Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station has his usual eloquent take on the so-called Colin Kaepernick incident , in which he describes, in somewhat great length, his opinion on whether Kaepernick should stand (or not) during the playing of the National Anthem. As a veteran myself, I would like to add my opinion, which is this:
It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter not because I don’t care if he stands or not. It doesn’t matter because, as a veteran, on this my opinion is irrelevant.
Note that I did not state my opinion as a person, a man, a citizen, as an American, or any other classification. In those areas I definitely have an opinion on whether or not Colin Kaepernick should stand during the playing of the National Anthem. But as a veteran, my opinion is irrelevant. And it is irrelevant because of this simple fact: I did not serve in the military so that Colin Kaepernick should have to stand during the National Anthem. I served in the military so that Colin Kaepernick should be able to do whatever the hell he wants during the National Anthem.
There is a quote, often mistakenly attributed to Voltaire, but actually written by late 19th century writer Evelyn Beatrice Hall in her book The Friends of Voltaire. You may be familiar with it. It is often associated with the freedom of speech. It is this:
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
In order to serve in the military, I had to take an oath. Part of that oath was to defend the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution has a rather famous amendment, known as the First Amendment. The First Amendment states this:
“Congress shall make no law respecting the 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.”
As a member of the military, I was sworn to protect that. It didn’t matter whether I agreed with it or not. But I was prepared to die to defend it. And thus why my opinion, as a veteran, is irrelevant.
If Mr. Kaepernick wishes to stand during the National Anthem, that is his right. If he wishes to sit, that is his right. If he wishes to do jumping jacks during the National Anthem, that is his right. If he wants to use it as a venue for protest, that is especially his right. It is his right as an American citizen, granted to him by the Constitution of the United States. It is a right bought and paid for by the lives and sacrifice of many, many people who swore an oath to protect it. And by executing that right to sit during the National Anthem, he does not dishonor their service and sacrifice. He does not dishonor my service and sacrifice. Indeed, by choosing to exercise his First Amendment right, he validates it. So sit away, Mr. Kaepernick, if you feel compelled to do so. To be forced to do otherwise was not worth dying for.