Until all war veterans—regardless of their skin color or ethnicity—can sleep in a comfortable bed and not on cold park benches, eat at least three hot meals a day, and have access to free mental health and substance abuse counseling, the American flag and National Anthem can never truly symbolize patriotism or reverence towards the brave men and women that fought for our country.
In America, there are nearly 50,000 homeless war veterans. These are tens of thousands of American heroes leading an uncomfortable life after serving our country. These are approximately 50,000 American citizens that selflessly left their families to protect American citizens who would walk past them as they beg for their next meal. These are war heroes who are not privileged enough to sit on a couch seething in anger about someone not standing during the national anthem. And most importantly, these are the people who fought to protect our first amendment right.
Colin Kaepernick, a 29-year-old quarterback, is used his first amendment right in the most peaceful way. He simply took a knee as the rest of the stadium saluted the American flag and sang the national anthem.
What sparked the football player’s demonstration is the unfair representation of the flag and police brutality throughout America. “Cops are getting paid leave for killing people,” he said.
The police have killed 883 American citizens this year, and only six cops have been charged with murder. This means that cops are less than one percent likely to be charged for their crimes; this means that there is a scant likelihood that the families of these victims will receive any justice for their deceased loved ones.
Also, Kaepernick discussed how war veterans are treated when they return to America after combat. “I’ve seen circumstances where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly for the country they fought for and have been murdered by the country they fought for—on our land. It’s not right.”
This is a narrative largely absent from the continual tirades about the offensiveness of Kaepernick’s peaceful demonstrations. It’s seldom that the millions of people slamming the football player’s method of resisting oppression bring up homeless veterans. If they ever do, 45 percent of them is never discussed in any capacity; that whopping 45 percent of homeless veterans are Black men and women.
Nonetheless, Trump ― like many other conservatives ― did address Kaepernick’s demonstration. On September 22, Trump called Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” and accused him of disrespecting the American flag.
On September 25th, Trump posted a series of tweets about the NFL, but one tweet stood out the most: Trump denied that his issue with Kaepernick protesting is race related. He said that it’s about respecting the country.
It’s clear that Trump has no idea what respect is. Because since the beginning of his presidency, he has insulted over 650 people, places, and things on Twitter.
Though conservatives may not admit it, their anger towards Kaepernick is completely race related. As suggested in my last piece, all African American activists ― past or present ― have faced adversaries similar or worse to what Kaepernick is experiencing now.
This is not about the American flag, respect for the country, or the troops that fought for this country. This is about race.
Where was this collective conservative outrage when so-called patriotic conservatives tried to justify Dylann Roof’s murderous actions by calling him a victim of poor mental health after he shot nine innocent Black people in a church? Why were people not angry when photos of him burning the American flag surfaced? Why were people not angry that Roof breached rule number 700 (1)(A) of the United States Code?
Whoever knowingly mutilates, defaces, physically defiles, burns, maintains on the floor or ground, or tramples upon any flag of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
Where is the collective conservative outrage when so-called patriotic conservatives like Tomi Lahren breaches the United States Code rule 176 (D) by wearing the American flag as an accessory?
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
Where was the collective conservative outrage when the first lady, Melania Trump ― an immigrant ― had to remind our so-called patriotic president to put his right across his chest during the national anthem at the Easter Egg Roll? This breaches rule 171 of the United States Code.
During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.
Surely, someone as obnoxiously patriotic as Donald Trump would not forget to salute the American flag during the national anthem. That would make him a “son of a bitch” like Kaepernick ― or worse, a hypocritical son of a bitch.
If this was truly about the veterans, Trump would have never implied that there are very fine Nazi-sympathizers. There are veterans ― still alive today ― who fought against Hitler’s oppressive ideas. Suggesting that there are good people that support those ideas is a slap in the face to the heroes that lost their lives fighting against it.
Senator Orrin Hatch, who lost a brother who fought in Germany, tweeted:
Also, there is an influx of veterans who support Kaepernick. Why is Trump not using his platform to give those veterans a voice? The answer is simple: it’s not about the veterans, and it has never been.
America can never truly heal, not until conservatives stop using veterans as political props and admit that their issue is truly with methods of resisting anti-blackness in America. The first step to recovery is admitting that one has a problem, and their problem has never been about the flag or respecting the country. It has always been about race. This is why I stand by Kaepernick and the thousands of veterans taking a knee for social change.