AS A VETERAN (Oh God) Here's What I Think About Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, Kneeling During The Anthem & Criticizing the USA

Sorry for that thumbnail but I thought a hot photo of me might get some people to thirst-click and then at least you'd be in here and maybe read around a little. Also, obligatory, cowardly ass-covering statement - "I do not speak for all veterans, for all white lady dorks, for all _______ (whatever other qualifiers I am missing)".  Continuing on...

I know other people have posted about this and everyone has the gist of the story by now and that Brees has since responded, but I've never shied away from a double blog or repeating old news ha ha so here we are. And also there is nothing a veteran loves more than to put in their two cents with a little "uh, AS A VETERAN, I THINK..." so please let me have that. 

Yesterday pretty much all day & late into the night I tried to express my thoughts about his comments and how I feel people often use 'the troops' as a shield to make their point of view untouchable, or as a trump card to end a conversation. God forbid you're perceived as disrespecting our untouchable, infallible hero troops...

"Oh, so you won't stand for our anthem? You got a problem with our flag? You're talking shit about our country? The country my dad  (or "I" or "my grandparents" or "my sister", etc.fought for? Wow. Unreal disrespect for the troops. If you hate this country that people lost their lives for so much then leave."

The way I worded that might seem corny but I promise you I have heard and seen comments along these lines countless times going back to when Colin Kaepernick first knelt in 2016. And hey, it's wonderful that Brees is thinking of his Grandfathers and their sacrifices when the anthem plays. I too have stood in stadiums with goosebumps down my arms and tears streaming down my face (and beers in my system), going through a rolodex of patriotic imagery & scenes from my own deployments. But what is happening right now, and kneeling during the anthem, has nothing to do with disrespecting the troops. At least not in the way you might think. 

“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 after Friday’s game [in August of 2016]. “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.”

Maybe you think he's making all that up, or you don't like the way he went about it & it offended you so you turned away, or you're afraid to lose your place in the status quo, but whatever you think there is absolutely no denying that racial injustice is still alive and well in America and that people are dying and suffering and struggling because of it. You may not have seen it yourself somehow, but the stats, facts, figures, videos, personal accounts from all angles… It's all there. If you deny it you are flat out wrong. 

And the peaceful protests, the outcry for justice, the valid rage & anger has also been there waving right at you for a long, long time. You love the basketball games & the players & yet you look right past the "I Can't Breathe" shirts during warmups. (I'm saying "you" but this applies to me as well. Not trying to sound condescending.)  Organizations, especially in sports, also do a great job of hushing all that down… Hey, we totes get it - we're all for peace & justice so don't worry. We got it. You can feel good about us! 

But really, the America you stand for when the flag waves & anthem plays is not the same America everyone else has. Some of us know about racism from learning about it [poorly] at school, but others know it from living it their whole lives. And many of those people still serve or have served this country selflessly & whole-heartedly now despite that.

There you had the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force [highest enlisted rank] saying he has experienced pain, rage and anger from the past, from watching injustices play out over & over. This top leader has been to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, oversees troops in 104 different countries - and he still feels fear when he sees the blue lights behind him while driving. (And I know, I know, "Well everyone puckers up a little when they get pulled over..", but point-blank it is not the same type of fear for everyone.)

So when you make the leap to say kneeling during the anthem and/or criticizing this country for injustice towards black people disrespects the troops, odds are good you are not thinking of black troops or other troops of color. That they represent a very large portion of our service-members. And worth noting, obviously I do not speak for everyone. Undoubtedly you could find troops from every race & creed who hate the kneeling & disagree with what I'm saying. But this is what I am seeing & hearing & learning and why it is important to listen even if the anthem makes you tear up like I have. 

We are a country built on the backs of slaves, the anthem was written by a man who owned slaves, soldiers and Marines returning home from the Civil War (1 in 10 Union soldiers were black) WWI, and WWII (just like Drew Brees' grandfathers), and who were equally as brave and sacrificed just as much, did not get the same reception or benefits if they were black. And you can use the cop out of "Pshh, long time ago, doesn't matter though." But the effects will still be rippling through this country for generations to come and we are seeing many of them now. 

These are just a few quick examples but these are clips from articles I've been reading over the last few days because until I did the research I had no idea. Reading that after WWII German POWs were allowed to eat at tables where black service-members still couldn't sit… heartbreaking. Infuriating… All these things wholly un-American to its core. Our squeaky-clean, wholesome, apple pie, red, white & blue image of the military is not the whole truth. 

And I feel like so many incredible contributions from black military members also get eclipsed and pushed to the back. The underrepresentation in media (including ZeroBlog30), in who our nation chooses to hero-worship & showcase when it comes to the troops, in history books, even to advertisements the military itself puts out there… It is largely whitewashed. 

So I guess this is my very roundabout way to say if you see someone kneeling during the anthem or criticizing your country, please remember that it is just as much theirs, too. And instead of having a knee jerk reaction that jumps to 'they are disrespecting troops and hating America', remember there's a lot of troops serving us right now at this very moment who will face the same injustices people like Colin Kaepernick have been trying to bring to the forefront and change. 

If you really love the troops so much and don't want them disrespected, open your mind and put yourself in someone else's shoes instead of digging into the heels of your own. If you love America help make it so racism cannot flourish, so that everyone can love it the same, so that everyone feels like they are safe & matter here. Only good for all can come of these long overdue changes, and there will not be peace until they happen. 

In closing if you want to comment (and by all means, go ahead) that I must support hurting police and looting, that I, too, must hate our flag and country, that I'm telling Brees how to think and feel which is making me a hypocrite, that I'm just virtue signaling, that all lives matter…  You are missing the point. It's not about the anthem, the flag, disrespecting 'the troops'. Black lives matter and they matter for everyone. Things are not equal and they have to be, and I believe that pointing out things in your country that have to change, even if you suffer from doing so, is to truly love and believe in it.