Columnist Calls National Anthem “A Pompous Battle Number” to Defend Kaepernick

Chicago Tribune columnist Diana Goetsch, in an effort to defend Colin Kaepernick ends up denigrating the National Anthem, American patriotism, and the military.

The main thrust of her article is that Kaepernick’s actions in kneeling during the National Anthem offended a lot of people and was a threat to the NFL’s revenue (i.e. from lost fans, lost advertisers).  This much is probably true – in part.  Who wants to support a player who shows disregard for the fans who ultimately pay him and the country which protects his right to free speech?  However, add to his baggage the fact that he’s not that great of a player and it’s an easy decision for a team to decide not to sign him.

However, in defending Kaepernick, Goetsch finds fault with the overt patriotism exhibited at NFL games.   She says that the Anthem is “a pompous battle number” and suggests “America the Beautiful” as a suitable replacement (do we really believe that people wouldn’t find fault with that hymn as well, especially since it mentions God?).  She contends that people stand for the Anthem due to peer pressure and that the military pays the NFL to honor the troops.  While the Pentagon did have a marketing program to pay for military tributes at games (until 2015), Goetsch’s contention ignores the fact that the Anthem was being played, people were standing, and the troops honored long before the Pentagon was sponsoring sports programs as a recruitment tool.

I think what’s more at play here is the fact that our country has a collective memory of a time when the military and our troops were not honored.  Troops returning from Vietnam were ignored – or worse.  In addition, since 2001 our military has been increasingly deployed overseas to the extent that most of us know people in the military and have friends who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thus, it is not due to crass commercialism that we stand for the Anthem or wish to express our support for the military.  It’s because we still believe in the things this Country stands for and have loved-ones who have fought and died for our beloved Country, and therefore those who share the same uniform receive our love by extension.

This gets to the heart of the matter.  Can we as a Country put aside our political differences, our social grievances, and our spats with one another just long enough to recognize that we’re on the same team?  Can we still work together to enable our Country to be the place where “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” prosper?

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Aaron Simms

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