Many people talk about the threat of political polarization and the breakdown of a meaningful exchange of ideas between the left and right. Ironically, many athletes are stating these fears while simultaneously kneeling during the national anthem and undermining the repair of that division. They call for “starting a discussion,” but at the same time they spit on the country which has allowed them to succeed and they destroy what little remains of our nation’s common culture.
The fact is, political disagreement in America is nothing new. We have always had major political disagreements, but we have been able to have civil discussions in part because both sides could relate to one another through unifying forces. A primary unifying force is patriotism, but common cultural interests, such as sports, have also helped us to relate to one another.
This protest is destroying both of those things at once, through both committing anti-American actions in public and bringing politics into the sports arena.
When we sing The national anthem, it is a time for Americans to be thankful, together, for having the privilege to live in this country, and for the sacrifices that our service members have made to protect our safety and our freedom. Instead of standing and sharing in these gratitudes, the kneeling athletes spit on the faces of the millions of brave Americans who died for their freedoms by failing to even show them two minutes of respect by standing quietly during the anthem.
Athletes who partake in this “protest” claim that they don’t mean any disrespect to the military and that they are still patriotic. This is ridiculous. If someone spits on the ground in front of me, they are committing a disrespectful act regardless of if they “don’t intend to show disrespect.” The athletes say they aren’t being unpatriotic or disrespectful to the military, and many of them mean it, yet they commit unpatriotic and disrespectful acts each time they go out to the field. Athletes who kneel aren’t necessarily unpatriotic citizens, and I do believe the majority aren’t. That said, they are undeniably committing an unpatriotic act, regardless of their intentions.
The divisiveness of this protest is also grounded in the destruction of sports as a medium to remove ourselves from politics and to relate to people on the other side. When we go to watch an NFL game, we want to watch big men hitting one another alongside fellow fans, and to leave politics aside for just a few hours. This protest takes that away entirely. Now when we watch an NFL game, all we see are millionaire athletes disrespecting the country that provided their opportunity to succeed and leftist commentators praising this unpatriotic display.
If we can’t stand together to honor our country, if we can’t even watch sports together, how can we possibly talk about serious political issues?
The other underlying problem with this protest is that it is based off of a false premise. The athletes justify kneeling by saying that they are just protesting and bringing awareness to “systemic” or “institutional” racism. Yet, they hardly ever actually provide specific instances of this racism, and the argument they make calls for a complete dismantling of American society and culture.
The left’s claim, that America is an irredeemably racist country and that racism is embedded in our culture, suggests that we need to completely destroy American culture and start from scratch. How can someone make such a claim without actually providing evidence of how racism is embedded and inseparable from American culture?
The reality is that America is not an institutionally racist place, and anyone who works hard and makes good decisions in life can succeed. That is the only real privilege that we all have, American privilege. There are few places in the world that allow anyone, even those born to extremely poor parents, to rise up the social ladder. There are few places where everyone is equal under the law and equal in opportunity regardless of race, gender, or creed.
This is not to say that there was never discrimination and intolerance, obviously. Slavery, Jim Crow, and other historical forms of institutional racism and discrimination were purely evil. But that is the key word, historical. Today, institutional racism is a thing of the past.
Also obviously, there are still some individual racists who should be fought and condemned at every opportunity. But individuals they are, and they are on the fringe of society. If you can point a racist law, a racist company, a racist person, I, and the vast majority of the country will stand alongside you to combat it. But shouting that invisible, nameless institutional racism is inherent to our society is not something I will support.
What it comes down to is the United States is special. It is the first country to be founded on the idea that all men are created equal, and the idea that anyone who assimilates into American culture is an American, regardless of race or creed. It is the most tolerant country in the history of the Earth, and believe me, as a Jew I certainly recognize America’s uniqueness in this area.
The big picture is that the United States is the greatest nation in the history of the world, but there is no guarantee it will stay that way. Our national unity is under threat and the social fabric is slowly ripping apart. What we need to be doing right now to preserve America’s greatness is teaching personal responsibility and respect, and repairing the social fabric.
This anthem kneeling protest is the absolute last thing this country needs. Athletes and public figures should use their influence to promote personal responsibility and the preservation of unifying forces, not slander American society and exacerbate our division.
NOTE: this post was updated on 11/4, one hour after posting, due to an editorial miscommunication to fully reflect the opinion of the author.