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Friday, September 9, 2016

Ben Watson's Middle Ground On Kaepernick Misses Some Details

The Baltimore Ravens' Ben Watson (click here for a bio) successfully found a middle ground in talking about Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem (click here for the article that quotes him). That middle ground consisted of stating why he stands for the anthem with his right hand over his heart while lending support for Kaepernick and his protests. Watson said something that we all need to hear when he stated that we need to focus on the problems that the protests point to rather than  the protesters.

In stating why he stands, Watson does not deny that there are serious problems in our nation. However, he stands at attention for the National Anthem because of how and where he grew up. He places his hand over his heart for the National Anthem because he grew up in a "Navy Town" and because he is imitating how his father stood for the National Anthem. But most important in his reasons is that standing is his way of honoring the troops who follow order despite their personal sentiments.


And while Watson gives a very respectable response, there are points missing. Points such as the problems our nation which are not in the list he gave. For while he sees serious problems in many American families, with racism and violence, with abortion, with religious freedom, and the ever widening gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve, he seems to have overlooked some very important items. One item Watson overlooked is our nation's imperialism. For while he shows respect for our troops whose "personal sentiments" might oppose that imperialism, we need to ask this question: Can all opposition to our imperialism be attributed to mere "personal sentiments"?

To answer that question, one only needs to substitute another nation's troops for our own. For example, would we consider objections of those who served in Hitler's Wehrmacht, that is Germany's regular army, as being due to mere personal sentiments? Or how about Syria's armed forces? Are the only objections a member of the Syrian army could have to what they are doing as being based solely on feelings?


Thus, in his attempt to honor the troops, Watson seems to have certain assumptions about what our troops asked to do. That assumption states that whatever our troops are asked to do, their objections certainly could not be due to serious moral objections.


In addition, Watson neglects to mention poverty and the growing wealth and power disparity that exists in our country along with how our way of life is destroying the environment and thus is threatening mankind's future survival. Aren't these serious problems and don't they reflect on our nation's character and whether or not it deserves respect?

We could finally add the fact that the third verse of our National Anthem celebrates the persecution and killing of slaves. We should note that the war during which the National Anthem was written saw slaves fleeing to the British for relief as well as Canadian Blacks volunteering to fight to repel America's attempted incursions into Canada. They did so because they feared that they would be returned or made subject to slavery if America won. So when we read the following part of the third verse, what are we to think?
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The objection that should exist here is not in Watson's balanced approach to Kaepernick's protests during the playing of the National Anthem. For while Watson states that he could not protest the National Anthem as Kaepernick does, he shows a very proper respect for what Kaepernick is doing, Watson could recognize more problems with our nation than he does as well as problems with some of the lyrics of the National Anthem. And in the end, while Watson shows respect for Kaepernick and his refusal to stand, Watson seems to be unaware that his own personal response to the National Anthem just might be the result of accepting an authoritarianism that is both so rampant in our nation today and is hindering any real democracy from emerging.


 

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