Colin Kaepernick, 49ers Quaterback
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers Quarterback

I consider myself a patriot.

As a young man, I volunteered to join the US Military out of a deep love for this country.  I had no financial need and I was already a student at UCLA. Yet, I felt I wanted to pay my country back in a significant manner.

When it comes to the Star Spangled Banner – the idea of a night long battle, with anticipation to see whether the symbol of our nation is still there – there’s something romantic about the idea.

I always get a little teary eyed whenever I hear it.

So you can imagine the controversy over 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick not standing up for the national anthem has struck a chord with me.

In my view, people upset with the quarterback are failing to grasp two essential things about freedom of speech and the values that this country was founded on.

One: Being upset with the United States does not make you un-American.

Two: A difference in opinion doesn’t mean stop listening.

Freedom of speech can be interpreted in various ways, and certainly action has long been considered a method of speech. I have seen few arguments that Colin Kaepernick does not have the right to remain seated during the national anthem. But the people who are offended seem to feel Kaepernick is disrespecting the flag or the country by his actions, by his speech.

But let me ask you this: How many people are perfectly happy with the way our country is going?

Hillary supporters hate Trump, Trump supporters hate Hilary, and the country is clearly steeped in division. Should Colin Kaepernick be forced to respect something that he has deep misgivings about, that so many of us do?  His stand on free speech doesn’t lessen the United States; it invigorates it.  The United States is more than a simple song and an action and a flag.  It is a people and ideology, a devotion to freedom, all freedoms.

But with all that’s going on today in the world, is it so hard to understand that some people may be disenchanted with it?  Are we so shallow and insecure that we need every single American to respect our national symbols or face our collective rage?  Colin Kaepernick has his opinion, and he is using his right to free speech to express it.  And I fought for this country and his right to do it, and I applaud him for it.

True patriotism is not about forcing others to respect your country; it is about making your country so great that others respect it. If someone voicing a difference of opinion evokes a feeling of rage in you, then you need to ask yourself some questions.

If someone disagrees with you, you should try to understand where they’re coming from, review it with critical thinking and find the truths in their differences, not instantly declare they are a traitorous moron who should leave the country.  Does Colin Kaepernick have any points that our system may be biased against some of our citizens, or is he completely off base?  And if he has ANY point, whatsoever, should we be complaining and criticizing his actions or should we, as Americans, be trying to create an America where all our citizens would willingly stand for the national anthem?

If someone disagrees with you and your first reaction is to stop listening and attempt to shout them down, then you fail to understand the ideas that this country was founded on.  Freedom of speech was never intended to mean freedom from having to listen; quite the opposite.  We all agree that there are aspects of this country that could be improved, and instead of shutting our ears and yelling as hard as we can, we should be seeking the input and criticisms that can help us live up to the idea of a more perfect union.

It is my honest opinion the United States is the greatest country in the world, but that does not mean that there is no room for improvement or that any criticism of it is inherently wrong.  A true patriot doesn’t get angry when someone criticizes the United States; he listens, and then seeks to make it better.