a chorus that will call out the pearl-clutching, fake patriotism staged by far too many people.
Therefore, I apologize.
The outrage against Kaepernick has historical linkages to scores of decades where fake patriotism is used to protect perverted social norms.
Arguments against American slavery were met with ululations of “You’re an enemy of America” — or more specifically, the democratic principle of respecting property rights.
Resistance against Jim Crow was met with accusations of a communist attack against American Freedom.
Anti-lynching efforts were killed by Congressmen, armed with the arguments that such opposition is unconstitutional and infringed on what I can only call the government-blessed domestic terrorism paradigm disguised as “states’ rights.” The murderous masses defended their lynchings by calling themselves protectors of a good American society.
But the fake patriots are silent when Native Americans — whose land ownership has been forcibly reduced to reservations over the course of five centuries — protest the further loss of land, livelihood and safety presented by the Dakota Access Pipeline construction project. As of today, attack dogs and pepper spray are being deployed in an attempt to break these protesters’ spirits.
And even a modest inquiry about why African descendants are the disproportionate target of police traffic stops, when White Americans are more likely to carry contraband, is met with more pearl-clutching, fake patriotism.
So of course we should expect nothing less than a pearl-clutch response when Kaepernick began his protest.
Nevertheless, it’s a shame that fake patriotism leaves no room for subtleties or other degrees of distinctions — keep “Either you’re with us or against us” in mind …
Kaepernick gives us no reason to believe he hates America, but like the country’s first African American President — who criticized the quarterback’s protest — Kaepernick wants the nation to deliver on its promise of liberty, opportunity and equal justice, which includes the disenfranchised descendants of slaves.
And protesting for this promise seems more patriotic to me than police officers who want to boycott protection assignments because they don’t like how an American citizen exercises his constitutional rights …
song currently stuck in my head: “focus on sanity” – ornette coleman