Everyone should see my newsfeed. Sometimes I avoid checking Facebook for days because I know how crazy it will be. I grew up very conservative, so I have a lot of President Trump fans on my feed. I was in the military, so I also have a lot of incredibly patriotic people on my feed. I am also a flaming feminist, so I have a lot of strong, ultra-liberal people on my feed. Because I go to the U, I have a lot of activists and left-sided people on my feed. I’ve been deployed a couple times so I have people that I’ve met from all over the world on my feed. The variety of views I get is astonishing. And I enjoy it. I love seeing everyone’s views.
One of my majors is sociology. I have a passion for people, and as a sociologist I’m accustomed to seeing both sides of issues. Even if I don’t agree with one side, I can still find sound logic in it (usually). I grew up conservative, but I’ve changed my views as I’ve grown into an adult. I believe nothing in life is black and white. That’s why I have such a problem with all this talk about racism, football players and what it means to be an American.
As I was swiping through my timeline, I notice a letter posted from a veteran about how disgusting it is for football players to be taking a knee and about Trump’s recent comments regarding these NFL players. I found it interesting. The author’s words were pretty generic — the same rhetoric you’d expect from someone more conservative. So, I thought I would give my opinion as a liberal veteran.
Some may find this surprising, but I am not offended by an NFL player kneeling during the flag ceremony and let me tell you why. I take pride in knowing I served my country. Although I didn’t always have the most positive experience in the military, I am so grateful for that time in my life. Being a veteran has taught me more about myself than ever. I’ve been able to look back on my time and see everything wrong that happened to me. I’m sure it’s like this in anyone’s late-teens and early-twenties, but my experiences are now just hitting me. I don’t think people can realize how blessed they are until they look back and see a time when they were treated unfairly, and then use that feeling to relate to another person’s life.
I was treated horribly as a woman in the military. I could tell you hundreds of stories about myself and women I’ve served with involving harassment, degradation, sexism and rape. To this day I have no idea how to start the conversation about sexism in the military, and for that matter, the sexism that exists all over the country. But if I learned anything from my experiences, it was empathy: empathy for women, people of color, people with disabilities, the elderly, LGBTQ+ community, etc. We have many fights going on in this country. Now, let me relate this to the NFL players.
These men are using their platform to bring attention to the big issue of racism in our country. They aren’t hurting anyone, they aren’t spewing hate. They are simply trying to start a conversation. They are privileged enough to have an audience, so they are taking advantage of that for good. Whether you agree or disagree with their method, it shouldn’t be taken personally. Instead of being angry at the kneeling players, Americans should ask questions. Why? Why are these players doing this? If we start asking questions before we assume the worst or scream our own opinions, then we could actually start being one nation.
The truth is that there is racism in the country right now. It’s a huge and disgusting issue, and we don’t seem to be doing a lot to fix it. I understand the argument that kneeling during the national anthem is being disrespectful. I’m a veteran who loves this country and is proud to have served. But I served for a country who is supposed to respect all people. Right now, we aren’t that country.
The NFL players aren’t kneeling out of hate, but out of fear. Fear that our country won’t change and work together, that our country will continue to let injustice happen. Fear that our president will continue spewing hateful rhetoric instead of addressing the issues we should be united on. They’re kneeling to bring attention to a group of important people in the U.S., not to disrespect people in uniform. I’m proud to have served and am grateful for the people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom — but they did that so everyone could be free, not just some.
I’m a veteran who can ask the question, “Why?”. And because of this, I don’t find the NFL players kneeling in protest offensive.