The Star Spangled Banner is in the news again after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created a patriotic controversy before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Rather than stand during the song’s performance, Kaepernick remained seated. Afterwards, he explained his reasoning to the NFL Media stating:
“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.”
Before we had time to reflect, Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem predictably became jumbled with questions of patriotism and remembrance. Some like Donald Trump felt that Kaepernick should move:
“I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him.”
Others such as such retired Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown offered their support:
“I listened to him and he makes all the sense in the world, He’s within his rights and he’s telling the truth as he sees it. I am with him 100 percent.”
Perhaps the most damaging taunt we can throw at someone is their lack of appreciation for the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. So we shout and tweet and question when someone doesn’t automatically stand during the national anthem. We get caught up in a social frenzy and portray ourselves as the good Americans because we elected to stand and follow the motions of the thousands of other people in the stands.
So why do we stand?
Most of us stand because we believe it venerates the veterans. It is a nice gesture and we feel by standing we are honoring their sacrificial spirit. We should always walk with our veterans. But standing is far from understanding or even expressing a true appreciation of their sacrifice. At times standing can gloss over how we aren’t making any real sacrifices on our part. While soldiers are losing their lives, we are standing idly to a song.
Somehow the two sacrifices don’t seem to be even.
I think deep down we realize that making real sacrifices is tough. We can never fully grasp what happens in the fields of war. So instead we water down our appreciation by turning sacrifice into something we can understand. We simplify our respect by pointing to symbols and the crescendo of our voices. In doing so, our misty eyes blur over the true respect warranted for the losses made by our veterans.
The members of our armed forces deserve more than a token salute and a pat on the back. Am I supposed to respect someone just because they stand up during a song but shy away when real sacrifice is necessary? Unfortunately a majority of us standing during the national anthem are sitting when our veterans need us most. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than half of the country’s 21.2 million veterans were employed in 2014. Apparently in all our standing we forgot to take care of our men and women in uniform and show them a true appreciation.
Regardless of whether you agree with Colin Kaepernick or not, it is time we agree that we are putting too much emphasis on the Star Spangled Banner. The amount of tears in our eyes or the pitch in our voices cannot condone all the other times we didn’t stand to help our veterans. The men and women in our armed forces deserve more than just us mindlessly standing to a song.
Featured image from YouTube video.