Freedom of Speech or Totalitarian Society?
For those who are shockingly out of the loop, American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers) chose to not stand for the national anthem during football games. Predictably, Whiteness all over the United States reacted in outrage.
One of the very predictable things that took place was the fallacious logic behind Whiteness in regards to their selective outrage.
Despite the fact that Colin Kaepernick never mentioned white people, white people definitely felt the need to seek refuge. Spearheading the apogee of white racist ideologies is Tomi Lahren, who sadly but also comically decided to be the Saturday morning astronomically dense cartoon-villain of Afro-Americans everywhere. Another avenue of approach for Whiteness was child black conservatives (children, yes) and a few military personnel who harbor the same racist ideologies as their isolated hometowns and xenophobic white families.
And after that, something very interesting happened.
Then hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick happened. Perhaps because I assess society realistically I figured that like how most society functions, a lot of veterans would sit in silence while suppression and persecution of black thought and emotionality takes place. Boy was I wrong.
An old-school journalist named Robert Mackey of The Intercept wrote an article on #VeteransForKaepernick, which brilliantly documented precisely what took place regarding the situation at hand. Being that his article references me, allow me to dive into a bit of myself here.
A Bit About Me
For those who might not have grasped the details, I, Johnny Silvercloud am a military (Army) veteran. I’ve been to Afghanistan twice (two years) in regards to warfare, and the only locations I haven’t been to on this planet are South America and Africa.
I joined service at the age of 18, straight out of high school. Long story short, I was a nerd that pissed off a lot of insecure kids. in the face of bullying (which always eventually happens) I used my intellect and fought back. If they were funny, I was funnier. That pissed off kids even more and I began getting into fights, fights that stood for my beliefs in eliminating bullying behavior. If they were strong, I became stronger.
From there, the bullies stopped coming my way. After a while I was able to out-clown, out-fight anyone who wished to modify my behavior because of their insecurities. The bullies stopped looking my way, but they began at others. From there I made it a point that it was never about me. It was never about me; it was the bullshit of bullying as a whole. I didn’t want them to stop bullying me; I wanted them to stop bullying, period.
As teenager and all, we suffer black eyes and sore stomachs. As adults, we lose vision, jaw movement and possibly die. As unfettered as I were, I decided to join military service because I was good at fighting, and if I die, at least it’s for a greater cause than myself. I decided that my abilities would be placed into a better form of use.
The military experience became vast, and, where I draw a lot of my perspective. How can a military professional in a warzone exercise more self-discipline than a cop on an American street? Why are cops are so unaccountable for their actions, but Soldiers are more so? Should protect American lives be something that enables more intelligent police who don’t react on trigger-finger reflex? Why do they have incredible leeway that Soldiers and Marines don’t have?
These were the questions that I raise. One of the biggest counter-arguments to Black Lives Matter and black people as a whole is “well the police have a hard, dangerous job,” and that’s bullshit; it isn’t harder than actual warfare, and how immune to law cops are in regards to murdering black people is categorically absurd.
So yes, here I am. I’m a veteran for Kaepernick. Or anyone who stands (or sits) to use their freedom of speech to highlight injustice taking place. But what about the rest? Do the rest of the veterans for Kaepernick out there share the same backstory? Do they share the same sentiment?
Military Personnel Didn’t Sign Up to Be Your Tool
As a military vet I’m privy to more information than the common Whiteness Conservative. In short, my findings strongly suggest that military personnel are sick and tired of being used as a device to subtract from others or declare patriotism. Too many demagogues who side with white supremacy and other forms of colonialism use military personnel — military people — as a device to tug at heartstrings for all the wrong reasons.
Veteran support for Kaepernick are a push back for not just Kaepernick and Freedom itself, but a push back from being used as political tools. Military personnel are not robots; we are people who actual feelings, ideas that are largely independent from liberal or conservative narrative. But why? Many of those who stood in defense of Kaepernick’s rights were white. If it’s easy for the common white person to subtract from black protest, why not military?
“If you are black in the military, you are a minority twice.”
People of color, women, those who are gay or otherwise LGBT, are minorities in America and if you serve in the military, you become a minority twice. It is from this understanding where even white males — the hardest to inform oppression to — actually begin to see what it’s like to be a minority in America. If black people are a minority twice by serving in the military, a white person has a greater chance of understanding the American minority’s plight by way of being a sociological minority once. Most (civilian) people don’t experience war in the same manner that most (white) people don’t experience racism.
I remember a young redheaded white guy telling me the story of when he walked into a sports bar mid-day while wearing his Class A uniform. At the time, the bar had a television on that showed a Marine throwing a dog off of a cliff in Iraq. It did not matter that he was a Soldier versus being a Marine. It does not matter that he was not there. He was judged for the actions of a few, and was not given the benefit of the doubt — just like any other American minority. Welcome to being black.
What mattered what how society now sees him was a collective; he wasn’t a random white guy who swims in white defaultness and white privilege. No. He was a military man, and, he then stood judged by society by the actions of someone else. Congratulations, this is what is feels like to be black in America.
Sure, the white military man can walk away from the military, hang the uniform up, leave service and join the civilian sector. Most do. But the experiences in the military leave a strong stain on the human spirit. Black people are roughly 16% of the military population (opposed to 13% on the total U.S. population) and 31% of the military are nonwhite people. This exposure to people of color most likely gives white people a greater unfiltered perspective to the fears and terrors of nonwhite people. Another thing that can grant perspective is the meritocracy the military became; with a robust equal opportunity program the military grants access to those who are the most capable. From there, the white American is more likely to come across people of color who are bosses, supervisors, highly capable people who genuinely give a damn about others matter what. This also include the totality of the human spirit concerning ability to sacrifice; jumping on grenades and other selfless acts. It is more difficult to deem black people inferior if you have a black person who ensured you were able to be there for a family funeral, made sure you didn’t get swindled on your first car, saved your life in a back alley in Europe. The actions of Soldiers to Soldiers extend beyond the warzone.
In short, the troops are tired of being used as a tool for political gain. I personally despise those who use “the troops” to subtract from others. Let me make this clear; I didn’t serve to suppress minorities — or any people of America. I did in fact serve to attack and neutralize bullies, and for now it looks like I have a lot of work left undone. Right now, black people are being sociologically bullied, sociologically abused, and very few realize that standing for the people under a national flag should be more important than standing for a flag aimlessly, blindingly. It’s fascinating that white America expects Afro-Americans to live under a totalitarian state. Forgive me when I tell you — we tell you — that’s not what we fought for. Kaepernick has the right to stand for people by sitting during national anthems. If you are an athlete or anyone who wishes to fight for those who do not have the same power as you do in life, I’m here for you. Our flag is beautiful, but it does not yield more beauty than the beauty of the human spirit.
And that’s worth fighting for.
Photography Credit: Johnny Silvercloud