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I may not agree with everything that San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick has done in his NFL career; I did not like the time he wore socks with pigs dressed as police officers. If that was not an outright act of hate speech, it was an act of dehumanization, which is beneath him as a citizen. I'm sure he later regretted doing that.
But the point is that he has a right to express himself as an American.
Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of any vibrant democracy. Without the right to express grievances against one's government and community — especially in a nonviolent and civil manner — political control always moves dramatically toward oligarchy, autocracy, and even dictatorship.
As I understand the American Revolution, the colonial patriots did not fight to defend the customs and traditions of their nation. There was no nation! Instead, they fought for the right to be represented as equal human beings. Isn't that what Kaepernick is calling for?
Besides, citizens do not sing the national anthem to celebrate soldiers. Soldiers enlist and serve so that national anthems can be sung; and there are many different ways to sing an anthem. Some are with words and instruments, but some happen by merely sitting down.
So before we persecute Kaepernick for being unpatriotic, we should recall what Francis Scott Key meant when he penned the words, "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave." Key was glorifying the reality of freedom in the lives of people who are willing and brave enough to be free. The symbol of the flag was just that. To glorify it would be an act of fetishism, which makes an inanimate object more important than the intrinsic rights of the human beings waving it.
An anthem can also become a symbol of blind allegiance if we fail to remember what the words mean and sheepishly follow the music wherever it leads. In other words, if our nation's anthem is not performed by free citizens who have the inalienable right to remain silent, it is no longer a song of freedom but an oath of fear.
Here we are in September and it's not even clear that Clinton can defeat the biggest clown that a major party has nominated for president, probably in history.
I hope Clinton wins. She still can win. My expectations for her presidency, based on her long career, are low. But I think this is an occasion to again remind people that we had an alternative. Bernie Sanders was an authentic progressive, an accomplished and successful politician, a break from the past, and he far outperformed Clinton against Republicans in every poll, over many months.
Despite this, establishment Democrats, timid and cynical, shoved Clinton down our throats. Obsessed with identity politics, beholden to the same money the GOP is, contemptuous of democratic process, and cowed by decades of defeatism, this is where we are. When is enough, enough?