It’s hard to write or even pronounce his name correctly, but most of America today is talking about him. Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, sat down during the national anthem in protest. And he explained his action by saying:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. 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.”
Of course, the response has been social media worthy.
And I can imagine that you have many things to say about this.
I know, because I have many things to say.
I could write about Colin’s Christian faith, or about the response from both the right and the left. I could highlight police brutality and it’s effects on the African-American community. I could write about loving the country God gave you and supporting the military. But others are doing a much better job at it.
Everyone has a right to voice their opinions; staring with Mr. Kaepernick and finishing with you.
The key is this: we don’t have to agree … but we get to honor.
That’s the beauty of our faith.
Beyond Americanism, Christ.
Beyond political agendas, Jesus.
Beyond anything else, love.
Now, I have read many responses. But Jim Wright’s is my favorite.
I think it could be yours too.
Jim is retired from the U.S. Navy and he began his (now viral) Facebook post with the very statement we read from Kaepernick.
Wright said that he received hundreds of emails from people asking how he, as a veteran, felt about the protest. He goes on to name all the ridiculous things the football player has been called as a result — “scum, a horrible human being, a likely member of ISIS, a Muslim terrorist, a black thug, a communist, a socialist (and not the cool share your weed Bernie Sanders kind of socialist but the Red Brigade kind of Socialist who sleeps under a poster of Chairman Mao), a radical, a Black Panther…”
Then, Wright begins his response with an essay on respect and how that manifested in the military:
The very first thing I learned in the military is this: Respect is a two-way street. If you want respect, true respect, sincere respect, then you have to GIVE IT.” If you want respect, you have to do the things necessary to earn it each and every single day. There are no short cuts and no exceptions.
Respect cannot be compelled.
Respect cannot be bought.
Respect cannot be inherited…Respect has to be earned.
Respect. Has. To. Be. Earned.
His post carries on, relating the concept of respect to the behavior towards Kaepernick on social media:
Now, any veteran worth the label should know that. If they don’t, then likely they weren’t much of a soldier to begin with and you can tell them I said so. IF Kaepernick doesn’t feel his country respects him enough for him to respect it in return, well, then you can’t MAKE him respect it.”You can not make him respect it. If you try to force a man to respect you, you’ll only make him respect you less.
With threats, by violence, by shame, you can maybe compel Kaepernick to stand up and put his hand over his heart and force him to be quiet. You might. But that’s not respect.
It’s only the illusion of respect.
You might force this man into the illusion of respect. You might. Would you be satisfied then? Would that make you happy? Would that make you respect your nation, the one which forced a man into the illusion of respect, a nation of little clockwork patriots all pretending satisfaction and respect? Is that what you want? If THAT’s what matters to you, the illusion of respect, then you’re not talking about freedom or liberty. You’re not talking about the United States of America. Instead you’re talking about every dictatorship from the Nazis to North Korea where people are lined up and MADE to salute with the muzzle of a gun pressed to the back of their necks.
That, that illusion of respect, is not why I wore a uniform.
That’s not why I held up my right hand and swore the oath and put my life on the line for my country.
That, that illusion of respect, is not why I am a veteran.
Not so a man should be forced to show respect he doesn’t feel.
That’s called slavery and I have no respect for that at all.”
The post proceeds with what we must do to earn Kaepernick’s respect:
“If Americans want this man to respect America, then first they must respect him. If America wants the world’s respect, it must be worthy of respect. America must be worthy of respect. Torture, rendition, indefinite detention, unarmed black men shot down in the street every day, poverty, inequality, voter suppression, racism, bigotry in every form, obstructionism, blind patriotism, NONE of those things are worthy of respect from anybody — least of all an American. But doesn’t it also mean that if Kaepernick wants respect, he must give it first? Give it to America? Be worthy of respect himself? Stand up, shut up, and put his hand over his heart before Old Glory?
No. It doesn’t.
Respect doesn’t work that way.”
Then, Wright considers how the meaning behind the national anthem is personal:
“To you the National Anthem means one thing, to Kaepernick it means something else. We are all shaped and defined by our experiences and we see the world through our own eyes. That’s freedom. That’s liberty. The right to believe differently. The right to protest as you will. The right to demand better. The right to believe your country can BE better, that it can live up to its sacred ideals, and the right to loudly note that it has NOT. The right to use your voice, your actions, to bring attention to the things you believe in. The right to want more for others, freedom, liberty, justice, equality, and RESPECT.
A true veteran might not agree with Colin Kaepernick, but a true veteran would fight to the death to protect his right to say what he believes.
You don’t like what Kaepernick has to say? Then prove him wrong, BE the nation he can respect.
It’s really just that simple.”
Jim’s essay is not directed to a Christian audience. He is speaking as a American/caucasian/military man… which is completely different to me. He has considered all sides of the discussion and decides to approach it with wisdom and respect. You don’t have to agree with everything he is saying (I know I don’t) but that’s the beauty of these kinds of conversations.
A lot of my friends are extremely patriotic and very vocal about their passion for the USA and all its representative symbols.
As a minority who is trying to understand the plight of the African-American community, I support Colin’s decision to use his platform in order to initiate a discussion. As an American citizen I respect your right to disagree (and express those disagreements).
But as a follower of Jesus I will not fall for the hate.
I like what author Ryan Saffer (who disagrees with Colin’s methods) said in his open letter to Kaepernick,
“I don’t entirely understand what you seek to prove, and I don’t know what exactly you want to see come of this, but a man with a platform such as your would be irresponsible to not use it to stand against injustice. While I disagree with your methods, I commend your conviction. And while I’m not one of them, but I apologize on behalf of everyone who can’t be bothered to do so on their own behalf. I’m sorry that you’ve been called a disgraceful idiot, a disgusting excuse for a human being, an ungrateful N-word, and a traitor to your country that so many of us are trying to make great again. Disagreement, no matter how deep, are never an excuse for hate.”
So here’s a simple Christ-like solution:
- Seek to understand why Colin is sitting.
- If you disagree, pray for him and his family.
- If you do agree, don’t attack the ones who don’t.
- Recognize the complexity of these issues and choose to be involved.
- When you do get involved, make sure it is to love people, not to prove them wrong.
+ Check and comment directly on Jim’s Facebook:
And as always, feel free to comment below… or sit this one out in protest.