Today’s MOZEN: Live, and Let Live!

F LoBuono

(Author’s note: originally published in TalkFrank, Sept. 23, 2017)

Certain things in life shouldn’t be so hard. They just shouldn’t. Take for example the slogan; LIVE, AND LET LIVE. We may say it all the time but, how many of us really practice it?

Let’s use the current situation involving NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick, as an example. A quarterback, Kaepernick, once guided the San Francisco 49ers to a Superbowl birth. He was considered one of the prototype, new quarterbacks — one who’s personal skills were sufficient to change the very outcome of games. Then, like many young players, he began to struggle and lost his starting position. But, he never lost his competitiveness and it appeared just a matter of time before he would regain his job.

Then something happened.

Kaepernick refused to stand during the playing of our National Anthem, choosing to sit on the team bench instead. He claimed that he was using his place in the public eye to draw attention to what he sees as the racial inequities that he believes still have a tremendously negative impact on our Country.

And, if he was looking for attention, he certainly got it — in a BIG way.

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The outcry was immediate and visceral. Many viciously attacked him as a spoiled athlete and a hypocrite that made millions of dollars from an American “system” that he just so callously condemned. They claimed he was unpatriotic and selfish and, most scathingly, lacked the proper respect for those who risked their lives (and GAVE them) for our Country.

In response to the initial wave of criticism, Kaepernick relented and took a knee instead of sitting. In this way, he felt that he could show respect for those who served while at the same time sticking to his original protest theme. It did little to to deflect the original criticism. In fact, it only intensified.

Kaepernick was eventually released by the 49ers and, despite his youth, skill level, and the fact that many NFL teams seem to have other, inferior quarterbacks on their rosters playing, he is currently out of football.

WHY?

His detractors will claim that it’s all about talent, saying that Kaepernick’s skills have eroded to the point where he is not good enough to play in the NFL. I say BULL SHIT! Kaepernick was/is a dynamic young player with VERY desirable talents like size, strength, speed, and athleticism. Yes, his numbers declined after the Super Bowl season but there were MANY reasons for that, including the fact that he was a young player still developing! ALL young quarterbacks experience ups and downs, especially early in their careers (see Cam Newton). In my mind, he is still young enough and dynamic enough to play — and, STAR, in the NFL.

So, why?

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Well, when you have the President of the United States, a man sworn to defend the Constitution and, therefore, freedom of expression, calling him and anyone supporting him a Son of a Bitch, and chiding NFL owners to “fire” any player who supports this freedom, what do you expect?

So, this is MORE than just about a football player. It’s about what it truly means to be American.

Many, particularly those who vehemently oppose Kaepernick, say it’s “our Country, right or wrong. Love it or leave it”. Anyone opposing this philosophy is considered unpatriotic or worse, claiming such an attitude is a slap in the face of anyone who served. Since the flag, and the anthem, are symbols that represent great sacrifice, to not stand during its playing is like pissing on the graves of those lost. They claim he is nothing more than a coward and hypocrite.

I couldn’t disagree more.

First, to BE an American is to have FREEDOM of EXPRESSION. This is made very clear by the First Amendment to the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances).

THIS is the HEART and SOUL of what America is!!! All of those patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice to serve this Country did so to defend the VERY ACT of what Kaepernick is now attempting! A flag is a peace of cloth that represents an ideal. The same is true of the Anthem — it’s a song that represents an ideal. Things can be physically destroyed. What cannot be are the IDEALS behind the symbols! Flags need to be replaced. Songs need to be re-recorded. What can never be lost is FREEDOM — the freedom to express oneself without FEAR OF RETRIBUTION! People died to give us that right!

Yes, it seems ironic that people died to give others the right to speak against the very government they gave their lives to defend. But, there it is. THAT’S what it means to be truly American! Besides, preventing him from earning a living (if that, indeed, is what is happening) goes a long way in proving Kaepernick’s original premise — a black man with the balls to speak against the system that made him rich is persona non grata.

As for Mr. Kaepernick being a coward and a hypocrite, once again, I couldn’t disagree more. First, he had to know that what he was doing would be VERY controversial and he would definitely suffer backlash. In fact, he must have realized that it would put his career in jeopardy and that it might cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Still, he went forward. Nothing cowardly about that. As for the hypocrisy of selfish athlete? Well, he has already donated over $800,000 towards his pledge of $1 million to go to impoverished neighborhoods. How many other athletes can say the same?

And, if all of that esoterica wasn’t enough there is my original point: Live, and let live! He has his POV. I have mine. And, of course, you have yours. If we respect that fact, we can disagree with one another while at the same time respecting our RIGHT to express ourselves — because, THAT my friends, is what it’s all about. Evelyn Beatrice Hall (NOT Voltaire!) expressed it best in a single sentence: I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

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Frank LoBuono

Frank LoBuono

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