Free speech not necessarily patriotism

The Sept. 9 News Journal included a letter regarding the reaction San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has received from members of the public due to his refusal to stand before games for the national anthem.

The letter talks about the protections our founding documents placed on free speech. It states, “Yet rather than being praised for this exercise in citizenship, Kaepernick has been insulted, trashed, and threatened with his life by those who despise his protest….”. While threats of violence are always outside the boundaries of appropriate behavior, aren’t those voicing their displeasure exercising First Amendment rights as well? As the letter states, shouldn’t we be praising them for their “exercise in citizenship” instead of vilifying them?

The letter seems to suggest that someone exercising free speech should be praised for their citizenship. If this is true he should be praising Westboro Baptist Church for protesting our soldiers’ funerals due to their views on homosexuality. He should praise the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation for exercising this right while outlining their views on race. I personally don’t feel that any of these groups should be praised for their citizenship. Yet their speech is protected, and rightfully so, by the First Amendment.

There is a difference between someone having the right to speak their mind and someone agreeing with the content of that speech. Colin Kaepernick has every right to not stand for our national anthem just as I have every right to criticize him for this action. In my humble opinion our flag stands for what is right with this country. It stands for the sacrifice of those at Saratoga to gain our independence, the sacrifice of those at Antietam to reunite the states and free a people. It stands for lunch counter protests demanding equal rights and for the invention and innovation our nation has brought to the world. By no means is the work complete within our nation to bring the opportunity of freedom and prosperity to everyone. In my opinion our shortcomings do not merit disrespect to our country and flag.

Free speech isn’t without consequences. Someone exercising free speech also doesn’t automatically qualify as a patriot for merely projecting a statement through words or actions. While I don’t agree with Mr. Kaepernick, I am glad I live in, and raise a family in, a nation where he isn’t incarcerated for his actions.

Erick Hildebrandt