I wanted to avoid commenting on the whole Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem controversy when it first blew up. It became quickly obvious the debate was riddled with common tropes that I’ve discussed here more times than I care to count.
However, I feel compelled to bring it up only insofar as it serves to illustrate a larger point that has been all but ignored in the debate.
Nearly everyone, including a lot of libertarians, have interpreted this behavior totally wrong. Those who kneel do so based on their belief that young black men are being unjustly oppressed at the hands of law enforcement agencies due to their possession by a voodoo-inspired evil spirit called “racism.”
They are not protesting qualified immunity, sovereign immunity, or government programs that have destroyed the black nuclear family and contributed to a high illegitimacy and crime rate.
Most of those who criticize people kneeling provide mangled answers about honoring the flag and something about patriotism, because they are not truly aware of what it is that bothers them about this.
As I wrote in Honoring the Troops:
Traditionalists believe in honoring the troops because an indication of a healthy, stable culture is one which honors those who sacrifice for it. A lack of gratitude is a sign of a culture coming apart. This is partly why they are so desperate to maintain the ritual, even if they have trouble justifying it.
Military veterans, on the surface, would appear to make sacrifices for the sake of the country, because it fits with a simplistic view of “sacrifice.” The possibly violent, deadly reality of their work, usually thousands of miles away in less than pleasant conditions against people who usually less than civilized, makes it easy to believe they deserve recognition. The battle scars and wounds help sell this image.
Additionally, warriors have been regarded as the protectors of a community for millennia, from the days of small tribes and clans to the nation states.
The sentimentalism in “honoring the troops” shouldn’t be dismissed, either. It hearkens back to Norman Rockwell-like days and encourages a sense of unity. It also distracts from the ugly realities of modern America – that one’s fellow Americans are a bigger enemy than anyone outside of it.
Having said that, if someone does not want to stand during the national anthem, by all means have at it. I don’t say the pledge of allegiance anymore, but for wholly separate reasons. I disagree with what the pledge says as a political and religious statement.
But it is foolish for libertarians to cheer on political protests against state when they are inspired by a falsehood because it triggers visceral reactions among Boobus Americanus.
In a recent podcast historian Brion McClanahan correctly identifies the debate as one over nationalism (5:00). By kneeling, people like Kaepernick are demolishing the charade of national unity, specifically that of tribal unity.
He is demonstrating that many people in this country do not see themselves as Americans. Remember, Americanism is an extension of Anglo-Saxon culture.
These people are saying “we are not one country and you are not my people” – that Kaepernick was raised by a white family only highlights the truth that while culture matters, so does race.
The Star Spangled Banner may be the official government anthem, but libertarians need not be autistic about this. It is not the federal government most Americans honor when they stand up and put their hand over their heart in honor of the flag. They do the same thing when a band plays America the Beautiful, and had Kaepernick and others not stood for that it would have been just as controversial
They’re paying homage to their ancestors, not politicians. They’re engaging in a cultural tradition that symbolizes national unity and commonality among a people, like every other nation on earth. The Star Spangled Banner’s lyrics celebrate a critical victory in the Second War of Independence against England. It is not a song praising our government.
Kneeling during the anthem offends the political sensibilities of those who want to maintain the illusion that the United States is an American nation. Unfortunately, the days of Norman Rockwell’s America that boasted a 90 percent white majority are over.
The United States is now a balkanized empire comprised of many nations divided into different peoples who have only one thing in common; they are under the rule of the same centralized governments. Within these nation states you have peoples with little in common with another. We are a people held together against our will on the religious doctrine of one nation, indivisible.
The insistence on maintaining one country no matter how divergent our directions regionally becomes quite absurd when you consider that at an individual level a spouse is free to abandon their partner for any reason whatsoever under “no-fault divorce,” despite their vow to remain together “til death do us part.” They can then collect cash, prizes, and child custody while they’re at it. You can literally cheat on your spouse and file for divorce on the same day and it will have no bearing on the divorce settlement.
Meanwhile, we as a nation are at each others’ throats, yet insist the possibility of civil war and our own Irish Troubles is preferable to peaceful dissolution.
Another myth that perpetuates this collective discord is the ridiculous idea that “diversity is our strength.” Therefore, we must destroy any semblance of homogeneity or communal harmony. I cannot for the life of me think of how forcing association with someone who does not speak your language, adhere to your culture, worship your god, prioritize the same lifestyle, descend from the same ethnic line, or have the same first principles can result in anything but conflict.
This brings us back to the inevitable conclusion that the United States is not an American nation anymore. The government that rules is not looking out for the best interests of Americans, and at this point it does not even pretend to do so.
The national anthem represents American cultural and historical heritage, but it is not shared by others who are neither Americans nor wish to be.
We will continue to see this peculiar sense of confused and disorganized outrage until either Americans acknowledge reality and begin the painful process of reestablishing their own separate identity or every knee shall bow at the sound of “oh say can you see….”
Photo credit: Flickr.