Letter to the editor: One veteran’s take on anthem protests

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To the Editor:

A neighbor who knows I am a veteran approached me in my driveway the other day and asked how I felt about athletes who sit or kneel during the national anthem. A woman she works with had told her that she and her husband, also a veteran, were boycotting NFL games because they are offended by what they see as disrespect for the flag or for people who have served in the armed forces. My neighbor asked if I felt the same way.

I told her I was curious about what the boycotters disagreed with. Are they saying that there is a proper, patriotic way to show respect for the flag and our country during the playing of the national anthem and that choosing another way—silently kneeling or sitting and thinking private thoughts—troubles them? Or do they disagree with what the athletes are saying: that our country has a problem, that innocent African-American men are much more likely than innocent white men to be shot by the police while walking down the street, getting out of their cars, or driving home from the mall, and that prosecutors and juries seem reluctant to do anything about this?

Either way, whatever their motive, I am fine with the boycotters and their boycott. They are exercising their right as Americans to peacefully make a point about something that makes them angry. If it is the players’ message they disagree with, however, they are mistaken.

I am a 73-year-old white man. A few years ago, my wife and I shared a Thanksgiving dinner with a group that included two older African-American women, both longtime community college educators. There were lots of stories in the news that year about young black men who had been shot by the police or by vigilantes. I can’t remember the names; there have been so many. We began talking about those cases with these women, and I can’t forget what they said. They live in fear. They have sons and grandsons who are in college, or are working as teachers, or preachers, or are just trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and these mothers and grandmothers live in constant fear that some night one of the young men they love will be shot and killed by a nervous cop for no reason. They warn their sons and grandsons to be careful, but the fear doesn’t go away. This is a problem—not just for them, but for all of us.

I was a teenager when I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1963, and I can’t remember all of my reasons for joining up—some were personal and a little silly—but I do remember that I was proud of my country. It was a place where people could nonviolently protest against injustice, with a real hope that things would get better. This tradition has made and still makes our country great, and I would hate to see it curtailed in the name of patriotism.

Bob Hinck
Edmonds

38 COMMENTS

  1. Many of us do not want to deny the NFL players the right to nonviolently protest against injustice. What we object to is where they’re doing it – at their place of work. They should be 100% dedicated to doing what they’re paid to do. The fans have paid a lot of money to watch them perform; their performace should not be compromised in any way. I doubt that many employers would tolerate their workers protesting at their workplace.

    • So… standing for the National Anthem is a performance. Does that apply to the fans?
      I am a veteran not offended by the players taking a knee.

      • Ron isnt saying hes offended. Hes pointing out that the game is a place of work, and mixing misguided politics with work is bad business. NFL ratings arent doing very good because people have the right not to watch. I was a Civil Rights activist while I was active duty. Every soldier has free speech. However, you can’t protest in uniform or on base. You represent people other than yourself when you’re in your work clothes, and it’s selfish to assume they all agree with you.

        Cops aren’t racist, and are 20% more likely to use lethal force on a white person (link below).
        The national anthem isnt racist.
        Michael Brown didnt have his hands up. Trayvon Martin jumped a Hispanic guy who was armed. Tamar Boggs is a national hero and we should all stand for someone like him. These players stand for the wrong things.

      • I have to agree with Ron here. When an act is compelled by threat, contract, or other methods, you don’t have an act of respect. You have a performance. Genuine respect is earned, and shown by acts of free will.

        And when did kneeling become an act of disrespect? Has there ever been another place or time in history where this was so? I consider it to be an act of humility, as it has always been. I can probably think of a thousand ways to be disrespectful during the national anthem, but kneeling isn’t one of them.

      • None of the research cited by the Vanity Fair article you cited adjusts for police encounters. Per police encounter, there is no racial bias in the use of lethal force.
        https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/upshot/surprising-new-evidence-shows-bias-in-police-use-of-force-but-not-in-shootings.html

        Harvard even concluded that black police officers were more likely to use lethal force than white officers, and in Houston (where they had hard data) Harvard was able to conclude that white people are 20% more likely to be shot *per police encounter*. Are blacks more likely to have a police encounter? Of coarse, and they are more likely to commit crime. I’m a man. I am more likely to be arrested than a woman, more likely to be shot by cops, and I receive twice the prison sentence of a woman for the same crime. That said, men commit more crimes than women. Men are more likely to be violent and extra margins are taken when encountering men. Recidivism is more likely for men as well. It all kinda makes sense that men are nominally more likely to be shot by a cop than woman. It makes sense that men are encountered by police more than woman. Simply counting incidents of lethal force per capital, per race, is unnuanced. Citing analysis done by Black Lives Matter along side studies taken out of context done by UC Davis sorta tanks the credibility of the whole story. I love Vanity Fair, but its a junk article you cited.

