David Zirin commenting on Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem (boldface mine):
This country—despite its awful treatment of soldiers when they return home—worships the cult of the military. And professional sports—especially the NFL—have played a central role. In addition to the military flyovers, the generals flipping coins at the start of the Super Bowl and the staged “reunions” at NFL games, the US Department of Defense paid $5.4 million from 2011 to 2014 to 14 NFL teams to stage “Salute the Troops” events. These involved product placement, advertising, and “casual” (also known as “subliminal”) mentions.
And now we have arrived at a frightening point where an act of dissent that has nothing to do with the military is labeled disrespectful to men and women in uniform. The message is that Kaepernick has this “freedom” to protest only because of the protections accorded us by our military. This is such a disturbing—and a very post-9/11—concept.
The military doesn’t “give” us the right to protest. The Constitution does that. Two hundred years of struggle for civil liberties does that.
If we accept the notion that we are allowed to raise our voices, or take a knee in dissent, only by the good graces of the military, then we are also implicitly saying that the military has the right to take that ability away.
And that’s the thing about the right to dissent: You use it or lose it.
So again, for the cheap seats: Colin Kaepernick is trying to raise awareness about police violence. If you believe he only has the right to do that because of the US military, you are arguing that dissent is possible only if the people with the guns approve.
One thing Zirin neglected is that the militarization of the police hasn’t just been about weapons, it has also been about attitude: police are too often portrayed as ‘domestic soldiers’ fighting an internal war against ‘enemies’, as opposed to public civil–that is, civilian–servants who are charged with maintaining law and order.
This might not end well.