By MICHAEL GOFF
Recently an op-ed article was published in the West Hawaii Today (Sept. 2) by self-avowed liberal progressive Elizabeth Thompson. Ms. Thompson defends the backup quarterback of the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, who sits during the national anthem in protest and who feels, “he cannot honor a flag with so many issues.”
This “liberal” has a different perspective than the author. I agree Mr. Kaepernick has every right to protest whatever he wants during our national anthem and make whatever gestures he feels appropriate. It’s his right as an American citizen, though I fail to see the relevance of his protest toward these symbols of our country.
The issue he wishes to illuminate is police brutality toward black citizens. It has and does happen. The actions of rogue police are not sanctioned on a national level and are antithetical to the symbols he denigrates. That this nation has a problem with racists and always has is no secret. We’ve been working on it for 240 years with some success. We have in our country racists of all persuasions, we always have, as does every country on this planet. We are a work in progress. But this protest is misguided. Want to protest police brutality of minorities, want to help Mr. Kaepernick? Buy the local police department body cameras – you do have a $14 million salary. Or even better, protest at the police stations responsible. Try Ferguson, Missouri, for instance. That would be braver than protesting at a football scrimmage with the very people you disrespect protecting you. The symbols of our nation represent the fight against racism. The flag and anthem are not the cause of racism or represent the perpetuation of it.
I don’t know or care about Kaepernick’s family history, I can only speak to my own. If he really understood the history of our country he would certainly have a different opinion, but I digress. Our family story is one shared by many fellow Americans and is the reason we hold our flag in such esteem, “issues” or not. Some Americans just don’t sit on the sidelines.
Part of my family has origins in Western Virginia, today Rowlesburg, West Virginia. In May of 1861 a confederate flag was hoisted over the county courthouse, five miles distant in St. George, West Virginia. My family and townsmen, hating slavery and the symbol of it, went there, took down two rebel flags and re-hoisted the real flag. As a result, a rebel detachment under a Lt. McChesney came into town with 10 cavalrymen, their intent to take down the Union flag and exact revenge. A battle ensued, Lt. McChesney never led another detachment, and the slavery rag he brought never flew. Proudly our flag (a symbol of anti-slavery), has remained at the courthouse all days since. Later, my great-great-great-grandfather Samuel, (3rd. West Virginia cavalry) lost his leg in September 1864 on a charge against rebel positions at Front Royal, Virginia. Samuel’s brother, George, also lost a leg in the conflict. Eight direct ancestors fought to free their black countrymen from slavery. Their ancestors fought under that flag during the revolution. Later, my great-great-great-great grandfather James lost two sons in the war of 1812. We fought in every subsequent war after. An uncle was an artillery captain with the 3rd Army when they liberated concentration camps in Germany, the residents of which wept when they saw our flag. We were in Korea, at Khe Sahn and, most recently, Iraq. On my mother’s side, I was recently given a flag that draped the coffins of my seven WW II veteran uncles, the sons of French immigrants, who took the flag from the malarial swamps of New Guinea to the Third Reich.
In short, we all recognize the shortcomings of our nation and need to work to rectify them, reform our police departments to reflect the promise of equality and freedom and help our great nation live up to its shining promise. The promise many families came here seeking, fought for and fought to retain. The promise of freedom and equality. So, Mr. Kaepernick, disrespect our flag, go ahead sit, make your protest, enjoy your newfound celebrity. My family says, “You’re welcome.”
In closing I’m reminded of a passage from Shakespeare’s MacBeth:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
and then is heard no more. It is a tale,
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Reprinted with permission.