        The Vanity Fair article cites a lot of reports of bias in Progressive cities like San Francisco. Lets agree, SF is whiter than Edmonds by design. Dave Chappelle got a lot of guff by pointing out that SF is a segregated city, but it’s true. Progressive policies do seem to be very heavy-handed against minorities. Stop and Frisk and Quotas are a New York thing, not a Texas thing. Increased policing of black communities is an Institutional Bias that does exist, and really seems to manifest the most in cities run by Democrats, in schools, in HUD, in SNAP, where said systems create communities [of color] which seem to be where the most crime is committed. California prisons (the public ones) have even been identified by other countries and organizations like Amnesty International as being a Human Rights violation. That is a real dilemma that affects communities of color the most. This is a great read on some of this: http://newjimcrow.com/about-the-author

        Let’s rejoice, though, that our socialized police system paid for by our taxes isn’t staffed by a bunch of racists with guns. Are police heavy-handed in general? A bit. Are there bad apples in the police? A couple, but not by enlarge. According to peer reviewed science (not BLM analysis), police are even-handed.

  2. I don’t see how taking a knee or sitting during the national anthem affects the players job performance. When the game clock begins they are 100% dedicated to doing their job, and the fans still get to see 60 minutes of football.

    • I’m sure there’s a sports psychologist who could attest to the impact it has on performance. Players on the team of kneelers know their team is divided and that public support for them is uncertain. The opposing team, which stands together, even if any of them personally want to kneel, know they are united, functioning as a unit, standing together as a team; and they can see that their opponents are divided and lack a strong leader.

      Nobody hears anything when the sit, kneel, or fail to appear. They are professional athlete; they have a platform from which their voice could be heard. Once they take the uniform off, that is the time to make a declaration in their community and take their message to the press. They can do that whether or not they stand during the National Anthem.

      Sure, kneeling doesn’t directly cost the player anything. But it alone is cheap, weak, and ineffective. I think in part why many of the public express an adverse reaction it, because all they see is the kneeling, or the sitting, or the lack of participation in the pomp and circumstance, and it is perceived as an act of defiance. There’s no grand message conveyed in those actions. And when the message may attempt to be expressed or explained, the audience is already tainted by their interpretation of that player’s apparent defiant act.

      There is clearly a significant number of the public who perceive players not standing for the National Anthem and raising of the flag as disrespectful. I would guess that those who do not, would also not see it as disrespectful for every player to stand during those pregame moments. Therefore, standing together is the way to gain the most public support for the league.

      The players need to humble themselves, stand up like a man, earn the respect of the public, and save their demonstrations for when they are off the field. And when they are off the field, if they feel that strongly, do something!

      • As a mental health therapist, I’d say I guess the most divisive thing on a team and in this country is the fact that some people are treated as less valuable because of their skin color. Racial trauma has been passed through generations of non white people in the US. In particular, native and black people. Once you open your eyes to the prevalence of racism and its many many forms, you see how traumatic, harmful, and painful it is for people of color to deal with every day. It’s sickening. I admit I wasnt this aware a year ago. Now that I am, I work to address it. I hope you’ll learn more and join me in that effort.

        • Why hasn’t racial trauma been passed on through the generations to Jews and Asians who were treated horribly, were slaves and interned in our own boarders? Why are Jews and Asians doing so well in the absence of hashtags, protests, federal recognition, etc?

        • Matthew many Jews hold close their trauma of the Holocaust and continue to feel fear in the light on white supremacy. Asian people encompasses a varied group, and while groups have, and continue to receive discrimination, their experience is different from people who are black, and native Americans.

        • No, Native Americans and people of color did not experience anything that Jewish folks experienced. My question was designed to point out how people of color are systemically infantalized and placated, when they are in fact every bit as robust as other oppressed peoples. Jewish people do live in the wake of tremendous atrocity, but there weren’t well-intentioned people infantilizing them at every turn. Actually, Jews faced pervasiveness antisemitism and still persevered. Jews held onto their identity, but also melted into our society, and Americans eventually and reluctantly treated them as individuals instead of as a group. It was a hard road. They even went as far as to change their last names to ones less Jewish just to fit in and put their tragedies behind them. That’s a Melting Pot Society. It worked for Irish, Gays and Asians as well.

