September 19, 2016

We should all be sitting with Kaepernick.

I love this country.

I love the ideals that this country stands for. I love that the USA is known as the, “land of the free and the home of the brave.” I love the founding ideals of democracy: liberty, rights, equality and opportunity.

But in recent years, I am at odds with much of what this country has become. I stopped placing my hand over my heart for the pledge years ago, when the proverbial curtain was pulled back and I saw the reality instead of the illusion I’d been sold.

I love the USA’s ideals, but I can no longer swallow the disconnect between our stated beliefs and what is practiced. In psychology, we call this “cognitive dissonance,” which is when there is a difference between the thoughts, attitudes and beliefs a person declares and the actions they take.

I love what this country ideologically stands for and I despise what it has become. I despise it because I believe in those ideals and it grieves me to see what is happening. There is a saying that “your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your actions do” and for a long time, the collective actions of the USA haven’t met the ideals.

The USA was founded on the principle of religious freedom, yet the Republican nominee for President wants to ship out every member of an entire religious group. His constituents largely agree with that notion.

This country was founded for freedom and yet was built by enslaving hundreds of thousands of fellow human beings. Many of the founding fathers of this country were slave owners; Thomas Jefferson, famous for saying “all men are created equal” had slaves and never freed them.

The effects of racism, slavery and the view that minorities are less valuable human beings still carry on today in many ways, such as institutionalized racism. Yet, good citizens of the USA still choose to turn a blind eye to that fact.

Recently, Colin Kaepernick took a stand for the mistreatment of African Americans and social injustice by refusing to stand for the national anthem. As one would expect, this has resulted in major backlash from people wishing him harm, death and of course, the usual racial epitaphs that come when a person of color speaks an unpopular opinion or takes a controversial stance.

Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” and as a citizen of the USA, he is absolutely free to do so. The backlash I’ve seen is mostly about how “disrespectful” he has been to veterans, the military and other groups who serve our country. I don’t see it that way.

And many of them don’t seem to either:

The truth is, I think we should all be sitting with Kaepernick.

Not only do I support his point, I believe our country has gotten so far away from the ideals it was founded upon that it is high time for all of us to be upset and willing to take a stand by taking a seat or a knee.

It grieves me that the military pays enlisted members $1,600 per month to serve and risk their life and limbs. Some will say they enlist for the love of their country, and while I can appreciate that, their love of country should not be exploited.

It grieves me that Congress members get paid nearly $200,000 per year and can collect a full pension after just five years of service but consistently vote against the interests of the people they claim to serve.

It is heartbreaking that our government has allowed healthcare to become a source of profit to the healthcare companies and that they are doing it on the backs of the American people.

It grieves me deeply to see veteran’s coming back from combat with physical and mental illness who do not get the care they desperately need and deserve. Many end up homeless. When veterans do attempt to get the care they need, they are often faced with incredible wait times, paucity of services and simply give up. Twenty veterans per day are committing suicide, largely because they don’t get the mental health care they need, deserve and damn well earned.

It is deplorable that our country allows teachers to get paid poorly to educate our children and continually cut funding for schools despite saying how important education is to our nation’s survival.

I find it extremely concerning that obtaining higher education has become a financial life sentence to people because colleges and universities figured out how to make students a source of profit.

This country was created to be a safe haven for those seeking freedom and opportunity. It was supposed to be a place where people were equal and where lives were valued. Indeed, on the base of Lady Liberty herself is inscribed this quote by Emma Lazarus,

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Yet, our government has stopped being for the people, by the people, and is now serving its own self-interest and the interests of those who can afford to buy their way to what they want.

Patriotism isn’t blind loyalty. In fact, it has been said that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Anyone can just go along but it takes courage to take an unpopular stance. It grieves me that more people are upset about a man (now, many men) not standing for the national anthem than there are people upset about the real, serious issues plaguing our country today.

We can do better. We must do better. It is high time as individuals and as a nation to pause and reflect on our values and to begin to behave in ways that align the two. May we each no longer turn a blind eye to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. May we each see the pain of one another’s burdens and cease casting stones where we could be sending love. May we as a nation rise above, heal our ancestral wounds, and move forward to truly become a nation that reflects, “liberty and justice for all.”


Author: Lisa Vallejos, PhD

Image: Video Still

Editor: Travis May

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