I've had a lot of discussions off and on for years about people using a phrase similar to, 'If you're not happy with things in the U.S., then just get out.'
Increasingly, a small ilk has been using this type of rhetoric, even with the irony that they are some of the most vocal dissenters of our national government.
But the issue of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem, followed by many others repeating similar moves of protest has sparked many, many instances of people employing this statement.
Mike Ditka, famous former football player, coach, and television commentator, stated his anger against Kaepernick, summing it up by saying he should just 'get the hell out' of our country.
Amazingly, people have rallied around both opinions, Kaepernick and Ditka, setting up yet again another false political dichotomy. The danger of these attitudes is far, far greater than just assuming an either-or solution to a protest like Kaepernick's.
Considering Kaepernick's Political Protest
I'm not even quite sure what Kaepernick is protesting -- and if I was sure, I'm almost certain I'd find an enormous amount of historical irony in his actions.
The Star Spangled Banner has only been our anthem since the Great Depression era, Hail, Columbia! was the de facto national anthem during most of American history -- including the period of slavery.
But that's the entire point. Kaepernick's protest doesn't have to make sense; a good number of peaceable protests against our national policies don't make sense to a lot of people.
It's a fundamental civil right to protest our nation.
Once that is stripped away, all other rights (even guns won't save you at that point) fall to a government that has unquestionable authority and power.
Personally, I've never found cause to protest our nation to the extent of disrespecting our national emblems (flag, anthem, etc) -- and it should be the type of protest that is reserved for cases of extreme dissent; otherwise, it becomes petty in principle.
But that's not my place to judge whether or not a standard has been met. Kaepernick feels like he's got a complaint, that's good enough for exercising civil liberties.
And as always, great rights have great responsibilities and costs.
Kaepernick is already 'paying' for his decision to protest the nation, in the pocket book and in fan support.
Acts of civil disobedience should always have a price to pay -- that's part of stepping outside of the norm of 'civil behavior.' Otherwise, you are just a nuisance or grand-standing blow-hard with no real merits to your argument.
Considering Ditka's Response
This is where it gets substantially trickier, and definitely starts to ruffle the 'feathers' of many political ilks.
The concept of 'if you're not happy, leave,' is an old concept, even being employed by the most radical of factions in New England during the Revolutionary War. Loyalists were often persecuted to the point of leaving, many returning to England or moving to Halifax, Canada.
Others, not wanting to leave, had to perform various loyalty tests to be left alone -- but this sort of behavior was largely isolated to New England. In some of the most Southern colonies, loyalists and patriot families lived remarkably peacefully during the war.
The point of this is that we have a fairly long history of this sort of thing happening, and so at times, a long history equates with it being an 'okay' practice.
Age does not equate to rightness in this case, for one specific reason.
While Kaepernick is exercising a civil liberty to protest our nation, one of the most basic rights there is, Ditka is exercising a civil liberty (free speech) solely to undermine the legitimacy of another's free speech.
Sure Ditka is entitled to his opinion and his exercise of free speech, but this is a dangerous political rhetoric, which left unchecked devolves in the worst sort of ways historically.
While this isn't quite up to the standard of 'yelling fire in a theater,' telling someone that their only recourse against being unhappy with our nation's policies is to leave is getting pretty close to the limits of free speech -- especially if it is paired with actions.
We Shouldn't Squelch Peaceable Protest
Telling someone to 'get the hell out' is about the lowest form of political speech there is, for one simple reason -- it stops all political dialog because it sets up a false either/or political thought process.
Either/or in that you are 'either' happy with our nation (or at least suffer in silence) 'or' you 'get the hell out.'
And the most ludicrous part of this whole line of reasoning is that it is used by some of the most anti-government ilks in American politics.
But on the flip-side, it is equally idiotic when people say, 'if ______ is elected, I'm moving to _______.' This line of reasoning has been employed by people across the political spectrum, from Rush Limbaugh to Chelsea Handler, among other celebrities.
This is just as bad as the opposite extreme.
If it doesn't sell newspapers, it isn't sexy -- but why not declare that if '____ happens, I'm redoubling my efforts to do ____.'
After all, that's what the billionaires who pour trillions of dollars into the political system do each election cycle -- if you can't buy the election, try, try again.
The whole point is this: finding political middle-ground and answers is always hard, especially if your political opponents have just won an election -- but falling into the trap of reducing the political process to a catch-phrase only makes a joke out of the system and a political rube out of those employing it.
We need more dialog in our nation, not less. Sure, it gets messy when you start actually delving in to issues -- but that's the whole point, worthwhile change is always hard to accomplish.
Photo Source: AP