Green Beret who told Kaepernick to kneel, wants America to heal

Green Beret who told Kaepernick to kneel, wants America to heal

Green Beret who told Kaepernick to kneel, wants America to heal

Don’t we all?

Some people thought that when we found out that it was a Green Beret who convinced Colin Kaepernick not to sit, but to kneel, during the National Anthem, we would all have a change of heart and expose ourselves as hypocrites. Sorry to disappoint you, but No. I don’t care who thought up this stunt, even if the originator is white. Even if he is a decorated war hero. It is a terrible, stupid, insulting protest, and at the very least is ineffective and counterproductive. At worst, it is wildly divisive and destructive to national unity.

Nate Boyer, former Green Beret (Zachary Bako for ESPN)

Nate Boyer, the Green Beret who thought kneeling was a nice compromise, has good intentions, but he is wrong. He is wrong about how we come together as a nation and he is wrong about the kind of damage this protest is causing. But he is right about a few things:

Simply put, it seems like we just hate each other; and that is far more painful to me than any protest, or demonstration, or rally, or tweet. We’re told to pick a side, there’s a line drawn in the sand “are you with us or against us?” It’s just not who we are, or at least who we’re supposed to be; we’re supposed to be better than that, we’re Americans. This doesn’t even seem to be about right or wrong, but more about right or left.

Did he just now notice how much hate there is? Does he think Colin Kaepernick and Donald Trump started this whole thing? He’s right, there is an enormous amount of hate being spewed, and it is almost entirely coming from the Left. The Right has been under assault for years, but maybe it didn’t register with anybody because Obama’s words sounded so pretty, and his pants’ crease was so mesmerizingly crisp. And it goes back further than Obama, but I’ll stop there.

Even now, when the country is under assault through the undermining of our national identity, what has the Right done? Simply asked that people stand for the National Anthem. That’s it! But somehow that is an offense that is too prideful, too nationalistic, too patriotic, too populist, “My God, You’re a FASCIST!” Get it? See how that works. Do try to keep up.

Today it feels like this national divide isn’t even really about the anthem, or the flag, or kneeling, or sitting, or fists in the air. It’s not about President Donald Trump, it’s not about Colin Kaepernick, it’s not about the military, or even police brutality.

Exactly. Will someone finally admit that whatever message Kaepernick wanted to send, it has gone off the rails? Someone please admit that. It’s the first step in getting this country back on track. Pride runs both ways, and the ones responsible for the protest need to take responsibility for their contribution to this disaster. Don’t ask people to apologize for loving their country.

It feels like it’s about winning. That’s what makes America so great, our sheer competitiveness. We’re winners, and we won’t quit until victory is ours.

He’s right again, only he doesn’t understand the game the Left is playing. It is a game we cannot lose. Somehow people want to ignore Kaepernick’s own words when he talked about the protest, but let’s refresh our memories:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Commentators complain that the second part of the statement is the more important part—the part about police getting away with murder—but how do you ever get past the first part to get there? Here’s how: You have to admit that America is a racist, oppressive country. So, Full Stop. Hit the brakes. I get that people really believe this. Does he get that other people think this is the greatest country on Earth and there is nothing that will convince them otherwise, not least of all because it actually is the greatest country on Earth? (I didn’t say perfect, just the greatest.) Those are the people Kaepernick needs for his issue to progress. He chose to send a message of hate, disrespect, blame, and shame. The very predictable reaction to that message is rejection. All I ask of him is to not be surprised when that’s what comes back at him.

I can appreciate that a warfighter is all about peace, but I fundamentally disagree that surrender on this issue is appropriate.

That’s how it all started with Colin and I, neither of us knew that kneeling would be the result of our conversation. Colin wanted to sit, I wanted him to stand, and so we found a common ground on a knee alongside his teammates. I believe that progress and real change happens in this world when you reach across the divide, you build a bridge, you swallow your pride, you open your mind, you embrace what you don’t understand, and ultimately you surrender.

Nate, this works both ways, too. It’s not, at the heart of it, about the flag or the National Anthem. It’s about our core beliefs and who we perceive ourselves to be as a nation. Kaepernick clearly said what he thinks we are, and I fully reject it. America is not racist or oppressive and neither am I. I am not surrendering to that, and as much as people want to admire Kaepernick for standing up (heh) for what he believes in, why am I expected to stand down? Because his issue is more important than mine? Not at all. Here’s why:

I should not be the one to turn the other cheek. It’s not my personal pride speaking here, the future of our nation is at stake. I believe with all my heart that a love for America is where we meet on common ground. If we don’t have that, we have nothing. America is the Shining City on the Hill, the purveyor of the American Dream, she is America the Beautiful, the Land of Opportunity, the Home of the Free because of the Brave. America’s history is far from perfect, but her foundation is. It is only through the magnificence of her founding that we are able to take on and correct inequality. It is only through a steadfast belief and unyielding dedication to her ideals that we become better, better for each other, and better for the world. If you don’t believe that, then by all means kneel for the National Anthem. America gave you the freedom to disrespect her. Isn’t that alone proof enough of how great she is?

