(This piece first appeared in the Op Ed pages of The Coast News, September 2, 2016)
The controversy over the protest by Colin Kaepernick to remain seated during a pregame singing of the National Anthem is not about the young man. He is simply a symptom of the larger disease many Americans are suffering over the flawed assumption that we all love America in the same way.
I don't for a minute think Colin hates America. Same with most Black Lives Matters people, or Occupy Wall Street or any number of disgruntled minority groups that yell obscenities at our veterans or walk on the American flag.
I think, and I can only hope I am right, that he is doing something to bring attention to a condition that is, at least in his mind, deprecating the legacy of the America we all love. I want to believe Colin is a truly patriotic American.
Otherwise, I would have to assume he is just an idiot. His insular protest comes off as self absorbed and petulant. Not the best way to stir interest and sympathy for your cause.
He may be confused, immature and misinformed, but I believe his motives are noble.and more importantly, he is by no means alone in his sentiments. That fact alone is extremely sad and disturbing. He is certainly right about one thing, there is conflict in our American family and we must confront it, or it will consume us.
We can agree that there are pockets of extreme poverty, despair and violence in America. We can also agree that there is a disproportionate amount of crime and law enforcement activity in the poorest black neighborhoods, which more often than is acceptable, leads to a tragic loss of life. No one element of our society is entirely to blame. The condition of the inner cities is a much bigger problem than any simplistic policy initiative, or symbolic protest by a football player, is going to fix.
So here is my take: Instead of pointing out how many flaws, indignities and weaknesses that our homeland has, people like Kaepernick, who have issues with how authority is exercised in the poorest inner cities of our country, would serve their goals much more effectively by celebrating the American Dream, rather than disrespecting it.
By pointing to his own experience as an example of how it can be realized, and then, in more private ways, Kaepernick could put together non-profit foundations, support volunteer action committees and neighborhood representatives who, in the true spirit of American-style entrepreneurial action and opportunity, would work toward a consolidated resolution of the injustices he is pointing at, which certainly do occur. This kind of direct action would engender widespread support, from all walks of politics and race.
Patriots who respect the ideals of America, aspire to build communities, not to divide and destroy them.
Bill and Melinda Gates develop and operate hundreds of charities and foundations all over the world. No one can challenge their efforts to make the world a better place. They also represent true American ideals and are ambassadors for freedom and opportunity. Ditto with many other popular and successful black leaders such as Magic Johnson.
Some of us disagree with Kaepernick's way of protesting, but most Americans of any political persuasion agree that our nation is not perfect. Like any living, breathing thing, our Americanism is made up of humans. Our police departments are made up of humans. The inner cities are too. None of us are perfect.
Politically, we have our differences, but ideologically, we are all Americans. We are family.
It is vital that we all appreciate how so many imperfect fellow Americans, of all persuasions, have historically sacrificed so much, just so all of us descendents of the much harder times before and during the founding of our unique experiment in human self management, could be handed the opportunity, and dare I say, the obligation, to work together toward a more perfect union.