I think everyone has heard about the “protest” by Colin Kaepernick where he has remained seated during the National Anthem in the preseason games. And many people are angry. I am angry too, but as a Viet Nam veteran I fought for his right to protest — where he wants, when he wants, and how he wants.
Kaepernick vowed Sunday, Aug. 28, to continue his protest during the National Anthem until “significant change” is made regarding racial oppression in the United States. He said, “The message is that we have a lot of issues in this country that we need to deal with. We have a lot of people that are oppressed. We have a lot of people that aren’t treated equally, that aren’t given equal opportunities.”
Kaepernick followed through on that promise again Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium, by kneeling with Safety Eric Reid by his side. And Seattle Seahawk cornerback Jeremy Lane sat during the National Anthem at the Oakland game Thursday.
Let me remind readers of some of the past protest’s that that I disagree with, but respectfully defend their right to do so.
There was the Black Power demonstration on the 200-meter medal podium by gold medal winner Tommie Smith and bronze medal winner John Carlos, while the National Anthem was played.
And through history there have been many protests, in many ways, on many topics.
Don’t forget the Boston Tea Party, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil War.
And Martin Luther King, Jr. organized many protests and spoke enthusiastically against inequality.
There was “Hanoi” Jane Fonda in July of 1972. I was in Viet Nam during her protest and propaganda tour. All the American servicemen in Viet Nam were angry. In the U.S., I guess, it was big news, and was defended and supported by many citizens who opposed the Viet Nam war. And there were the tens of thousands of street protesters against the war.
Back in 1972, I didn’t get it. I was a naive 20-year-old Marine who had volunteered for service, and then volunteered to go to Viet Nam. I wanted to defend my country, but really had not figured out what our country stands for. Over the next few years, with some good mentorship in the Marine Corps, and some life experience, I did figure it out.
I learned what the Constitution of the United States of America is. I learned what the Bill of Rights is. I learned what it means to be an American. To serve my country in the military.
How many of you readers know what the First Amendment to the United States Constitution says? Let me refresh your memories: “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.”
In other words: It is the right of every person in the U.S. to speak, write or assemble (demonstrate) on any topic — anywhere, any time. And, no law may be made that prohibits it.
Back to Kaepernick, Reid, and Lane. Do they have the right to protest, or demonstrate, or say whatever they want in support of a deeply held belief? Absolutely. Do I like the method they have chosen to do it? Not at all. Do I defend their right to do so? Positively. Did I fight for that right and freedom for all in America? Unconditionally. And I would again today.
Is what they are doing unpatriotic? Possibly. What can we do about it? We can protest their actions in our own way, if we must. We could boycott the games of these teams. We could make public demonstrations against these players. We could refuse to buy the memorabilia of these players. We can write letters to the editor of our newspapers about it.
But I don’t think we have seen the end of this. It will probably snowball and it could soon be very common to see members of every professional team protesting inequality or something else by sitting during the National Anthem at games.
Many people, especially veterans, are angry about these protests. The VFW’s, American Legion’s, AmVets, and other veterans clubs are buzzing these days with talk about the Kaepernick protest. There have been many suggestions about how to “deal” with it. Some of those being illegal.
But let’s remember, not all countries allow public protests about anything. We live in a country that does. All U.S. veterans, whether they knew it or not, served, and some fought, even died or were wounded, for the right that allows Kaepernick, Reid and Lane to protest inequality during the National Anthem at an NFL football game. For or anyone to protest anything. They fought to protect all the freedoms and rights we enjoy in this country every day.
We need to remember that. That America is not perfect. But it is changing for the better every day, because of attention being brought upon the things that are not right for this country. No one can argue that the protests of Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t help to change the country for the better.
So talk about your deeply held beliefs. Do something that will draw attention to correct the wrongs of today. Help to change America. Vote to elect the representatives that support your beliefs. It is the people that make America great. Even people like Colin Kaepernick.
And I think that most veterans would stand beside me again today, to defend this great country, and thereby defend the Colin Kaepernicks of America.
They would defend the greatest country on Earth.
Jim Daly is a retired captain from the U.S. Marine Corps, Senior Vice-Commander, District #5, Department of Washington, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Past Commander, Aberdeen Post #224, Veterans of Foreign Wars.