The following is the opinion of an individual. It does not reflect the opinions of the company, the Editorial board, or the company owners. Opinion pieces from differing viewpoints are welcome, so long as they are written respectfully.
"I don't personally believe that black people are persecuted in America. I don't believe that there is still systemic racism in America. I have seen no evidence of it. I could be wrong. But the fact that there's a large amount of my fellow countrymen who feel persecuted, denigrated, and unfairly treated is concerning to me. It should be concerning to you. If you call yourself an American, you should care about all Americans. You should care about unity, understanding, and constructive discourse.
Rioting, looting, vandalism; these are all still present in our society. So when someone chooses to make a silent, peaceful protest that doesn't harm anyone in any way, we should applaud that.
I attend sporting events every week. Usually 2-3 a week. I see young people and adults, athletes and fans, casually standing during the anthem, not paying attention, looking at their phones, whispering to their neighbors, etc. I was raised to stand at attention, hand over heart, eyes on the flag. When the music starts you drop everything, get your hands out of your pockets, and take off your hat. I'm more annoyed by someone pretending to be patriotic but not actually paying attention than by someone kneeling, being quiet, and respecting those around them.
Many of the NFL athletes who kneel during the anthem have made statements that their actions are in no way intended to be disrespectful to the men and women who fought for our country. They simply want to bring attention to something that concerns them, and something that should concern all of us.
Our country has a problem that needs to be fixed. Maybe we have a problem with systemic racism. I don't know. But I'm 100% confident that we have a major problem with communication. People are too hostile. Both sides of the fence. Conservative, Liberal, Moderate, Christian, Atheist, Black, White: I have friends and family of all labels. The one thing that I consistently see in all of them is an inability to separate emotions from logic and listen to opposing viewpoints.
I've had friends who portrayed the stereotypical snowflake liberal, who think 50% of the country and everyone who voted for Trump is a disgusting racist. I've had friends who portray the stereotype of a hypocritical christian bigot. I've seen church employees talk about cleansing the world of Muslims who are unwilling to convert.
I also know a lot of loving and accepting people, both Christian and otherwise, who try to be compassionate to everyone.
There was a time when the radicals were a slim minority fringe group. The silent majority was middle of the road. Maybe it's the prevalence of social media. Maybe it's manipulation by the mainstream media. Maybe it's politicians, Hollywood, the NFL, whatever. Or maybe it's all of us. No politician, actor, or news reporter can force me to hate. They cannot force me to discriminate, stereotype, or make inflammatory statements.
It's time for the American people to take responsibility for the condition of our country. Our economy is changing, our culture is diversifying, our values differ wildly. We can't keep pretending that our way is the only way, my way or the highway. We can't keep expecting people to settle for the status quo when they're not the ones benefiting from it.
The fact is, both sides are patriots. One side believes themselves to be defending their country from disrespect. One side wants to improve their country and see it move forward and succeed. There's no reason to be so bitter towards each other. The fact is, you can love your country and still see its flaws. America has done horrible things. Japanese internment camps, native American genocide, slavery, Red Scare trials, Salem witch hunts. America has also done incredible things. We defeated a world power to gain our independence and stand up to tyranny. We defeated the Nazis, we fought a war to end slavery, we fought a culture war to end segregation.
There are people who actually hate America and want to see it fall. People who are actively plotting against us. Instead of condemning people who want to make America better, why not condemn people who actually want to see America fall?
Abortion, Confederate heritage, economics, nationalism, religion, sexuality. The number of controversial topics grows every year. People need to understand that it's human nature to feel threatened by the unknown. To be opposed to change and difference of opinion. But what separates humans from animals is our ability to use reason, to empathize with our neighbors, and to work together to make this country better for everyone, not just a few.
The next time you see something that offends you, breathe. Relax. Don't waste your time being offended. It doesn't change anything. Take the opportunity to learn about someone else's viewpoints. You don't have to agree with them. You're not going to catch a disease. Stop freaking out on people, calling them racist, bigot, idiot, libtard. We used to spank our kids for calling people names. Nowadays it's grown adults treating each other like children, lashing out at people in anger with no goal of understanding them. Choose to be an adult today."