The right to protest needs to be preserved


Our country has a long history with protests. We don’t always get things right; in fact, we have a long history of not getting things right when it comes to the treatment of minorities. That’s why we have protests. That’s why we have the right to protest. That’s the beauty of this country.

It feels almost ridiculous to call upon the Constitution; citing the Constitution is a tiresome tactic often overused by the ignorant. But the reality is that the rights protecting protest were bestowed upon us over two hundred years ago by the very men who are constantly glorified by those who conveniently seem to forget about these rights.

These rights don’t vary on a case to case basis. These rights apply even if you don’t like what someone is saying with their free speech, or you don’t like what someone is printing with their free press, or if it rubs you the wrong way when someone kneels during the national anthem as a sign of protest.

I’ve seen too many people proclaiming their disgust with athletes taking a knee during the anthem at sporting events, and it’s disheartening in so many ways. I’m not saying everyone should support the refusal to stand during the anthem. I don’t even want that. But for god’s sake, I expect every American to support these athletes’ right to do it.

Protest is meant to make you uncomfortable– it’s the shock value that serves as a megaphone for a statement. I understand why some people dislike this specific manner of protesting; I understand how strongly people feel about respecting the flag, the country, and veterans. However, Colin Kaepernick, the man behind it all, originally chose to sit during the anthem in protest of the harsh treatment of racial minorities, but after discussing with a veteran, the two agreed that taking a knee would be a better, less harsh method of protest.

Veterans, it seems, are a hot topic when it comes to this debate, and I truly resent it. Those who rally for everyone to stand during the anthem constantly use veterans and those who have fallen as a self-righteous argument. But this is flawed in so many ways. Firstly, countless veterans have vocalized their support for the movement, or at the very least, they have defended these athletes’ right to protest. Secondly, people are kneeling, not because they despise this country, but because they love this country enough to believe it can be better. The refusal to see or acknowledge this separation is incredibly frustrating.

But above all, the constant rhetoric of “veterans died for you; they are why you have everything you have,” albeit true, does not apply to this argument. Yes, veterans died for us, and they died for our rights. But they are why these athletes’ right to protest is protected. Which is why it’s a gross contradiction to equate the sacrifices of veterans with why we should refuse to allow people to exercise their rights. Veterans fought and died so that citizens like Kaepernick and all the other athletes could freely exercise the rights allotted to all Americans hundreds of years ago. To bring up veterans as a guilt-mongering ploy just because it’s convenient to your agenda is frankly abhorrent. Let’s not forget what our soldiers are fighting for.

When it comes down to it, I do personally support those athletes. I’m not sure if I would kneel myself, but I support their cause, and I respect their bravery. They are merely exercising their right to challenge an injustice in our society, and that is as amenable as it is important for the betterment of this country.

I’m not indignantly infuriated like so many are by the method of protest. This country has a long way to go in many aspects; kneeling represents loving this country enough to be able to recognize that fact. That being said, I don’t want people to think my personal beliefs are why I’m defending these athletes’ right to do what they are doing. I don’t condone selective application of rights that were promised to everyone. It’s disappointing to see so many Americans do so.

If you can’t allow every American to have the rights they deserve, what is there to be proud about?