Two weeks ago, Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem in protest of “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” In a familiar media-storm runaround, Kaepernick was criticized for his choice. But that’s all it is. His choice. And wouldn’t we all be worse off if it wasn’t well within his right to express his own opinion?
Considering the outburst following Kaepernick’s silent protest, one may posit that patriotism, rather than free speech, is required of our public figures. Indeed, it often seems impossible in today’s media climate to hold any sort of nuanced opinion of America and all that it stands for. On one side, protest is seen as disrespectful and disloyal. On the other, overt patriotism is seen as nationalistic or diminutive of larger problems. But it can be both.
Protest, in many people’s eyes, is the sacred duty of the public. Like journalism and the second amendment, protest serves as yet another check against governments deemed too powerful or self-serving. But one of the main critiques of protest is that it is a game for the apathetic, flighty collegiate twenty-something. The critique lies in the simple fact that young people have no experiences, no wisdom, and therefore do not understand the world in the way a sixty-something year-old with no political experience could.
I argue that the twenty-something neck-deep in activism is probably the more patriotic of the two extremes. To see a problem in society, construct a cause around that, and campaign for the rights of yourself and others is not only noble and virtuous, but what this country is built upon. Is the pride of America scarred by one man sitting during the national anthem? I surely hope not.