Freedom Isn’t Always Pretty

Freedom Isn’t Always Pretty

Freedom Isn’t Always Pretty

Most sports fans knew who Colin Kaepernick was long before last week. We knew him as a talented athlete who was lucky enough to be playing quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL.  We knew him as the guy who, in years past, had shown flashes of greatness with a rifle arm and the ability to run for big chunks of yardage, and who more recently had been relegated to the role of backup.  Today, along with millions of Americans who couldn’t care less about sports, we know him as the guy who refuses to stand for the playing of our national anthem. Kaepernick says that his refusal to stand is intended as a protest against what he feels are wrongdoings against African-Americans and other minorities in our country.  The reaction to his protest has been as swift and intense as it was predictable.  49ers fans are burning his jersey.  Facebook is flooded with posts about his privileged upbringing and his millions of dollars in income.  Donald Trump says he should find another place to live.  I’m sure if we just look hard enough, we could find some of the sadly-typical death threats that always seem to go along with a perceived affront to our national honor. I understand the anger at Kaepernick.  This country has provided him with more than most of us could ever dream of having:  a privileged childhood, a great education, and millions upon millions of dollars earned while playing a game for a living.  How dare he disrespect the country that has provided him with so much?  I’m sure the anger is increased exponentially in those who have fought for our great nation, and even more so for the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  I get it. I think we sometimes forget, however, the ideals that serve as the bedrock principle of our country.  Those things that generations of soldiers have fought and died to defend and preserve.  It isn’t the flag that we revere; it is what the flag represents.  When we stand for the Star Spangled Banner it’s not because of the song;  it’s because we want to show respect for our country, and what that country stands for.  So ask yourself this:  if you had to choose one word, one single word to describe the most important principle of our nation, what would it be?  You already know the answer.  It’s FREEDOM.  Freedom to speak your mind, right or wrong.  Freedom to express your beliefs, no matter how misguided and even offensive they may be.  Freedom to take a stand against perceived injustice, wherever it appears. Let’s be clear about one thing here:  I think Colin Kaepernick is full of it.  I think there are much, much better ways for him to express his concern about treatment of minorities than by publicly disrespecting the greatest nation on earth.  I wish the Steelers had the 49ers on their schedule this year, just so I could see the moment when James Harrison decided to show Kaepernick the meaning of respect (How great would it be if this had happened when Jack Lambert was still playing??).  I don’t like what he is doing, not one bit.  That said, I have to remember the famous quote from Voltaire:  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said recently, “this is what freedom looks like, folks.”  Sometimes, it ain’t real pretty.