          People of Color and Native Americans are what Multiculturalism look like. We relegated natives to reservations where they can’t move, or start businesses easily, can’t own land or mortgage property because none of it belongs to the individual Native American; it all belongs to the native people. In places like NYC, Donald Trump’s family used eminent domain to make their fortune, using progressive government contracts to take away private homes of black individuals and to built them projects that belonged to all of them, owned by white-run companies. The projects were a black reservation in different form. 40 Acres and a Mule gave freed slaves their own separate land and means outside of society; not in society. San Francisco is so progressive, that 4% of the population in that major city is black; and falling.

          The fact is, there are no federal programs specifically for Jews like there are for Native Americans. The only difference is Jews were treated as individuals in a MeltingPot society, while Native Americans [and POC to a lesser extent] are treated as a group in a Multi-Cultural Society. Jews aren’t victims of MultiCulturialism. Progressives are good, well-intentioned, people who group people by race at every turn, but oppressed people really need to be treated as individuals first and as groups last.

  3. Kneeling is free. Not many of those millionaires would do something constructive like create a public defense fund to buy lawyers to stem the school to prison pipeline. It’s been pretty well studied, by Harvard even, white people are slightly more likely to be shot by a cop than black people per police encounter. POC are more likely to have a police encounters, but also more likely to commit crime. The war on drugs (a race to the bottom which Bill Clinton ultimately won) did no one any favors. Michelle Alexander is a good read on this: http://newjimcrow.com

    As a vet myself, I agree that people have the right to kneel, to burn a flag or a fiery cross with a hood on their head. It’s all Constitionally protected extremist Free Speech. Id fought for their right to kneel and am proud they can do it. Thank you for your service. Great story Bob.

      • While this study did find that lethal force is just as likely, or even more likely, to be used against whites, the more common types of force used by police were much more likely to be used against blacks. Lethal force occurs in an extremely small proportion of police encounters. (Meaning a few cases either way can lead to different conclusions.) What this research does show is that African-American parents are right to be concerned about police treatment of their children (particularly their sons).
        Matthew, your statement that police are not racists is just as false as if I were to say all police are racists.
        I, too, am a veteran and I agree that taking a knee should not be seen as a sign of disrespect. It’s an alternative way of showing respect, meant to draw attention to problems in police-minority encounters. Many of us would rather ignore this problem and resent its intrusion into our entertainment – however minor an intrusion it might be – but that’s the point! To draw attention to the problem. That’s what people don’t like, and the “disrespect” notion is really a distraction.
        Thanks, Bob, for your letter.

        • Well put Bill Normal. Yes, increased policing of certain communities is a small Institutional Bias. Like I said in a previous comment, Stop and Frisk and Quota’s are a New York City thing, not a Texas thing. Those are jobs police are told to do from the top down, from the city leaders who are elected by the voters of those communities. I grew up just as poor as any person of color from an inner city, but my community wasn’t policed because my community didn’t commit as much crime. Policing isn’t causing crime. Crime is causing policing. The data really aligns with that.

        • Not sure what you think was well put, Matthew. Your response doesn’t address my point – and a major point of the research you cited – that all forms of police force short of lethal force (which are far more common than lethal force) are disproportionally used against African-Americans. Of course, no matter how many or how few the instances of lethal force, the question of fairness or justice in its application remains a concern.

        • My other point is that the opposition to the kneeling protests is prompted by a reluctance to admit or face the problem the protesters are pointing to, not really a concern for respecting the flag. There’s nothing disrespectful about kneeling.

        • Hi Bill, sorry. Yes, people of color are more likely to have cuffs put on and pushed a wall and frisked. Not all police engagements are equal, and officers use personal discretion during an investigation. Sometimes they feel safer putting cuffs on someone, and often that depends on the reason for the investigation. Is the person just loitering or does it look like they are loitering, selling drugs and carrying a weapon? There are a lot of details that aren’t check boxes on their reports and worksheets that are harder to tabulate.