But remember this, when you take that kneeling stance, I, too, have the gift of American freedom, and I will judge you accordingly. I will see a person who is not interested in protecting America, but someone who wants to break her down and make her grovel. I will see someone who wants to bring America to her knees. And that is worse than an enemy across the sea. It is an enemy from within, and I will not surrender to that. Not ever.

Now I don’t pretend to speak for everyone who fought overseas, many veterans rightfully disagree with my position. But I do feel that I echo the sentiments of most war fighters when I say that what we hope for more than anything right now in America is unity.

I, too, wish for unity, (I am on a personal crusade against identity politics), but this cannot be achieved through unnecessary divisiveness. The football players continue to do something many people consider disrespectful. Instead of acknowledging those deeply held beliefs, they invalidate the reaction: they deny it is disrespectful (“since when is kneeling disrespectful?”), they claim it isn’t about the veterans (despite almost everybody’s first reaction as it being disrespectful to the veterans specifically), they try to defend themselves with the mantle of Free Speech (yes, you have a right to do it, but it doesn’t mean it’s right), they ask why can’t those who don’t like it turn the other cheek (because it’s massively damaging to the country, as explained above), and they completely ignore the ineffectiveness of the action (“See, we are talking about this” – no, we are talking about patriotism – oh wait, is that what you want to talk about? Or is it police brutality, or systemic oppression, or racism, or Donald Trump, or ???). Showing a simple understanding of how their actions are affecting others and the country would be a fantastic gesture towards healing this nation.

It’s a nice sentiment if Nate is asking both sides to come to the table, and I don’t criticize him for that desire. But I do think he is underestimating the damage this protest has done, and the literal impasse that has been created. There is no known result which would signal the players can stand once again. Americans will never be perfect, so they can never say there is no more injustice. They have willingly put themselves into subjugation. The symbolism is ironic and tragic. Further, those on the side of respecting the flag and anthem will not budge, and I’m sorry to be so insensitive, but they shouldn’t. The only way to solve problems in America, is to agree that America is worth saving. If we can’t agree on that, there is no use moving forward. Kaepernick and crew need to understand that no matter what they say they are doing, this is effect. They keep trying to bring down an impenetrable wall, but that wall is not going anywhere. They call the wall racism and oppression but the wall is really American unity. If they did believe America’s ideals were worth protecting they would be happy that that was so strong. If they were smart, they would have harnessed this strength instead of attack it.

The part I hate most about this protest is how destructive it has been. It is destructive at its origin. It tears at the fabric of our nation, and saying we should ignore the insult of it is beside the point. The damage is done, and it must be repaired. But this is not as hard as it sounds. All the players would have to do is say they are ending this protest and express sincere acknowledgement that they understand how hurtful it was. They would automatically assume the high ground and do loads of good for their issue, if they really care about it. I see pride getting in the way though, as Nate says above, but I think he is talking about the other side. The players picked a fight they cannot win, and choose to fight on ground that will never be ceded. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they had good intentions, but they need to wake up now and take stock of their efforts. A clear-eyed review will tell them to change course.

The players should present a new proposal—whether it be something symbolic, or something concrete—like a new organization dedicated to community/police relations, or a new partnership with law enforcement. That would be well-received. But that would also take work, and it is probably easier to make a spectacle on TV than do that. But even their spectacle is going to be severely squelched it seems. Fox and ESPN have decided not to air the National Anthem live during this weekends’ NFL games. So much for that platform.

Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem as others stand prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

I think military people sometimes get into the trap of not wanting to seem selfish, since so much emphasis is put on honoring the flag for their service. But I don’t see it that way; sure that is part of it, but just because you are military doesn’t give you any more or less say about how rituals of national unity should be conducted. All Americans have an equal say in it, and I will come down on the side that says respecting this custom is important to the continuity of our nation. Even if you don’t feel pride in America, don’t detract from the ritual. Be respectful to others and stake your own claim to draw attention. Your message will be more respected when you show respect to others.

I had, weeks ago, decided not to revisit this topic again, but here we are. I am here if any of the players want any advice. I will lead them out of this unwinnable quagmire and have them smelling like roses. But maybe they don’t want to take advice from a girl? Kidding! But the offer is out there, if they wish to engage.

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19 Comments
  • Jodi Giddings says:

    EXCELLENT post, Jenny. Spot. On.

  • SafeTea says:

    “…you embrace what you don’t understand, and ultimately you surrender.”

