Perspectives: Courage, a rarity among the masses

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, left, greets Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the end of an NFL preseason football game Friday in Santa Clara, Calif. Green Bay won 21-10. Santa Clara, California, Aug. 26, 2016 | AP Photo/Tony Avelar, St. George News

OPINION – Thank goodness for social media. Without it, most of us wouldn’t have a clue about what we’re supposed to be outraged over at the moment.

The excuses for collective outrage may be short-lived, but the Orwellian Two Minutes of Hate that’s taking place is definitely not fictional.

From Harambe the lowland gorilla to whatever Trump just said to the rising cost of an EpiPen, there’s always something or someone deserving of our ire.

Today’s candidate for denunciation is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who recently opted to sit out the national anthem. His perceived lack of patriotic respect prompted calls for retaliation, including losing his job or being drafted into the military and sent to war.

Kaepernick later explained that his decision was a silent protest against perceived social injustice and oppression against blacks and other people of color. That’s his opinion, and he has every right to it.

There is a certain amount of irony in a guy who earns millions of dollars on the basis of his own merits claiming that people like him are being systematically oppressed.

Even so, Kaepernick’s sense of a growing injustice in America isn’t simply a figment of his imagination.

Regardless of his misgivings, the ferocious reaction of the masses is what reveals a serious sickness that manifests itself whenever someone chooses to abstain from patriotic ritual.

Connor Boyack from Libertas Institute notes:

We infuse symbols with our own values, biases and perspectives. Those who do not see a symbol the same way we do – indeed, who may see in a symbol the very opposite of what we do – is not a call for arms. It should be a call for understanding.

Patriotism and national pride can be admirable things when tempered with humility. They can also become destructive stumbling blocks when they become a rallying point for irrational, angry group-think.

If we truly believe that America is the “land of the free,” why should we become incensed when someone exercises their freedom to dissent? Is our national psyche so fragile that it cannot survive a person peacefully choosing not to stand during the national anthem?

Should we demonstrate our love for America and her symbols by coercing everyone to conform to a particular patriotic norm? Is our concept of freedom really that narrow?

One excuse being offered by those who wish to see Kaepernick suffer for his opinions is that he is contributing to a lack of national unity. These calls for what amounts to forced unity are alarming on many levels.

Mandatory unity has historically proven to be an effective tool for persuading people to turn off their minds and revert to a more animal state of thinking. This is particularly true when a bit of fear is thrown into the mix.

In Paul Rosenberg’s recent essay “United We Fall,” he points out some sobering facts:

Every mass tragedy since 1900 has not only featured unity, but has been built with unity as its central component. This becomes utterly obvious with the use of just one word: collectivism.

Collectivism is unity by definition, and it stood at the heart of Mao’s China, Lenin and Stalin’s USSR, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and the various Kims’ North Korea. As a first approximation, these unity traps killed 100 million people.

The point here isn’t that the folks who are upset with Kaepernick’s choice to sit through the national anthem are akin to murderous dictators. It’s that societies that punish and discourage nonconformity are suffering from a serious blind spot.

A lone man refusing to do the “Sieg Heil” salute at the launching of the Horst Wessel in Nazi Germany, 1936. | Photo courtesy of RareHistoricalPhotos.com, St. George News
A lone man refusing to do the “Sieg Heil” salute at the launching of the Horst Wessel in Nazi Germany, 1936. | Photo courtesy of RareHistoricalPhotos.com, St. George News

The question that few are willing to ask themselves today is whether our society may have similar blind spots. Group-think will not allow for such questions to be asked; therefore, it falls to individuals to find the courage to swim against the tide.

Dissenters may not always be right, but historically, the crowd isn’t known for its wisdom and foresight.

Many are familiar with the iconic 1936 photograph of a large crowd of Germans performing the Nazi salute. Deep within the crowd, a lone man stands with his arms crossed, refusing to follow along.

His name was August Landmesser, and there’s no doubt that citizens of the Third Reich viewed him with much the same need for retaliation currently being heaped upon Kaepernick.

When Landmesser’s family later tried to flee to Denmark, he was arrested at the border and warned of harsher punishment if he did not conform. A year later, he was arrested again and sentenced to a concentration camp and then drafted into the military.

He did not survive the war.

Following the masses has never required much in the way of courage.

On the other hand, many of the greatest and most transformational breakthroughs in human history have been those times when individuals were willing to break with the crowd.

We need to ask more questions and engage in less knee-jerk patriotism.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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40 Comments

  • Real Life August 29, 2016 at 7:56 am

    If I didn’t see Bryan’s name at the end if this article, I would have swore this was a piece from Ed. That said, weather you agree with him or not, Kaepernick put this bullseye on his own back.

    • Anejo August 29, 2016 at 9:15 am

      That’s the beauty of the 1st Amendment, wouldn’t you agree?

