Colin Kaepernick, President Trump and John McCain


More Conversations That Matter. The name of my blog. I want to engage conversations about important things. Sometimes, that starts with a question, and I have one that has been stirring in me the last few days. This particular question takes us into some deep waters of heart motive, but it’s important for us to take the dive. Give me five minutes to ask the question. I will then leave the pondering to you.

In a Facebook post last year, I confirmed my support for Colin Kaepernick’s right to peacefully protest police shootings of unarmed black men. My words launched a conversation, and I got plenty of thoughtful and impassioned responses. I learned a lot in the conversation, and I’m wiser for it. I appreciated the thoughts of those disagreed with me, and I could sense the pain of those who felt Colin Kaepernick was disrespecting veterans. Several felt that this was inexcusable.

But that’s what I am struggling with today. A common narrative I got about Colin Kaepernick framed him as a wealthy spoiled celebrity who was disrespecting veterans because of politics. I encountered an anger, sometimes inching near contempt, that he was dishonoring members of the armed services who have put their lives on the line to protect our country. He was insulting dead soldiers who fought for our country. He was a wealthy celebrity who was disrespecting war heroes because of politics.

But isn’t that exactly the story of President Trump and John McCain? Mr. Kaepernick was accused of insulting veterans with a peaceful protest, while President Trump verbally derided Mr. McCain specifically: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” And he continues his slights even after the honorable veteran has recently died of cancer, saying this week, “I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.” I never felt that Colin Kaepernick was insulting war heroes, though thoughtful friends disagreed, but it sure sounds to me like President Trump is insulting American war heroes, especially targeting those who were captured and tortured.

The question troubling me is this: Why is President Trump being treated differently than Colin Kaepernick? If dishonoring veterans fed the primary anger toward Colin Kaepernick and the dismissing of the injustice he protested, where’s that anger toward someone outright mocking former American P.O.W.’s? It seems like the anger is selective, that maybe the problem with Colin Kaepernick isn’t really, really, really about dishonoring veterans. Maybe I’m wrong, but still…

Why the difference in response to Colin Kaepernick and President Trump? There’s SOME reason, and it’s important that we wrestle with what it might be. Is the answer that President Trump isn’t really insulting veterans, that it’s acceptable and respectful to say P.O.W.’s aren’t heroes because they were captured? The thought being that if Colin Kaepernick had said this, it wouldn’t have raised the slightest concern. Is that the answer? Hmmm.

Is it because Colin Kaepernick is a black man with an afro and President Trump is white man with wavy blond hair? “What the?! That’s ridiculous, Roger! I’m insulted and angry that you’d even suggest such a thing. This has absolutely nothing to race, and you’re stirring up trouble proposing an answer like that.” Very well. I withdraw the question, but I know that race has impacted my opinions before, that I have more quickly liked and supported people who look like me. Tragic, but true. I’d love to believe that this isn’t the answer, but if it isn’t, what is?

Is it because I like one person and don’t like the other? That happens with me. If I like you, I’m more likely to believe the best about you, to give you the benefit of the doubt, to even look past your indiscretions. If I don’t like you, I almost want to believe the worst about you. “Roger, that may be you, but it’s not me. I see all people as made in the image of God. I like all people, including both President Trump and Colin Kaepernick. Equally.” O.K., that’s beautiful. If that’s not the answer, then, what is?

Is it because I don’t believe in Colin Kaepernick’s protest cause, but I do believe in President Trump’s policies? Is it because I don’t believe that the police shooting of unarmed black men is a legitimate concern, but I do believe that legalized abortion is? Is it because I support what one man stands for and I don’t support what the other man stands for? Is my anger more about their causes than their dishonoring veterans who served our country? Is that the answer? If not, what is?

It’s not my place to look into anyone’s heart and decide what the answer to the question is; I’m not God. But as a fellow human being, it is my place to press my brothers and sisters to dig deep and figure out what the answer to the question is.

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” (The Bible, Proverbs 20:5, NIV)


[feature photo by tazzanderson at]

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