A former U.S. Navy officer writing a Veterans Day special for the Salt Lake Tribune said Colin Kaepernick's 2016 anthem protests advanced free speech, America's core value. What offended David Burns was Commander-In-Chief Donald Trump, whom he accused of defiling the flag and disrespecting the U.S. military.
We honor our veterans for their sacrifices, courage and professionalism, wrote Burns, a former Navy surface warfare officer. They were mostly ordinary people who did extraordinary things to protect us and to advance our values and interests. Burns went onto write:
Unknowing, knee-jerk reverence may explain the condemnations on behalf of the military — but not by the military — when Colin Kaepernick (and others), protesting racial injustice, kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before the start of NFL games.
Burns acknowledged that Kaepernick's protest offended many Americans who see the flag as off-limits to political displays.
As a veteran, Burns flew the flag outside his home and said he can relate to those reactions because the flag "is a visceral symbol of our nationhood and national unity." Americans have died fighting under the stars and stripes. Nevertheless he excused Kaepernick for two reasons.
One was liberal guilt: "But to say that I would never do what he did is beside the point: I’ve never walked in the shoes of a black man in America."
The second is the 1989 Texas v. Johnson decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in its 5-4 ruling that struck down criminal flag burning laws in 48 states.
"Freedom of speech is a core American value, and Kaepernick’s protests advanced the promise of that value," Burns wrote.
Promise? It's more like Kaepernick used his free speech rights to wrecklessly smear public safety officers and praise Cuba, a nation where freedom is a distant dream.
Burns characterized Kaepernick's defiance as raising awareness and generating discussion "by peaceable means, becoming part of the national conversation about inequality. Having acted within his rights, and spurred debate, Kaepernick didn’t defile the flag or disrespect the military when he took a knee. Tolerate unpopular speech is what a free society does."
And so does accepting the rebuke that comes from using freedom to offend large segments of the population. Americans have spoken, and they've made it clear they do not want to see Kaepernick playing football or continually disrespecting the nation.
While not personally offended by Kaepernick's protests, "which strengthened the values the flag and military represent," Burns was offended "by the current president’s corruption, immorality and incompetence, which have weakened those values":
In truth, it’s the president who has defiled the flag and disrespected the military. His betrayal of the Kurds humiliated our deployed troops ('I’m ashamed,' an Army officer said after the president’s bug out order) and endangered their safety. His smears against Lt. Col. Vindman for honoring his oath to support the Constitution harm the authority of all serving officers.
Veterans guaranteed the freedoms enjoyed by Kaepernick and every other American, Burns wrote, and we're indebted to the those who risked their lives defending liberty. If we are grateful, "Then repay some of that debt by justifying their sacrifices," Burns said. "Use those freedoms. Vote in the next election and add your voice to the national conversation. The times demand it."
Fair enough. But what if we want to vote for Trump?