      • RealMcCoy August 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm

        The funny thing is that most people that support our 1st Amendment rights are also the same ones that argue we should have limits on our 2nd Amendment rights, and those people fail to realize that it is BECAUSE of that 2nd Amendment that we STILL HAVE the 1st Amendment, as well as all the others.

        • Anejo August 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm

          Is that assumption addressed towards me, RealMcCoy?

          I’d hope not! Either way this man has exercised his rights, as he sees fit. Whether we agree, or disagree, we support the system in which he can. No?

          • RealMcCoy August 31, 2016 at 2:10 pm

            No it was not addressed towards you. It was a statement referencing the crowds that chant “freedom of speech” while at an ‘anti-gun’ rally.
            The people that want restrictions on some rights but not others.
            I’m also curious as to why the media criticizes Tim Tebow for praying on the field, for “standing up for what he believes in”, yet they praise Colin Kaepernick for standing up for what he believes in.
            This screams that there is a blatant double standard from the media.

      • Real Life August 29, 2016 at 2:43 pm

        It is his right. It’s also my right to say he is an idiot.

  • ladybugavenger August 29, 2016 at 8:37 am

    My Native American husband won’t say the pledge of allegiance nor sing the star spangled banner because of what happened to his people along the trail of tears. America wants to forget the genocide of native Americans. They don’t teach it in school and perhaps if they did and if America wouldn’t sweep it under the rug then maybe, just maybe he could heal. Generations of abuse from a genocide by white people and all that pain passed down from generation to generation. It’s a sad thing to see and witness. Americans need to recognize the truth. Columbus Day is genocide day. I stand by my husband. He is the minority and I stand by him proudly.

    • .... August 29, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Hiya ladybug !

      • ladybugavenger August 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm

        Hey Dot! Have a great day! ?

    • .... August 29, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      I’m not going to rag on him for not standing up as the rest of the team did. he’s not the only one that didn’t stand up. next time they cover a football game take the cameras and concentrate on the fans and see how many of the fans are sitting down. .he exercised the 1st Amendment. Like it or not. .Welcome to America

    • 42214 August 29, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      It would be great if America could heal and put its dark past behind us. The only problem is there would be entire subcultures that couldn’t be victims anymore and what would they do then?

      • ladybugavenger August 29, 2016 at 3:59 pm

        The past doesn’t stay in the past. It always creeps into the future until it is healed.

      • ladybugavenger August 29, 2016 at 3:59 pm

        Denial doesn’t heal anything

      • ladybugavenger August 29, 2016 at 4:00 pm

        42214, Is that what you say to a Vietnam vet? Get over it? It’s in the past?

        • Henry August 29, 2016 at 8:38 pm

          Ladybug – the Trail of Tears (which I did learn about in school) was 1838-1839. Obviously it was a sad chapter in U.S. history, but 180 years ago most of our great great grandparents were not even born. The Vietnam vets experienced first-hand the subject of their hatred.

          • ladybugavenger August 29, 2016 at 10:01 pm

            Hi Henry! ?

          • Henry August 30, 2016 at 7:52 am

            Hi ladybug, good to hear from you! Hope that things are going well for you.

          • ladybugavenger August 30, 2016 at 12:18 pm

            I love where I am. I’m in a state where it says Native America on the license plates. There’s pool halls, donut shops, and casinos….my life is complete 🙂

          • ladybugavenger August 30, 2016 at 12:20 pm

            And I can buy a lottery ticket at the gas station on the corner. Whoohoo!

        • 42214 August 29, 2016 at 9:55 pm

          If the vet still thinks of himself as a victim after 45 years, yes I do. I defer to Henry’s comment. Blaming past history over a century old is a waste of time and doesn’t change a thing.

          • ladybugavenger August 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm

            What? I can’t keep blaming my parents? LOL JK gave a great day 42214!

        • 42214 August 29, 2016 at 10:25 pm

          So you husband’s great great great great great grandfather was horribly victimized by our government in 1839. What is your solution to making things right?

          • ladybugavenger August 30, 2016 at 12:14 pm

            Having a national holiday: Native American Day.

          • Henry August 30, 2016 at 12:53 pm

            Two of my great great grandparents were part of the millions that emigrated to America from Ireland in the years after the 1845-1852 Irish Potato Famine (a British Prime later apologized for the Brits’ role).

            My personal solution to this injustice has been to drink more green beer on St Patrick’s Day. : )

          • RealMcCoy August 31, 2016 at 2:18 pm

            Ladybug- I would support that, but why stop there? Go BIG!

            NATIVE AMERICAN APPRECIATION MONTH!

            The Native Americans are the most under-appreciated group in our country. Without the First People, the European immigrants wouldn’t have survived or thrived.w

            And let’s give them a good month too- like September or October, so we can have a holiday and county fair in less than 100+ degree heat.