          Men (no matter the color) are more likely to have cuffs put on and pushed a wall and frisked than women (no matter the color). It’s a tough argument to say that there’s gender bias in a cop’s discretion to put cuffs on a man during an investigation. Throw out the fact that men are more likely to try to resist arrest than woman and men pose more of a threat given our strength and size. ***Ultimately men are more likely to be stopped for a serious crime which warrants more precaution.***

          What the data seems to reflect is that police use greater margins of safety (such as cuffing during the investigation) when investigating more serious crimes, and that people of color are more likely to commit a serious crime. We’re talking about a 20% bias here. It doesn’t seem unreasonable that coincidentally a person of color was 20% more likely to be engaged by a police officer for a more serious reason than a white person in the same community. This is a cultural difference. Culturally, people of color have a more adversarial relationship towards police than white people in the same community. In some places the relationship is so caustic, that if a person of color had their friend killed by their neighbor and they saw it, they’d refuse to talk to the police regardless if the officer was black or white. I’m surprised there’s only a 20% difference in the use of non-lethal force.

          What the data shows is that in situations where lethal force is appropriate (these situations are relatively objective), there is no racial bias in the use of lethal force. Black officers also are more likely to use lethal force against a black suspect than a white officer is.

  4. Oh boy…I’m with Ron on this. First, if they really are protesting African American rights then do it separate, Not at a football game where huge crowds can become upset and riot. Who really knows the issue? Colin did it first and since the media didn’t tell us why? Or did he Colin)even tell us WHEN he did it? Is he the new “hero” for children?. Then it became a black issue. I’m sick to deAth about all the division in the USA. We can’t even go to a game…to escape it. He was getting too much money to complain about it. I have yet to hear of ANY humanitarian causes he was associated with to help out. It would have been more believable.

    • Joy you want them to protest somewhere separate where there aren’t people around? Not a very effective protest tactic. And yes Colin has made statements explaining the protest that have been reported in the media. I suggest you do some research before you post next time. I have a hard time buying your complaint about needing to escape from divisive issues since you post extremely offensive comments on practically every semi controversial article on My Edmonds News or the Beacon.

    • I totally agree with Denise. I was writing essentially the same comment when I saw your post. Joy appears to be extreme and divisive – consistently. Motive?

      I’m a fan of the NFL and remain one. Go Bill of Rights.

    • Protesting “separate“? Protesting isn’t supposed to be covert and convenient. When you use terms like ‘separate’ and ‘lynch mob’, yoh underscore the problem we have in the first place. Don’t undermine the struggle that you haven’t experienced. It’s okay not not fully understand but don’t dismiss and criticize because you don’t get it.

    • Joy, Just like Heidi said, a simple Google search on Colin Kaepernick and humanitarian causes and you would know that he is close having donated one million dollars to a number of charities including an “after-school programs and youth sports in the New York inner-city; Coalition for the Homeless; The Gathering for Justice’s War on Children, and a new charity program called United We Dream which will address inequities and obstacles faced by immigrant youth, 100 Suits for 100 Men, Meals on Wheels, Home 2 Heart”, and more. There are a number of reasons to BELIEVE in Kaepernick, not the least of which are the humanitarian contributions he has made since early in his career.

      Kaepernick’s Foundation: http://kaepernick7.com/million-dollar-pledge/

      Quote is from this article:https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2017/09/15/dont-ignore-this-positive-pr-twist-to-colin-kaepernick/#7b810be45740

      http://www.49ers.com/news/article-2/Colin-Kaepernick-Continues-Charitable-Work-for-Camp-Taylor/d6b5e354-7990-4d0a-9387-f969245f44e9

  5. Thank you, Bob. Racism and bias against African Americans is a big problem in our country. There is no doubt that African Americans face a disproportionate amount of police attention and violence, as evidenced by their over-representation in our prison system. I support the NFL athletes and their cause of racial equity. As a white woman, I aim to be an ally in the struggle against systemic racism and for those who have less privilege than I based on the color of our skin. I feel empathy and compassion for the African Americans in our country and the generational trauma caused by slavery and Jim Crow. Americans messed up. Slavery was wrong. We need to acknowledge this and begin healing together, white and black. (And Trump’s demonizing of immigrants is just another way to divide the country by race, just as his call to boycott the NFL is a division tactic.) We need to rise above the fear and love each other more; talk to each other more like Bob’s neighbor who reached out to ask what he thought of the NFL boycott. Thank you, Bob, for sharing your thoughts.

    • Agree Natalie! No matter how famous or rich, the players deal with racism. Every person of color deals with it and it’s up to white folks to address it and stop it.

