Kaepernick stance isn't anti-American, but Trump's politics are

At a key moment in Season 1 of “The Wire”, Bubbles, a down-and-out heroin addict, pays a visit to his sister’s house. As he passes the American flag, Bubbles pauses for a minute to salute.

Given his status as a homeless con man on the roughest streets of Baltimore, it’s an interesting gesture for Bubbles to make. But perhaps it’s a glimpse into his heart. He has hope.

But that’s fiction. 

In real life we have the very recent example of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who, so far this exhibition season, has refused to stand at attention for the National Anthem.

His former coach, Jim Harbaugh, now at Michigan, said he has no respect for Kaepernick’s opinion. I can tell you about a lot of people who have no respect for Jim Harbaugh -- even after he walked back his remarks. That’s another story.

Interviewed by sports writers the other night, Kaepernick, who was briefly the future of the NFL, gave a few examples of why he has embarked on his protest. Most of it had to do with the killing of young black men by police departments across the country. 

“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick explained. "People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change. That’s something that this country stands for freedom, liberty and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”

Anyway the NFL and the 49ers are cool with Kaepernick’s stand -- for now. In some other countries he would be taken out and imprisoned or shot.

Fans are not so cool with it. Since opening his mouth, Kaepernick has been getting a lot of hate and heat for his opinion. As a guy who hangs the American flag on his front porch, I say give Kaepernick a pass. And not just on First Amendment grounds. 

The truth is that every day Donald J. Trump has been a candidate for office he has been spitting on the stars and stripes. And, Trump’s disloyalty happens in ways that are far more damaging to our country’s credibility than a jock’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem.

Setting aside (for a second) Trump’s Know Nothing take on immigration and his ugly Islamophobia, the campaign slogan — “Make America Great Again” — is antithesis of patriotism.

You don’t have to look much farther than the medal count at the recently concluded Olympics to know that America is already great. 

But, our greatness doesn’t stop there. 

What would one call the JPL Juno mission and its fly-by of Jupiter? How about California’s farms? Texas’ business savvy? Montana’s sweeping grandeur? Professional sports teams that bring joy to millions? Music and entertainment? Amusement parks that draw people from all over the world? Are these not examples of our greatness?

If you wear that stupid hat, you are not assessing reality.

In fact you want to know why we don’t need to make America Great Again? Because we can debate Colin Kaepernick’s ride on the pine and place our hands over our hearts at the same time.

Girardot is a former editor and columnist with the Los Angeles News Group. He is co-author of true crime tales "A Taste For Murder" and the soon-to-be released "Cocaine Cops: An insider's tale of brutality, greed and corruption in the NYPD." Follow him on Twitter @FrankGirardot


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