Articles

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran


(Photo: Billy Hurst, AP)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.

So here we go again. Another professional athlete has decided to protest about the evils of the country that has given him more than any other country would. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem of two NFL pre-season football games and has said that he intends to continue to refuse in the future.

Related: Another open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a (more understanding) military veteran

Kaepernick made a blanket statement about his actions: "I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Let's dissect this a little.

"I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

This statement implies the government takes an active role in keeping minorities subjugated, like making laws that say "everyone but black people can do X." That argument has been debunked so many times that you're clearly uneducated on the issue and makes it hard to even take you seriously (forget the fact that our President is black, we have a Black Congressional Caucus and a long list of extremely successful black entrepreneurs). Truly active government oppression is a thousand times more brutal than what we have here. If you want to see what it really looks like, I invite you to Google El Salvador, Venezuela, Stalinism, North Korea, Somalia, or Saudi Arabia. Or let the USO set you up with a trip to Afghanistan. While there, ask about women's rights and then tell us all how oppressive America is when you get back.

"It would be selfish on my part to look the other way."

So how is sitting down selfless and not looking the other way? If you really want to make a difference, get off the bench and actually do something. You signed a $114 million dollar contract with the 49ers and have an average salary of $19 million. How much of that did you donate to black causes or use to help the suffering that has suddenly offended you? I made 1 percent of what you did last year and I'd bet all of it that I donated more of my time to help others than you did.

"There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Embellish much? Sounds like we're living in South Africa under Apartheid. The high-profile events you've launched off of are real problems, no doubt, but the actual law enforcement data suggests your statement is hyperbolic. Rule of law exists in America. Wrong-doers don't get away with murder. (Well, OJ did, maybe, but that's another story, isn't it?)

When you decided to "sit in," did you think you were the champion of a cause and every African American would agree with you? I'm willing to bet there are plenty who are rolling their eyes right now because they feel you're doing more harm than good and wish you would just keep your thoughts to yourself. You're not Che Guevara and this is not Bautista's Cuba. You're not a freedom fighter leading your people out of bondage. You're an ill-informed athlete who's only fanning the fires of racism by sitting on the sidelines for a principle that you only understand through a simplistic pop narrative that's little more than a hashtag campaign.

Look, Colin, I get it. You want to show your anger and dissatisfaction about an issue that means something to you. The problem is you're going about it all wrong. Instead of inspiring others or sparking change, you're angering your fellow citizens (especially veterans) and losing respect instead of gaining it. You are an American citizen and this is your country. You have the right to say and do what you like, a right forged by the efforts of millions who actually put their lives on the line, the real freedom fighters.

If you're pissed, fine. And if you're pissed enough to take action, even better. Just do it in the right way. Write an insightful article about what ails you. Hire someone to write your memoir that outlines a proposed solution. Go on a speaking tour to raise awareness and inspire others. Use some of those NFL millions to fund a study that helps define the problem and the solution. Fund a scholarship or two for black kids who have the grades to get into college but not the money. Find an inner city high school and donate football equipment or (even better) spend some time on the field mentoring them.

You're probably wondering why so many people disagree with you, even to the point of burning your jersey in the streets. Simply put, this country isn't perfect, but even a passing knowledge of history (the kind usually possessed by a guy with a bachelor's degree) should make you proud to be an American. We liberated Europe from genocidal Naziism, won the Cold War, landed on the moon, made more breakthroughs in technology and medicines that save lives every day than any other country, and given athletes the opportunity to make a ton of money to play a game. The list could go on and on, but it all points to one undeniable fact – the world would be a much worse place than it is without America.

Despite all that, you've decided America sucks and chosen to express your dissatisfaction by offending 99 percent of the 324 million Americans who have nothing to do with the issue you're protesting. That's your right and you certainly don't have to respect the flag or the anthem.

But, in return, I don't have to respect you. Now, instead of seeing a skilled athlete tearing up opposing defenses, millions of people are going to see a misguided man who chose to help break our country instead of help fix it. Sitting on the sidelines during the anthem only makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Need a role model, Colin? Look to U.S. Army Lieutenant Sam Kendricks, who stopped his Olympic pole vault to stand and show respect when he heard the anthem. That guy gets it, but, of course, he's actually serving something bigger than himself.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of "Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man's Guide to Midlife."

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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