  6. I am the wife of a Purple Heart veteran, but this is my own opinion. But, we both agree that what one does during the National Anthem is a person’ right. The right was preserved by men and women like my husband. Perhaps if we had ignored this from the beginning it would have been better. Let’s put our energies into making our country good for EVERYONE regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. Now that would really be respecting the flag, anthem and country.
    Incidentally, I have been to other venues where many people ( predominantly older whites of both genders) neither stood, put their hand over their heart, etc. and talked and laughed during the anthem. What should we do about that? Is that disrespectful also?

    • I’m an atheist. I bow my head when other people are in prayer. When I was chair of the Republican Party in the 21st LD, I had invocation for every meeting. When people want a *small* space for their beliefs, leaders make room for that. I agree, kneeling isn’t disrespect per se. I’ve burnt a flag before, because when I was a soldier, that was the correct way to dispose of a flag. It doesn’t mean that all flag burning is proper. Not all talking during the anthem is disrespect. Intent matters. The kneeling is a movement specifically designed to offend and divide, and it was a success. Politics, no matter your party, is full of wedge issues specifically designed to wedge us. This is one such example and we’re all being exploited. But your comment is a comment of unity, and perfectly stated.

      • To say that Kaep knelt to divide shows you have not taken the time to read his words. From the get go, as soon as it was noticed, he’s been very clear that he’s protesting police brutality against black folks. Just because you see it as divisive doesn’t make it so, and certainly has no effect whatsoever on Kaep’s motivation and intent.

        • Kaep, when he was on the San Francisco 49ers, should have took it up with San Francisco, a city were there is pervasive segregation. He explained his protest while wearing a shirt showing Fidel Castro (who killed gays, artists, people with aids, free thinkers, etc) breaking bread with Malcom X (who professed that white people were created in a lab in Africa, and was eventually shot by a contingent of his own followers when he tried to moderate the radical anti-white movement he helped to create). The shirt read “Like Minds Think Alike”. You can buy junk like that, Che T-Shirts, at Urban Outfitters. That stuff is worn usually by communists or people who don’t know Che was the Butcher of la Cabana and that Castro was a tyrant. Especially in the context of kneeling for the anthem then giving a press conference immediately afterwards, Kaep was either dumb to wear that shirt, or he wasn’t dumb and was sending a clear anti-American message. Kaep isn’t dumb. That was carefully designed to divide and it worked. Those chickens came home to roost and now he’s benched. If I were his PR guy I would have applauded him for kneeling (it is an effective protest and kneeling is not disrespect), then I would have sent him to the press conference wearing something other than pro-communist gear. If he went there with a flag over his shoulders, given a token apology to anyone who took it the wrong way, professed to love the country and just wanted to bring attention to a cause, everyone would have got behind that. He says America is a racist country where police are summarily executing black people. It’s hard to defend that belief (which is wrong) without also being anti-American.

  7. Wow, this is a fervent discussion.

    The ironic thing nobody has brought up is that many of us kneel to worship, pay reverence and show our humility in front of our God on a daily basis.

    • Good article. Malcolm X hated this country. Kaepernick fancies himself to be Malcolm X, wearing an X hat and T-shirt when protesting the American anthem. That article ironically puts Kaep in a pantheon with Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan; neither wanted to be a citizen of a country they hated, let alone named citizen of the year by GQ. Malcolm was unapologetic in wanting blacks and whites to be separated, to live in separate societies. Malcolm X was most critical of MLK because King favored peaceful demonstration and unity. I don’t think MLK would have ever wore a Malcolm X hat. X would have called for the firing of the job foreman over a noose here in Edmonds, but MLK would have said something inspirational that brought people together. Kaepernick’s idolization of X and Fidel Castro aside, the whole kneeling protest sorta falls apart when data shows no systematic “killing of black people in the streets”, which makes the reasons for his original protest both disingenuous and misguided. White people are killed by police at the same rates, and likely with the same rate of isolated impunity/injustice. RIP Kelly Thomas. There’s not a lot of bad apples in our criminal justice system, and we should sleep well knowing that. It’s a predominantly fair system, and equally unfair to all races.

    • Don’t be shocked, get informed. Kaepernick invoked Malcolm X, wore an X hat and T-shirt during his original protest. X said that there could be no peace between blacks and whites, wanted strict segregation. Malcolm X was very critical of MLK, because King believe in harmonious peace and integration between races. No one said kneeling is disrespect. Kneeling during the anthem, saying cops are committing summary executions of black people in the streets (which is not true, and is ignorant), while wearing an X hat along with a T-shirt glorifying Malcomn X and Fidel Castro <- that's explicit disrespect for our nation and for everything MLK stood for. I'm on the side of Dr King.

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