Obama Supports Kaepernick: What Does It Mean To Be a Leader?

By | September 8, 2016 | 0 Comments


Colin Kaepernick, 49ers

Sgt. Zachary Stinson, USMC

   Choose one

Life inevitably requires that we make choices. So which of these role models do you choose? Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and recipient of a multimillion-dollar contract, who insists on sitting during the playing of the National Anthem? Or Sgt. Zachary Stinson, who insists on standing, though he is the recipient of a Purple Heart Medal for losing both legs in Afghanistan? It is unclear whether Kaepernick wore his pig-in-a-cop-hat socks during the game, or only at practice.

Each man is making a statement, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But which statement do you agree with? Which resonates with you? Which statement represents the great sacrifice a man made in order to protect the right of the other man to make his statement? Sgt. Stinson lost both legs above the knees, and suffered damage to his hands as well, while serving in Afghanistan; Kaepernick remains in robust health. Sgt. Stinson sees the flag and the National Anthem as symbols of freedom; Kaepernick sees them as symbols of oppression. Their views are fundamentally incompatible.
Granted, freedom of speech does not carry with it an obligation to listen. It guarantees my right to post my columns, so long as I do not advocate violence. But it forces no one to read them. Kaepernick’s right to sit during the anthem is no more valid than the right of fans to boo or boycott the team. Of course, the mainstream media would call such fans “far-right crazies” and “would-be Nazis.” To progressives, freedom of expression comes with a “one-way” sign.
But, you object, can’t we support both statements? Can’t we appreciate the efforts of both men to express themselves? Yes, in theory, we can recognize that both men are demonstrating their understanding of the Constitution. But in practice, we must choose one or the other, because they are mutually exclusive. In practice, only one represents the courage needed to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In practice, only one represents the willingness to sacrifice in order to protect the other’s right to express himself – even in objectionable ways.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.
− Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut

So which man’s expression does President Obama go out of his way to support? Which expression does the president take time out of his foreign trip to approve? Which man does Obama feel obligated to defend? Which form of expression resonates with him?
President Obama interrupted his visit to China to make a strong statement in support of Kaepernick. Obama recognized that Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” would be, for veterans, “a tough thing for them to get past.” That is, veterans should get over their negative feelings. In contrast, according to Obama, Kaepernick is under no obligation to overcome his negative feelings.

The attributes of a leader are competence, courage of conviction, and care of subordinates.
Bing West, author, Marine

This definition seems particularly apt. But it raises questions: Whom does Obama regard as his subordinates? Whom does he feel obligated to support? Whom does he see as his people, deserving of his empathy – and whom does he see as the “others,” deserving of nothing in particular?
The answer is painfully clear. Obama sees Colin Kaepernick as one of his people, deserving of his interest and support. It is not clear that Obama sees Sgt. Stinson at all.
But what about you? Whom do you see as your kind of guy? Whose statement resonates with you? To whom do you feel obligated? Whom do you regard as the guarantor of the other man’s freedom to express himself? If you were president, whom would you take time out to support?
What kind of leader would you aspire to be? Would you seek to be the leader of all the people, or only of some? Would you strive to rebuild respect for our country and its traditions, or would you continue to undermine them? Would you work to restore our military, or continue to weaken it? Would you express support and admiration for people like Zachary Stinson, or for people like Colin Kaepernick?
What is your concept of a leader? How will that affect your vote on November 8?

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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