There are certain issues I do not comment on because no matter my opinion, or how “right” I think I am, or how many facts I present to support my reasoning one thing is certain: the people who disagreed with me before my impassioned arguments will likely disagree with me long after I make my case. And that would bother me IF I were trying to convince people to see my side. I am not. I would be offended IF I needed people to validate my opinions. I do not. I am perfectly content knowing what I know, believing what I believe, and doing what I need to do to stand up for my convictions. Furthermore, I respect anybody who does the same, whether I agree with their point of view or not. Anyone who can express their unwavering, thoughtful, righteous support of any cause should be admired, not vilified. In a society where you are rarely sure what side of the fence people stand on, the ones who plant their feet firmly on committed soil represent a resolute minority more of us should emulate.
For over a year, Colin Kaepernick has been that “minority”. For most of that time, he fought the battle alone; wordless; silent, save an explanation or two detailing why he chose this course of action.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said, via NFL.com. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
As of this writing, he has declined interviews, refused to rebut criticism and refrained from engaging in mindless Twitter wars. He is adamant that this is not about him and insists that this demonstration is bigger than football. His fight remains reticent while his actions ignite the vociferous fury of those who view his actions as dishonorable, disrespectful, and self-serving. And as a proud U.S. veteran who fought for the freedom Mr. Kaepernick now exercises I do not understand what the uproar is about. I’m inclined to believe his opponents do not either. I’m referring to those opponents who use the same freedom to demand the man’s head be served on a platter; opponents who use the very liberty he is being condemned for to call him (and fellow NFL players) “sons of bitches” and other crude appellations. It is the epitome of hypocrisy to crucify a man using the same nails you accuse him of driving into the U.S flag. How can anyone justify denouncing what they perceive as hate and irreverence, with hate and irreverence? Silent protesters against violence and social inequities impugned by adversaries spewing vitriol. Make this make sense.
Even though he remains a lightning rod for profane attacks his willingness to compromise (not submit) is ignored. No one talks about the fact that in September Kaepernick met with former Green Beret and brief NFL long snapper Nate Boyer. After the discussion Kaepernick decided to shift from sitting to taking a knee during the anthem, saying “We were talking to [Boyer] about how can we get the message back on track and not take away from the military, not take away from fighting for our country, but keep the focus on what the issues really are. And as we talked about it, we came up with taking a knee. Because there are issues that still need to be addressed and it was also a way to show more respect to the men and women who fight for this country.” (Source: SBNATION). If we are going to denounce his intentions, tell the whole story.
Colin Kaepernick is one man who, despite the risks (to his career, personal life and reputation), took a knee to protest the pervasive social injustices that has eroded the very fabric of civilized society. How many people can say the same? How many of those who stand in judgment of Kaepernick (and who agree with him) can say they are willing and ready to take the same risk for the cause? I personally will never ask anyone to do something I would not do myself. I also will not criticize someone for doing anything I have not.
On Sunday, September 24, 2017 — after the NFL came under fire by the forty-fifth President of the United States, Donald J. Trump — over 200 of Kaepernick’s sports comrades joined him in his protest as a show of solidarity. After over a year of silently protesting
(largely by himself) to raise awareness about the dangerous plight of black men and women in our country, Kaepernick’s “voice” resonates; his purpose amplified by the boorish comments of the commander in chief and those who echo his dissent. Ultimately, it should not matter what catalyst sparked such widespread support. I’m just happy the dialogue has begun in earnest. It remains to be seen how long this united front will last and what, if anything, it will achieve. I do know when all is said and done, we must never forget that through it all (the name calling, the judgment, and the risks), Colin Kaepernick was never afraid to stand alone; he never faltered in his pursuit to address social injustice around the country. And for that I will always respect him.
“We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here”. Abraham Lincoln
Over the past few weeks I paid a few visits to my local VA hospital in Houston. Thankfully, I was among the fortunate veterans there to take care of minor personal business. My appointments did give me the opportunity to witness (to some small degree), what has been playing out in the media since April: news that at least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. Truth is, this is only “breaking news” because the right information, fell into the right hands and the media got a hold of it. This kind of mismanagement, is not new. I am not going to comment on the validity of “secret waiting lists”. But I can say, the VA healthcare system is flawed. Customer service is poor (to say the least), attention paid to Vets in the waiting room borders on dismissive (at best). It’s a shame. Men and women, including myself, who put their lives on the line for our country, only to be treated like those very lives don’t matter when we come home. Yes, we enlisted willingly and selflessly and because we considered it our sworn and solemn duty. But when you are on the field of battle with your brothers and sisters in arms, you see things that change you. That affect you deeply. That hurt you. Some of that pain is physical; much of it is mental. Yet we serve. We protect. We honor our nation. Our servicemen and servicewomen deserve better.
I take great pride in my service to my country during Operation Desert Storm, especially now that I have become a spokesperson for USA Cares Texas Region. Military is not just a vocation. It is a way of life, an attitude that you carry in your heart even after you are discharged. I wear the title of Veteran like a badge of honor and know deep in my heart that I was a dedicated sailor who would have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of (as my cousin Lt. Sha’Kendrick Tilley so eloquently put it), the liberties, rights, way of life and freedom many civilians take for granted.
Some of us never make it home. We honor them on Memorial Day. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “…that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain.” So this weekend, in between the grilling and the beaches and the amusement parks and road trips; before the shopping and the relaxing and the family visits, I ask you to take a moment to acknowledge the real meaning of the day. Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service (our Fallen). In observance of the holiday I am grateful that so many people visit cemeteries and memorials or volunteer to place American flags on grave sites at national cemeteries. If at all possible, keep an eye on the clock and observe a national moment of remembrance which takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.
To our fallen, our veterans and my brothers and sisters in arms, I salute you. Godspeed.