If we can’t kneel or march in the streets, how can we peacefully protest this country’s injustices?

I cannot believe the country has come to this illogical dichotomy:

Kneeling NFL Players vs. our Brave Veterans

I hear all of the complaints: “leave politics out of football!” Let America enjoy this one unified pastime without desecrating it with political division. The same complaint can be applied to the Grammy’s and late night TV.

I agree. Politics suck.

However, since when should we silently ignore major violations of human rights? Just because politics is uncomfortable?

It must be nice for you to be able to sit at home, drink a beer, and watch a football game without any influence of politics (except for maybe those whiny millennials on your Facebook feed).

However, that is not the case for a massive part of the American population: for the dreamers wondering if they will be deported from this country, for the black teenagers pulled over on their way to the store for a halftime snack, for the transgender citizens banned from using the bathroom, for the white girl who feels helpless for the injustices committed in her country. 

Politics, whether you like it or not, are everywhere. You know why? Because the people of this great country care about each other and how we are governed as a civilized society. It is important to emphasize that these conversations to improve our country are not mutually exclusive with honoring our veterans.

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I am eternally grateful for those men and women who have given their lives to protect America and its freedoms. I am humbled by the sacrifices these people make to protect a country, who doesn’t even necessarily protect them when they come back home. My heart breaks for the soaring rates of veteran unemployment and homelessness. I know I am not selfless or brave enough to join the military, which is one of the reasons I am so thankful for those who do. You are brave. You are strong. You are selfless. Thank you.

Thank you for your service. You are heroes.

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And I’m sorry that your selfless service has been convoluted in this polarized argument of kneeling NFL players.

I will not submit my argument into this false dichotomy. 

I understand that it can be frustrating to see people kneeling during a National Anthem, which celebrates unity and freedom. I get it. We need to honor those who have died protecting us. But we must also honor those who have wrongfully died due to discrimination and systemic racism.

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When I was a junior in high school, I remember my History teacher chastising us for not being active citizens in society. He would show us powerful marches during the Civil Rights movement and the glorified heroes of human rights and equality. He would criticize us for being apathetic and lazy teenagers. I remember learning that peaceful protests were not only a tenet of this country, but ultimately a demonstration of patriotism to improve the place we call home.

Now, I watch these “peaceful” protests and see them developing into violent riots. How can we achieve peaceful protest? The inequalities evident in this country need to be protested.

But how?

  • If you go out on the streets, inevitably it comes to tear gas and hit-and-run drivers. It is no longer “peaceful.” 

  • If you post on Facebook, it creates an incessant curse-ridden back and forth that results in broken relationships. 

  • If you kneel on a football field, it denounces all of the veterans of this country and their brave service. 

So my sincere question is how: How do we protest these gross injustices in our society then?

I hear that these football players cannot do it on a national platform. Since when are protests supposed to be done from the comfort of our couches? The entire purpose of a protest is to mobilize change… How can that be done without drawing attention to it? I sincerely cannot figure out how we can address the systemic racism in our country.

However, I don’t think it fixes anything to boycott the NFL or to fire the kneeling players, as recommended by President Trump:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’” -President Donald Trump on September 22, 2017

And Colin Kaepernick basically was fired. He remains a free agent because he is too controversial to participate in the NFL, but what about these controversial arrests of the 869 records of crimes committed by other NFL players? Apparently, it is okay to beat your girlfriend, but kneeling on a football field is too far for the American people. Domestic violence need not be a career-ending offense, but starting a peaceful protest sure does.

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I mean, how dare someone engage in peaceful protest?! How dare a citizen practice his or her first amendment right:

“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.”

Protest is important. Especially when it is to honor and protect these American men and women:

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I stand for those wrongfully killed.

I stand for my police officers.

I stand for my veterans.

I stand for my country.

These are not mutually exclusive. Do not be fooled by this angry, polarized rhetoric. Just as there has been blacks vs. police. It isn’t a true dichotomy. It will only make America black and blue if we cannot reconcile that #blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, and #veteransmatter.*

*It might appear to be easier to say #alllivesmatter, but our society needs to recognize those that are specifically being attacked and facing discrimination. Our black men, women, and children need protection. Our brave police officers need protection. That is why I say #blacklivesmatter AND #bluelivesmatter. It is not a paradox. Don’t be fooled into these polarized dichotomies. 

Because I stand for all of these people and this country, I kneel. 

It is both a political and a patriotic act.

 

 

 

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