Colin Kaepernick and others continue to protest against racial disparity and police brutality by kneeling at the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. I find it curious that some who disagree with the protesters seem, at least, in my hearing and perceiving, far more outraged about what they consider disrespect and denigration of our national anthem and flag than they are concerned about the long-playing and unresolved issues of racial animus in our country.
As I wrote in a previous post (September 3: The Star-Spangled battle?), yes, I understand and sympathize with those who are dismayed, angered by the actions of Kaepernick and others. Our anthem and flag are symbols. As symbols they point beyond themselves to realities so fondly experienced and deeply cherished that they sometimes defy our most earnest efforts to articulate them in any uniform fashion (e.g., our national identity, integrity, and security and, by extension, those who fought, suffered, and died to establish and preserve our nation). Thus the über-importance of these symbols as outward and visible representations of these sacred truths.
Yet I remain curious. Those who react negatively to the protesters provoke my wonderment and my disappointment. For I also understand and sympathize with the reasons for the protests. I have had more than enough experience – of mine own and of countless others, most unknown, through the testimony of history and many known, through their sharing of their personal stories – of being on the receiving, verily, the withholding end of racial bias, having been denied educational advantage, financial benefit, vocational opportunity, and, most sorrowfully, sometimes life itself – because of the color of our skin. So, where is the greater, more widespread outcry against racial disparity?
All this said, whenever I am in a public setting, say, at a sporting or civic event, and The Star-Spangled Banner is played and the Stars and Stripes displayed, I stand and place my right hand over my heart. Doing this, I express, in some part, my recognition of the veneration others accord these symbols, in more part, my admiration for my father and those who have served and do serve in the military, and, in most part, my anticipation of what America can be, but is not yet.