The ul­ti­mate pa­triot

Colin Kaeper­nick shows true pa­tri­o­tism in high­light­ing what he sees as an Amer­i­can wrong

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - E.R. Shipp E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize win­ner for commentary, is the jour­nal­ist in res­i­dence at Mor­gan State Univer­sity’s School of Global Jour­nal­ism and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Her col­umn runs ev­ery other Wed­nes­day. Email: er.shipp@aol.com.

When last I looked, this was still the United States of Amer­ica, a coun­try that came into be­ing af­ter lead­ers of the Amer­i­can colonies dis­sented from the poli­cies of Eng­land, the mother coun­try. Dis­sent de­fined us. And yet a very pub­lic act of dis­obey­ing au­thor­ity deemed wrong is now be­ing char­ac­ter­ized by masses of not-sow­ell-in­formed peo­ple as the ul­ti­mate act of dis­loy­alty.

Please, lend me your ear — es­pe­cially those of you who have been join­ing the bul­ly­ing squad dump­ing all over Colin Kaeper­nick, the San Fran­cisco 49ers foot­ball player who re­fused to stand for the na­tional an­them to protest po­lice mis­treat­ment of black peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar. I’m talk­ing as well to those of you who know peo­ple who are ques­tion­ing his pa­tri­o­tism and even de­mand­ing that he re­lin­quish his cit­i­zen­ship.

Dis­sent and protest, my fel­low Amer­i­cans, is in the very DNA of this coun­try.

In case you have not looked at the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence in a while, it be­gins this way: “When, in the course of hu­man­events, it be­comes nec­es­sary for one peo­ple to dis­solve the po­lit­i­cal bonds which have con­nected them with an­other, and to as­sume among the pow­ers of the earth, the sep­a­rate and equal sta­tion to which the laws of na­ture and of na­ture’s God en­ti­tle them, a de­cent re­spect to the opin­ions of mankind re­quires that they should de­clare the causes which im­pel them to the sep­a­ra­tion.” Be­fore lay­ing out their case against King Ge­orge III, the drafters of the dec­la­ra­tion, wrote: “[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpa­tions … evinces a de­sign to re­duce them un­der ab­so­lute despo­tism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such gov­ern­ment, and to pro­vide new guards for their fu­ture se­cu­rity.”

The colonists, these proto-Amer­i­cans, were ticked off with King Ge­orge and his way of con­trol­ling their lives from across the ocean. Their protest led to a dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence, a war, the cre­ation of the United States and the adop­tion of a Con­sti­tu­tion that lays out our rules of en­gage­ment with each other, with the na­tion and with the world.

In case you have not looked at the First San Fran­cisco 49ers quar­ter­back Colin Kaeper­nick, mid­dle, sits dur­ing the na­tional an­them be­fore an NFL pre­sea­son game against the San Diego Charg­ers on Thurs­day. Amend­ment to that Con­sti­tu­tion in a while, it says: “Congress shall make no law re­spect­ing an es­tab­lish­ment of re­li­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free ex­er­cise thereof; or abridg­ing the free­dom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the peo­ple peace­ably to as­sem­ble, and to pe­ti­tion the gov­ern­ment for a re­dress of griev­ances.” The gov­ern­ment can­not con­trol our thoughts or speech or pro­hibit us from protest­ing. If the gov­ern­ment can­not take away these rights, then cer­tainly we can­not do that to each other.

The Amer­i­can way, or so we civ­i­lized peo­ple have told our­selves for more than 200 years, is em­bod­ied in a quote at­trib­uted to Voltaire, the French philoso­pher: “I dis­ap­prove of what you say, but I will de­fend to the death your right to say it.” As the late Wil­liam F. Buck­ley, a con­ser­va­tive ex­traor­di­naire, wrote: “We are so con­cerned to flat­ter the ma­jor­ity that we lose sight of how ev­ery of­ten it is nec­es­sary, in or­der to pre­serve free­dom for the mi­nor­ity, let alone for the in­di­vid­ual, to face that ma­jor­ity down.”

Colin Kaeper­nick is fac­ing down what sounds like a ma­jor­ity in foot­ball sta­di­ums and on sports talk ra­dio and other places where even the un­in­formed have a right to dis­play that de­fi­ciency. As no less an au­thor­ity than Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, a con­sti­tu­tional law scholar, said the other day, Mr. Kaeper­nick is “ex­er­cis­ing his con­sti­tu­tional right to make a state­ment” and he “cares about some real le­git­i­mate is­sues that have to be talked about.”

Mr. Kaeper­nick is the ul­ti­mate pa­triot, car­ing enough about his very flawed na­tion to call it out for its fail­ings and sham­ing the rest of us into en­gag­ing with the is­sues he raises, in­clud­ing:

Why is any­one ob­li­gated to demon­strate pa­tri­o­tism by stand­ing for the play­ing of the na­tional an­them at sport­ing events (un­less they con­ve­niently slip away for a potty break or the con­ces­sion stand)?

What ex­actly are the lyrics of the “Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” cel­e­brat­ing? (Check out that third stanza.)

Why are there such dis­par­i­ties in the way black and brown peo­ple are treated by many po­lice of­fi­cers all over the coun­try?

Some veter­ans, some ath­letes and some hip-hop artists have risen to Mr. Kaeper­nick’s de­fense and taken mea­sures of sol­i­dar­ity. They get it. This is the United States of Amer­ica, not some two-bit dic­ta­tor­ship.

The line of peo­ple af­firm­ing Mr. Kaeper­nick’s right to protest should grow by at least one to­day: You, my fel­low Amer­i­can.

CHRIS CARL­SON/AP

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