The freedom to disrespect works both ways

Published 6:11 pm Friday, September 16, 2016

Who cares what Colin Kaepernick, the sage of San Francisco, thinks? Really. So, why am I writing about him? Because people have asked me to weigh in and I will do it this one time.

Here is a guy who refuses to honor the national anthem until the American flag “represents what it is supposed to represent.” For one thing, he doesn’t care much for the men and women of law enforcement. To be sure we haven’t missed the point, he has donned socks with pictures of pigs wearing police caps.

All he has managed to do to date is to further harden the position of demagogues on both sides of this issue as well as make a lot of fair-minded people wonder if anybody really wants meaningful dialogue or do they just want to posture and preen. In football parlance, he has thrown the opportunity for reasonable dialogue for a loss. But, consider the source.

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The guy gets paid $10.4 million a year to run around with a plastic bucket on his head and throw an oblong cowhide-covered rubber bladder to the cheers of a bunch of people seriously in need of a life. Those with more knowledge on the subject than I (which isn’t saying much) believe he was on the brink of being cut and this was all a ploy. Cut him and you turn him into a martyr and give the bullhorn bleaters a hero.

He is no hero. As you read here last week, I was in the presence of real heroes who were being honored at the annual Peace Officers’ Association of Georgia convention in Savannah for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Their aggregate annual salary won’t come close to approaching what this guy makes. However, they do something far more important than he ever will.

These people pull suspected drug dealers out of burning automobiles. They pull suicidal citizens off bridges. They brave numbingly cold water to save young children suffering hypothermia. They try to diffuse domestic conflicts and face down hostage takers only to get shot at for their efforts. Meanwhile, this guy runs around with a plastic bucket on his head and throws an oblong cowhide-covered rubber bladder.

The thing that stood out to me from being around those officers honored at the Peace Officers’ meeting was that some were there with their spouses. Spouses are heroes in their own right. When their loved ones leave for work, they don’t know if they are coming back home or not. That is not a problem for Mr. Bucket Head, who, after spending Sunday afternoon playing a kid’s game, knows he will be safely returning to his $2.7 million abode in Santa Ana, California.

Mr. Bucket Head says it is easier to become a police officer than it is to become a cosmetologist. I wonder if he has ever been to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth? Is he familiar with their training in terrorism response? How to survive an ambush? Crime scene investigation? Hostage negotiations? Traffic accident reconstruction? Sexual abuse of children? Has he been taught how to sensitively inform a family that their loved one has been killed in a traffic accident? Does he even know where Forsyth is?

Does he know how hard the law enforcement community is working to get rid of the few bad apples that taint the profession? Is he aware of the work of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council? Why should he be? It is easier to just denigrate all law enforcement officers and incite others to do the same.

Does this guy have the right to show his contempt for our national anthem and for law enforcement? Absolutely. It is called freedom of expression. It is a constitutional guarantee and he is lucky to live in a country that allows it. If he was in Iran and chose to sit out “Sorude Melli” while it was being played, (“O Martyrs! Your clamors echo in the ears of time.”) he’d find his fanny in the Revolutionary Court faster that you can say “Hut, one. Hut, two.” I suspect it would be all downhill from there.

But this is America. The Land of Disrespect. Mr. Bucket Head has every right to disrespect the flag, the national anthem, those who are sworn to serve and protect us and anything else he wishes. That means that I also have the same right to disrespect him and all he represents. And I do.