Respecting Others

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

― Martin Luther King Jr.

Last evening, while dining out, the table conversation came around to the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, and I was asked my opinion on his recent refusal to stand during the pre-game playing of the national anthem. (He was standing – or sitting, as the case may be – on his right of representative free speech to protest his anger over – in his opinion – the oppression of minorities in this country.)

I had to momentarily hesitate to make sure my words would be neutral enough so as to not begin an argument, while at the same time covey my position.

I think most people see his act as unpatriotic and question his loyality to the country and I remember a quote by Mark Twain : “Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.”

I don’t know where Kaepernick’s patriotic loyalties lay, and I am not going to address it. But, at the least, he has shown disrespect to the people.

I said I thought he should stand, he doesn’t have to sing along, he doesn’t have to put his hand or helmet over his heart, he doesn’t even need to look up at the flag. He should stand only as an act of respect to others. That’s what I do. I was taught from an early age to be respectful of others’ beliefs and loyalties, even if I disagree or have no personal stake in them. 

I recalled the time when I was a boy staying with an uncle in England, and he’d taken me to a movie. At the time (do they still do it there?), before the movie was shown, everyone in the theater stood and sang their national anthem, “God Save the Queen.” When I, at first, didn’t rise as my uncle did, he bent over and whispered, “Get up!” Later, he explained that even if I wasn’t British, I needed to be respectful. 

Lesson learned.

Obviously, Kaepernick has taken a position and done something that isn’t safe, politic or popular, but has acted on what his conscience tells him is right. And I won’t fault him for that. I admire a man with conviction. Too many are silent when they should speak up about the wrongs in society.

But what he did, I believe, has hurt his cause. Had he found a different way, there mightn’t be such outrage and his message would be better received. Now, instead of discussing what he is angry about, people are focusing on how he expressed it.

I just wish he’d have found another way.

One that was more respectful.

– Bill


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