Kaepernick asked us to question our revisions. Asked us to start a larger conversation on race and equality and what freedom truly means. If the oppressor is himself oppressed, how have I not bought into a system in which I know red and blue lights in the rearview mean at most an annoying ticket, and not a death sentence? How can I ensure that to be American means taking a hard look at how we have used our symbols to uphold systems of inequality, oppression, racism, cruelty? How can I help reinvent this system so the self-evident truths of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are enjoyed by all? It starts by taking a knee.
I'm angry because fascism is wrong. White supremacy is wrong. Anti-Semitism is wrong. These ideas represent fundamental denials of human rights. The language these groups use is that of fear, hate, repression. Cleansing, purity, taking "it back,"--what version of America is this? A version minorities have for too long been too aware, now naked and exposed for all. And yet, our President himself subscribes to blame on "all sides?" There are only two sides, Mr. President--wrong and right. Where do you stand amidst history?
I refuse to believe in Trump's America--closed and cruel. I refuse to believe that his answer is the best we have for those left out. I refuse his dismantling of American leadership, his calculating belief in false economics, his distaste for honesty. And, luckily, I find myself in good company--states whose governments refuse to comply with Trump, businesses seeking balance between profit and the social good, politicians sincerely seeking the betterment of their constituents, but mostly American men and women who refuse to shirk their duty, who believe we can still tackle hard problems, who know--in their very marrow--that these colors don't run.
I struggle with depression on a daily basis. Metaphors fall short--describing depression as some dark octopus lashing tentacles around the human brain, that removing those creeping arms will cure the disease. But that's not true--it is part and parcel of myself, as much as my shadow, my love for mountains, my blue eyes. My depression strengthened after leaving Afghanistan--some vital barrier crumbled in the dust and heat and senselessness of it all. Yet the fault cannot be assigned to me or the war. We cannot point to a single instance and say, "Ah, this right here is where you forged your illness, and you could have done different." Those who live with darkness always at the edge of their vision know the seductive power of poor coping mechanisms--drugs, alcohol, distraction from thinking about why we can't seem to join the perfection of our peers. Some succumb, some fight--the rights and wrongs of it all jumbled together.