I may not agree with everything that San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick has done in his NFL career. For instance, I did not like the time he wore socks with pigs dressed as police officers. If that was not an outright act of hate speech, it was an act of dehumanization which is beneath him as a citizen. I’m guessing that he later regretted doing that. San Jose Mercury Story
But whether I like it or not does not matter. He has a right to express himself as an American citizen. It was the social philosopher Voltaire who said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”
Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of any vibrant democracy. Without the right to express grievances against one’s government, especially in a nonviolent and civil manner, political control inevitably moves towards autocracy. As I understand the Revolutionary War, the colonial patriots did not fight to defend the customs and traditions of America. There was no nation. Instead, they fought for the right to be represented as equal human beings. Isn’t that what Kaepernick is calling for in his protest? Agree or disagree, he has a right to protest.
Besides, citizens do not sing the national anthem in order to celebrate soldiers. Soldiers enlist and serve so that national anthems can be sung. Despite what some people say, there are many different ways to sing an anthem. But simply put, if our nation’s anthem is not performed by free citizens who have the inalienable right to remain silent, it is no longer a song inspired by courage and freedom but an oath based in fear and control.
When Francis Scot Key penned the words, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave,” he was glorifying the reality of freedom in the lives of people who are willing and brave enough to be free. To glorify the flag for its own sake would have been, in his mind, an act of fetishism which makes an inanimate object more important than the intrinsic rights of the human beings waving it.
As Mr. Kaepernick has bravely shown, the same is true of anthems.