            I didn’t say November, because I think they might take offense to Thanksgiving being in their month.

            Totally serious, by the way.

          • ladybugavenger September 1, 2016 at 3:09 pm

            Sounds good to me Real MC…

      • ladybugavenger August 29, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        now we have Hillary running for President. The dark past will be a darker future if she’s elected

      • .... August 29, 2016 at 6:49 pm

        Ask Bob he knows everything

  • Caroline August 29, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Bryan usually I agree with you and find you insightful but did you just compare standing for the flag and national anthem of the United States of America and honoring those who have died for our freedom over “social justice” to supporting Hitler? Really? I respect his right to not stand. I don’t think he should receive punishment for choosing to exercise this right. On the other hand I don’t think he should be praised for doing so. He’s a jerk and his reasoning is ridiculous. If he had a backbone and any real courage he would donate his money to people he believes are being left behind, maybe donate to flood victims, buy diapers and pay someone’s electric bill that lives in the ghetto. He should go do some service for those he feels are being wronged. His way of protest not only disrespectful to all of America but to all those black men and women that chose to go to war to die for his freedom to make millions for playing a game. Showing pride for the home of the brave and the land of the free is NOT the same as “hiel hitler”. Shame on you Bryan.

    • Henry August 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Best comment of week. Very well stated, Caroline!

  • mrsmith August 29, 2016 at 9:39 am

    There are better ways to protest and contrary to Brian’s belief, a solute or pledge does not commit yourself to the atrocities of a nation. What bothers me the most is how disgusted this makes our veterans. Many of them lost more than people like Kaepernick can imagine and many of them treat what Kaepernick did as an insult to what they fought, died, or almost died for. For some reason people look to Kaepernick as an example and this to me has far worse consequences than standing for the anthem.

  • 42214 August 29, 2016 at 9:48 am

    If you call this courage I wouldn’t want to have to depend on you in a tough situation.

  • Roy J August 29, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Just read the title: False. Practically the only people in this country who have courage are the masses, since they’re the ones who actually man the industries, fight the wars, and continue to uphold the remnants of our culture that the comfortable and political are too empty to recognize.

  • wilbur August 29, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Hopefully he will be dropped from the team soon, and will then be free to go to whatever Moslem Hellhole he finds preferable to the USA.

    • wilbur August 29, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      BTW, 49ers tickets are going for half their face value these days. I wonder why.

  • Bob August 29, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    when it comes to footballers and they’re fans we should keep our expectations very very low. muh ‘murica! muh patriotism! muh football!

  • eddantes56 August 29, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Very lazy and incorrect reasoning Bryan.

    1. You mention injustice as not imaginary? Whitehead wrote of a gov of scoundrels, thieves, et al. Kaepernick’s actions were specifically for his belief in BLM’s phony movement that there is an epidemic of police killing unarmed black men. Check the stats Bryan and please stop the misdirection. BTW, BLM’s premise that ‘Hands up Don’t Shoot’ is what happened in Ferguson, MO is flat our a lie. Kaepernick, a college grad, should have enuf brains to do some reading and critical thinking.

    2. To compare our American nationalism (ie. love of country thru respect for our flag and national songs) to Nazism and the collectivism of Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union is beyond ludricous. If you wanted to troll this website, you could not have done a better job.

    Note: While I like much of Libertarians, the problem with you and Libertas Institute, is that under the palaver of you “enlightened” libertarians, you are unmoored. More importantly, show me the nation or civilization based on Libertarian values……..I’m waiting!

    There are a number of good ideas within Libertarianism, but few of them are original to that movement. And many of us just cannot stand the Libertarian idea that abortion is fine and that we should legalize drugs and make the citizenry pay for the consequences of the new generation of doppers who hold part-time jobs, or who do not work, don’t have insurance, et al.

    3. Bryan, we can punish the 49ers and ergo Kaepernick by not patronizing SF games…..you are wildly incorrect. There is no serious blindspot here. It’s the free market.

    It might not be an issue if our civilization was not so far down the road of internal decay, incivility and moral depravity. But we are far along that road and yes, we can draw a line in the sand.

    You are entitled to your opinion as is Ladybugavenget and the rest. But guess what? I’m entitled to mine and I am not crazy, I’m not intolerant and I’m not like Hitler, Mao or the rest.

    How lazy of you to pull out the Mao card. This is such a poorly reasoned piece…….good grief!

  • arrowone August 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Now it comes out that his girlfriend, soon to be wife, is an Islamic BLM activist. That’s fine, (not really) but put this in another light. What if he’d denounced gays and refused to support them. He probably would have been fined and/or released. So goes the country these days. Sickening. I’m sure his relationship with her had a lot to do with his actions. Personally, I hope he disappears.

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