By TOM HENRY
As published in the November 12, 2016 Blytheville Courier News.
Veterans Day has made me reflective. During that time of reflection I pondered the growing disrespect that I see toward our nation. What began as, I believe, a mere publicity stunt by a struggling San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has now turned into a national embarrassment that grieves my soul to the point of fury.
Let me get this straight. These athletes, including six players from the University of Arkansas women’s basketball team, are sitting and disrespecting not only the colors, the banner, the country and our traditions, but also the veterans over the past 240-years that have died so that they can live such a spoiled, pampered, protected life that they can do the very things they do.
There certainly was a time when women weren’t allowed to go to college. There was a time, not too long ago, when African Americans were not allowed to play intercollegiate basketball. There was a time when Jim Crow brutalized their grandparents and great-grandparents. There was a time even farther back when their forefathers were treated like chattel and “owned” and were even denied the right to learn how to read and write. But those days are gone – THANK GOD!
But can you truly imagine any slave that desired to be able to determine their own future and destiny telling their great-great-great-grandchild that they should not recognize the glory of being able to go to college and learn anything they desire to learn? Or to take any trade or occupation that they desire? Or to read any book they desire to read? Or to travel anywhere they want? Or to even have such a leisurely life that they no longer have to work dawn to dusk, but can actually enjoy the privileged benefit of playing basketball in order to cover the cost of a degree (or two)?
Do you really believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. and those exemplary men and women that put their life and body on the line just to get the right to vote…or go to the University of Mississippi…or Central High School in Little Rock would take such an approach to express their disgust at America and her past?
If you think they would, you are wrong. They did not do it in their day and they certainly had far more reason to. They recognized that the way to succeed and precipitate change was to prove by their character, intelligence, charity, diligence and honor that any discrimination or unfairness was simply ignorant. It was not Malcolm X or the Black Panthers’ vitriolic message of violence that won the progresses that have been made, it was the class and character of those that simply put a spotlight on the dark, ignorant, hateful prejudices that held them down. They shattered the bondage by working from the inside out, with their minds and hearts.
What is the message that the new protesters are sending? Does their disrespectfulness send a glaring light on injustice? I don’t’ believe that it does. I believe that it shows an age of entitlement and ungratefulness. The fact is, we as a country are not a perfect union…we are always striving to be a MORE perfect union. We are not the culmination of all things liberty and freedom. We are merely a stage in the ongoing timeline of history that will prove that liberty and freedom will ultimately prevail. Sometimes we have to stop and not just look at where we are, but look at from where we have come. Are we getting better? Have we made progress?
Also, because we as a nation are made of humans, we will have ebbs and flows over time, but ultimately our family known as Americans are heading somewhere. hiSTORY is one long narrative that plays out over time with successes and failures, but it is the overall theme that is most important.
Is there anything that prohibits those that protest from becoming President of the United States? No. Is there anything that prohibits those that protest from being rich? No. Is there anything that prohibits them from movement, travel, ownership of property, careers, elected office, their dreams, and etcetera? No. The only thing that limits and prohibits that would be a willingness to not pay the price via hard work and persistence.
So, for that reason I say to all those that are sitting during the Star Spangled Banner, stand up, snap to and square yourself away! Oh, and don’t forget all of the women and non-white veterans that you are slapping in the face. They loved this great country enough to bleed, sweat and die for it when they were your age, the least you can do is stand up and be respectful for three minutes before you PLAY.