THE LONG VIEW: Kaepernick’s right to free expression on trial — by some

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Pat Grimes New pic.jpg

“Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech” – Benjamin Franklin 

The hubbub continues over Colin Kaepernick. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the San Francisco 49er quarterback has chosen to not stand before NFL games during the national anthem in protest of what he calls wrongdoings against minorities in this country.

Naturally, folks have weighed in on the subject.

“Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech” – Benjamin Franklin 

The hubbub continues over Colin Kaepernick. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the San Francisco 49er quarterback has chosen to not stand before NFL games during the national anthem in protest of what he calls wrongdoings against minorities in this country.

Naturally, folks have weighed in on the subject.

Iowa Republican congressman Steve King suggested Kaepernick was “undermining patriotism” and engaging in “activism that’s sympathetic to ISIS.” King is the gasbag who believes only “natural families” – meaning no gay parents – should be eligible to receive a childcare tax credit.

Former major league baseball player and coach Tony La Russa stated he “would not allow it … If you want to make your statement, you make it in the clubhouse,…you’re not going to show it that way publicly and disrespectfully.”

Ironically, Mr. La Russa shared his opinion openly while disparaging Kaepernick’s decision to do so.

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter” – George Washington 

Unsurprisingly, politicians and commentators have piled on, suggesting the quarterback’s expression of dissent was unpatriotic, or, in a milder rebuke, that he should not have made his statement the way he did.

Kaepernick’s beef is this: minorities in the United States do not receive the same protections and treatment under the law as white people. Whether or not you agree, he has every right to say that via his protest.

Moreover, doing so in a very public forum, the internationally broadcast spectacle that is an NFL football game, is absolutely appropriate. What good would it do to make a stand, as La Russa proposed, in the unseen, relatively anonymous confines of a clubhouse?  There is a reason protests happen in public places. What would be the point of demonstrating in private?

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech” – Benjamin Franklin  

A Facebook friend shared this post from Georgia McBride:  “You stand for the national anthem at sporting events… I’m guessing you don’t when you’re out to eat and a game is on. Or when you’re watching the game at home. Nope. Only when people can see you and judge you for how patriotic they think you are.”

For it to be genuine, patriotism, like religious faith, has to be personal. In the United States, every citizen has the right to express and live by their personal beliefs. I may not share the same creed as you, but that’s okay. Likewise, I may not subscribe to the idea of my country, right or wrong (characterized by GK Chesterton as like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’”), but you are absolutely allowed to express it.

Though sometimes attributed to Voltaire, it was English author Evelyn Beatrice Hall who penned the phrase: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

And that’s the abiding principle of the freedom of speech Colin Kaepernick and all Americans enjoy. Now, are we patriots enough to defend it?

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at grimespat19@gmail.com