One of the worst responses we’ve seen to the Colin Kaepernick national anthem controversy comes from those who say if he doesn’t like it here, he should leave. So it came as no surprise that the Republican nominee for President came at this story from that exact angle today, during an interview on The Dori Munson Show.
“I have followed it and I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try, it’s not gonna happen,” Donald Trump said.
Everything, from the elementary language to his tone, is pure Trump. And it’s undeniably patriarchal, this idea: If you want to live under MY roof, you need to play by MY rules. And of course there’s also a hint of “you are a spoiled brat who’s so, so lucky to grow up with white parents in an era where people like you are allowed to accumulate substantial wealth.”
Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick’s decision (and many don’t, for a multitude of reasons), this common theme that if someone doesn’t like it here they should find another country to call home is beyond ridiculous. How can the United States of America’s citizens call this the greatest country on the planet if all of us aren’t striving to make it — and ourselves — better at all times? There are countless instances throughout human history in which siding with the majority would have stunted the growth of our species (the world is flat comes to mind).
The comfort in being part of the loudest group is an intoxicant, one that should often be left to the weak. Protests are supposed to offend and inconvenience people, even innocent people. Otherwise they’d be too easy to ignore. We also have the freedom to look at a protestor and say, “What you’re doing, and what you are protesting, is ridiculous.”
“I disagree with someone who doesn’t stand for the Star Spangled Banner because _____” is a perfectly understandable reaction. Debating the problems Kaepernick mentioned (chief among those: undeserved violence against black and brown people committed by what he described as poorly-trained police officers) is part of the greater discussion that could help the populace in two ways, by bringing awareness to what seems like a rapidly escalating nationwide situation and bringing the “Black Lives” and “Blue Lives” groups to a common ground.
However, the latter was never going to occur. Instead of intelligent discourse on this subject, we have echo chambers. One side saying that Kaepernick is taking a courageous stand and his rights should be respected, and the other saying he should shut up and get the hell out of here if he’s so unhappy with how he perceives things to be.
Not that I expected anything less, which is why I largely stayed away from this issue in my Saturday story about the 49ers’ QB troubles. But Trump’s response is so hypocritical, even by his own standards. His convention was full of people yelling, spitting, fretting and perspiring over a nation that is supposedly in a heap of trouble due to the Affordable Care Act, Syrian refugees, immigrants, taxes/regulations, etc. Did anyone suggest to Trump that if he, Scott Baio, Rudy Giuliani and Antonio Sabato Jr. think this country is so awful, they should find other places to live? Like one of the nations where Trump has golf courses, or one of the third world areas where his goods are manufactured, or even Russia?
Being uncomfortable isn’t such a bad thing. If it makes you uncomfortable to see a once-promising quarterback sit through an anthem, maybe examining why you believe standing at attention whenever it’s played before a sporting event is important will help to even bolster your own patriotism.
Asking Kaepernick to explore his own positions and explain himself further might serve him well, too. While his 18-minute media session yesterday was probably the most thoughtful we’ve ever seen him, when pressed to describe what he would consider successful change, his answer was lacking:
“That’s a tough question because there’s a lot of things that need to change, a lot of different issues that need to be addressed. That’s something that it’s really hard to lock down one specific thing that needs to change currently.”
Kaepernick’s entire 49ers career, this moment included (a moment which may signal the end to that career within the next week or so) has seen him as a polarizing magnet for publicity. There have been a few missteps along the way, both on the field and on social media. But while America is a nation of laws and baseball is still called the national pastime, it is not a nation of unwritten rules. And those like Kaepernick, who go against majority rule, shouldn’t have to move to another country or continent if they’re angry, frustrated and disappointed. If anything makes this nation better than several others on this planet, it’s that those with dissenting voices are allowed to stay and be protected. Suggesting they go away is an all-too-easy answer to a litany of complicated problems.