OPINION: Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest is patriotic

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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There is nothing more American than protesting for what’s right and to take a stand against injustice. Photo credit: Photo Courtesy Mike Morbeck

Though protest may not always be favored, there is nothing more American, or patriotic, than exposing yourself to the risks that come with fighting for your rights.

With Nike’s recent ad featuring the controversial NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick, the issue of his kneeling in protest during the national anthem has been propelled into the spotlight once again.

Challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Beto O’Rourke recently exposed this perspective in a viral video posted on Twitter by NowThis News.

O’Rourke iterates that not only were the freedoms we enjoy as Americans purchased by those in uniform, but also by those who knowingly risked life and limb in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Those who died were beaten within an inch of their lives, punched and spat upon for the crime of trying to be a man or woman in this country and fought to secure better rights for fellow Americans.

Today, these players peacefully and nonviolently take a knee at football games to point out that black men, black teenagers and black children are being killed at an alarming level, often by members of law enforcement without accountability or justice.

“Non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke said. “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere or any place.”

Protest by its own nature is meant to be controversial and force as many people as possible to consider an issue that they otherwise would have ignored. Considering the massive national attention and controversy surrounding the protests, I would say the protests have been largely successful in their purpose.

It is also worth noting that while Kaepernick originally sat during the anthem, a compromise was made after speaking to a veteran and asserting his desire for change and an unwillingness to stand for the flag of a country that oppressed black people and people of color. According to NPR, U.S. Army special forces veteran Nate Boyer advised Kaepernick to instead take a knee during the anthem as a sign of respect.

Kaepernick has also received support from numerous military veterans in his protest, and several even published an open letter of support in Medium.

“Far from disrespecting our troops, there is no finer form of appreciation for our sacrifice than for Americans to enthusiastically exercise their freedom of speech,” the letter states.

The letter also references an analysis by the Washington Post, that found that black people in America are two and a half times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans. According to The Undefeated, U.S. Army veteran Richard Allen Smith, who was a signer to the letter, said politicians and corporations often use the military and its servicemen and women as a prop to cloak themselves in credibility.

We must transform the attitude surrounding those who peacefully fight to better the nation. Those who do, do so out of a deep patriotic devotion to the nation and its peoples, and an understanding of its great potential — not out of a disrespect for it.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel

Press On: Journalism after the Gazette shooting

The Sentinel

By: Robert Thomas

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After the shooting at the Capital Gazette, many are questioning the future of journalism. Photo credit: Kevin Barrett

After receiving the jolting news of the Capital Gazette shooting that left five journalists dead last week, many have questioned what this event means for freedom of the press in the U.S.

Five employees of The Capital Gazette — Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith — were killed Thursday, June 28, after gunman Jarrod Ramos entered the office and opened fire. Ramos was charged with five counts of first degree murder.

According to The Hill, the gunman had a poor relationship with the paper and attempted to sue the paper for defamation.

In recent years the lifeblood of any democracy, the fourth estate — the free press —has increasingly come under attack. Many journalists, including the Sentinel staff, have come to fear the unwarranted risks of the profession, even in their own town.

“This was an attack on the press,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said following the attack. “It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

According to the Washington Post, 2017 was the most dangerous year ever for journalists, and data published by press freedom organizations indicate that the threats faced by journalists worldwide are only increasing.

There has been increasing political pressure on journalists in the U.S. with President Donald Trump often referring to the press as “the enemy of the people.”

Unfortunately, this phrase has a very long and horrific pedigree that can be found in both the French Terror and Soviet Terror. Thousands of people have been executed as “enemies of the people.” Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post questioned what role this type of political atmosphere may have played in the actions of the Capital Gazette shooter.

Julia McIntosh, a journalism major at KSU, says that while the attack has made her more fearful of the dangers to journalists, she is not deterred.

“It’s made me more scared to be a journalist,” McIntosh said. “I’m never going to be scared to tell stories for those in need.”

In the days following the shooting, the Capital Gazette also received death threats and emails from people they don’t know celebrating their loss. In a letter released by the Capital Gazette staff said, “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people. No, we won’t forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do.”

In the age of growing political polarization and nationwide accusations of media, we must not forget the importance and sacrifice of journalists. Although “facts” and well-vetted sources are the cornerstone of quality journalism, and it is the duty of the people to call out errors or mistakes that are made, we have grown to be a completely intolerant people. People sit comfortably behind a computer and hurl insults or belittle the sacrifice of journalists who work long hours for very little pay, and who sometimes pay a price too high for it.

Journalism is constantly changing, and we as journalists must always adapt. We must never forget the sacrifice and bravery of the journalists who fight to bring truth to light.

Press on.

The Sentinel staff would like to honor those killed in the attack: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters.

 

Article originally published by The Sentinel