    Humanist phrases at first blush sound so intelligent and inspiring, but when you examine them they’re ridiculous random words strung together intended to sound wise but in fact mock genuine wisdom.

    This country is divided because a large faction of the population is striving for the destruction of the old, Christian values-driven America with the intent of replacing it with a humanism driven America, which forms the basis of all the “ism” ideologies – Socialism, Marxism, Fascism, Communism, Leninism, etc. The continuous shrieks of “racism!” are simply a tool to achieve their ends.

    • Jenny North says:

      Yes, yes, yes! I so despise this “nice” language. People let themselves be lulled to sleep by it. Humanism, I need to learn more about this word. Thank you!

  • Chad says:

    He’s not wanting America to heal. He’s wanting America to heel…like a dog.

    But we’re not Europeans, we’re not subjects, and we’re not just going to surrender. And that’s what has them all confused – and scared.

  • DudeAbides says:

    You forgot to mention that several players gave the game away. They weren’t kneeling, or protesting. Pieces of trash like LeSean McCoy were freaking stretching during the anthem. There’s no protest or message there, that’s just straight up blatant disrespect.

  • George V says:

    I’m frustrated by the flag being seen as representing a person’s perception of America as opposed to what America should aspire to be. Is America the nation of the KKK and David Duke? I don’t think so. Is it the nation of Harvey Weinstein and others of his ilk? Should all women sit during the anthem because we have Weinsteins as well as thousands of rapes in this country? Should conservatives sit out the anthem because half the country votes for progressive democrats who like rules that discriminate against Christian beliefs?

    Or is the flag what we, as a nation, should aspire to be? Should we aspire to be a nation where all are created equal, with equal protection under the law, where we are judged not by skin color but by individual character, and where we are the one nation of many people of the motto “E Pluribus Unum”? Shouldn’t we think of the flag as something that asks us to uphold these ideas? Shouldn’t the flag be respected on that basis?

  • Chuck says:

    Great article, I wanted to write one myself when I read Nate’s piece on ESPN (linked there, I don’t look at ESPN regularly.) Seeing it at ESPN told me exactly what it would say, and you nailed it. I draw the line at the 60s as to when the real assault on America began, and how often the Right was asked to suck it up for ‘unity.’ The Left never gives in, up, or compromises in any way. Defeat is all they will recognize, so I find Nate’s mushy New Age message weak and pitiful. I have left the NFL, and will not return until all stand. The networks can try to avoid it, won’t matter to me.

    • Jenny North says:

      Thanks. Yes the assault has been going on a long time. I have other military friends who want to try to understand the Left, which is sort of puzzling. I believe they come from a good place, but they just don’t understand what the Left is doing.

  • David says:

    I served 30 years in the Army. Worked my way from Private to Colonel. I would never question any soldier’s patriotism who fought, but I would question their intelligence. Just because someone wears a decoration for bravery doesn’t mean we should hang on every word they say. I would bet that this guy was thought to be an idiot before his act(s) of heroism. I spent a day in San Antonio before I retired at the Wounded Warrior Center of Excellence (or whatever it was called then). Think of this as a rehab clinic for men and women who suffered severe trauma during OCO/GWOT. Amputees. Quadriplegics. PTSD. Men and women who really had every right to say that life sucked. But each and everyone I met was a true patriot. Refusing to talk about themselves, but about their buddies they left behind in theatre. For myself, I was in a pissed off mood because I was being forced to retire early due to medical reasons. I had use, albeit limited use, of all four limbs and I could more or less perform at the level of a civilian, just not a soldier. When I was entering the building, a soldier in a wheel chair, one arm, both legs gone, actually held the door open and apologized for not being able to salute. I was stunned. I told him to have a great day and he said every day was great. After that, my piss ant problems seemed trivial and embarrassing to even talk about. These were and are the true heroes. The soldier I spoke to was a truck driver. He was nearly killed with an IED. I say his act of living life to the fullest was as a heroic act of any I read about in theater. No soldier would suggest what the cowards of the NFL are doing is patriotic. It’s not. It’s spitting on that young PFC I met on that hot San Antonio day. I will do for him what he cannot do for himself; I will stand to salute the flag each and every time I see it.

  • Cameron says:

    Nate, I’ve been called a bigot, an Islamaphobe, a homophobe, a right wing nut job, a child killer, a thug, a bigot and a racist by left wingers, some of whom I’m related to by blood. Explain to me why I should try compromising with the other side. And please use small words and colored slides since I’m a former Marine.

  • mrsizer says:

    It’s really much simpler. You are the entertainment at some venue. All the people who have come to see you perform some bizarre ritual. What do you do?

    They are paying you. You respect their ritual, regardless of what it means to them or you. Or you don’t get paid.

    The fact that this ritual is particularly dear only makes the stupid more obvious.

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