When American football player Colin Kaepernick decided to ‘take the knee’ and kneel for the United States national anthem instead of standing for it, he kickstarted a debate that’s still ongoing. It’s widespread practice for the national anthem to be played before the start of a game of football (or any other sport for that matter), with everyone choosing to stand and show their love of their country. Kaepernick claimed his action was in protest of what he felt were racial injustices. Reaction to his ‘taking the knee’ has been both positive and negative. Some have praised him for using his platform to make a stand for something he believes in, while others have accused him of being unpatriotic. Other football players have been inspired to carry out their own protests, as have players of other major sports. On the other hand, there have been calls to have players who ‘take the knee’ fired and many people have stopped watching or going to matches, with it fairly common for stadiums to have noticeable numbers of empty seats. So, the question is this: is it ever right not to take part in displays of patriotism?
Yes – these acts aren’t everything
The general idea behind an act of patriotism, standing for the national anthem, for example, is that everyone joins in and shows their appreciation for and love of their country, or whatever else is being celebrated. These are usually carried out in public, though many people do such things in private as well. Kaepernick did go against a long-standing American tradition, but that’s not to say he doesn’t love his country. Just because you don’t follow the prescribed traditions, doesn’t mean you love your country any less than those who follow the crowd and take part in patriotic acts. We’re all individual people with our own thoughts, ideas, beliefs and opinions. We’re incredibly diverse. Why is it expected that, at certain events, we’re all expected do the exact same thing? Isn’t there are sort of peer pressure here? If you don’t stand for the national anthem, for example, you can expect to be questioned by others and maybe even accused of not loving your country. But it’s perfectly possible not to practise these specific acts and still be just as patriotic as everyone else. Acts of patriotism should always be optional and people who choose not to practise them shouldn’t be criticised for the choice they’ve made. Patriotism is individual; we all show our love for our country in our own ways. Surely that’s enough?
No – there’s no reason not to take part
When at a public event, there’s really no reason not to take part in an act of patriotism. If you really do love your country, you should want to join in with everyone else and show that you, along with everyone else there, love your country. Something like standing for the national anthem is so simple to do and really takes no effort at all, so there shouldn’t really be any excuse for going against it. Kaepernick decided against standing because he wanted to carry out a protest – surely there are other ways and means of going about this? If you’re really passionate about a cause, which Kaepernick undoubtedly was and still is, why hijack something like an act of patriotism when doing so is only going to cause controversy? Standing for the national anthem is about everyone coming together and uniting, showing they all have something in common, the fact that they’re all from the same country and they have a great, undying love for their country. If you go to an event such as a football match, you know the national anthem’s going to be played and there’s going to be a public appreciation for the country. If you’re really against such acts, isn’t it better to skip the event altogether rather than go against what everyone else is doing and not stand? No one forces people to go to events where public displays of patriotism take place. You choose to go to these events, so isn’t it only right that you should choose to take part in the act of patriotism?