Morgan Brown ‘17 — Leading protests since August 14th, NFL player, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand for the national anthem and continued to “sit down” for what he believes is right through September, even on September 11, a day now dedicated to the victims of a traumatizing terrorist attack. Football players from four different teams took a knee for the anthem supporting Kaepernick’s opinion. The situation attracted the media’s attention, and continuously beckons more and more players to abandon their national pride.

Some Romeo students face a similar situation. As The Pledge of Allegiance plays over the classroom speakers each morning, some students remain in their chairs. When the choir sings the national anthem during football games, some students sit on the bleachers, and when they sing “God Bless the U.S.A.” during pep assemblies, some students think exactly the opposite.

While everyone holds the right to protest for what they believe in, refusing to praise our country symbolizes pure disrespect for America, selfishly asking more from a country that gives us everything.

America gives us our lifestyle, our safety, our freedom.

America listens to the voices of its people.

America continuously reforms to create a better country.

America works to keep its citizens happy, yet some remain dissatisfied.

If America is so awful that it provides reason to protest, what country would give us a better life? When I see people sitting for the anthem or the pledge, I wonder if they realize what life outside of America consists of.

I wonder if Colin Kaepernick knows that his net worth, totaling $22 million, comes from the American people religiously following football, a sport only popular in the U.S., and that what he deems as racism and brutality here hardly compare to some third world countries.

I wonder if our students understand that we are lucky to sit in a school when the staff reads The Pledge of Allegiance, as children in Africa and the Middle East lack the chance to learn.

I wonder if anyone realizes that if we attempted to protest in places like Cuba, China, or anywhere in the Middle East, we risk arrest or death.

As Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom states in his column, “Anthem Protestors May Want to Look at a Calendar”, the fact that we have the right to sit down for the national anthem is the exact reason that we shouldn’t. We possess the freedom to protest and make a change in the world, but possibilities to do so extend beyond criticizing the country that wants to help.

If you feel so strongly about an issue that you consider it a national disgrace, do something about it. Sitting for the national anthem or The Pledge of Allegiance serves as only symbolic speech; using your words makes a greater impact. The potential to make a change accompanies American citizenship: take advantage of it. In Colin Kaepernick’s case, rather than disrespecting the American flag to protest police brutality, he should use a chunk of the millions of dollars that America blesses him with to help others who want to champion his cause. Students, instead of refusing to stand, could spread awareness of an issue around the school by organizing an event to speak about it.

Whether we believe it or not, America works for us, not against us. America allows us to speak our minds freely, but some of us fail to realize just how much fortune our nation brings us. Why continuously condemn the country for its mistakes rather than helping to fix them? Our words impact nothing if we use them in a negative way, to ignite controversy and anger instead of inspiring a change. We have every right to protest, but we must learn the proper way, and the right way to protest does not involve dishonoring our country.

Opposing argument:

Laura Catron ’17 — Taking a knee, a concept not unfamiliar in soccer, field hockey, and football, along with most other sports, players do it to show concern and respect for a fellow athlete showing signs of injury. Can the same courtesy not be afforded to the beautiful, yet critically hurt, country we live in?

Recently, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers has stirred up a large amount of controversy by taking a knee during the national anthem. In solidarity, several of his teammates have joined him. Their purpose is to protest the mistreatment of black Americans and police brutality.

Many feel that such an action is disrespectful and un-American.

I cannot help but wonder if those people are familiar with the First Amendment. Where exactly do they believe that disrespect is aimed? Because ultimately, the flag, the national anthem, and the pledge of allegiance are all symbolic. Symbolic of the sacrifices of the armed forces, symbolic of the rights embedded in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, symbolic of the very ideals of our nation. Symbolic of everything that should be a source of national pride. And don’t get me wrong, symbolism is important.

But in life, reality trumps symbolism.

The reality is that last year, 1146 people were killed by police, 230 of them unarmed. The reality is that in 2015, more mass shootings took place than there were days in the year. The reality is that transgender people are being murdered at rates that are record high. The reality is that innocent people die in this country every day, and that many of those deaths can be prevented.

Really, why would we stand for that failure? The words of the pledge and of the anthem serve to remind us of the rights we supposedly have. Liberty and justice, no matter who we are. For all. But those words didn’t help Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Akyra Murray or the countless others whose lives have been taken. With their deaths, the weight behind the words was lost. Society will have to forgive us if the shining patriotism behind the phrases has dulled in our eyes.

Even so, some people insist that we need to stand, that there are better ways of voicing our displeasure. However, these are often the same people who call street protesters and marchers ‘rowdy’ and ‘prone to violence.’ They disapprove of action and the raising of voices, but also of inaction and silence. What does that leave? The only remaining option is to engage in politics.

Which isn’t to say that we haven’t been engaged all along. But politics by themselves are rarely effective. The problem is that they are horribly slow. When people are dying now, a bill on the Congress floor in two, three, five years will no longer be helpful. History will have already been written. The victims will already be gone. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for the issues of minorities to become priority to the government.

So take notice of the girl in your Spanish class who doesn’t stand with you. Acknowledge the backup QB on television that takes a knee for those hurting in his country.  

Try to hear what we aren’t saying.

Try to hear our frustration and fear.

Try to understand that the romanticism behind the words is not keeping us safe.

I have no quarrel with those who stand for the pledge and our national anthem. If those symbols are important to you, I encourage you to show that respect.

All I ask is respect for the fact that we cannot pledge ourselves to a symbol with our existing reality hanging over our heads.

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34996604

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/03/remember-their-names-all-the-transgender-people-killed-in-2016.html

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database#

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