Veterans don’t get to decide what ‘respecting the flag’ means

Our service doesn’t entitle us to get offended by Kapaernick’s choices or anybody else’s.

This reasoning is rooted in a premise that is both wrong and dangerous. If kneeling for the anthem and the flag is a direct offense toward the military, that means veterans have a stronger claim to these symbols than Americans in general do. The argument insists that American iconography represents us more than it represents anyone else.

Yet the flag is not a symbol reserved for the military. It is a symbol of the United States of America, and it belongs equally to all citizens, including Americans who kneel during the anthem, or those who wear flag shirts (which is also in violation of the unenforceable flag code), or even those who burn the flag.

.. We are not an elite class of citizen elevated above our neighbors. When we start thinking of ourselves as a warrior caste, removed from the people we defend, we exacerbate the civilian-military divide. We indulge in an entitlement mentality that isn’t healthy, demanding special treatment, such as discounts or restrictions on fireworks that might upset vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. The message is, You’re welcome for my service .

.. We should be able to dislike something without seeing it as a personal affront. We should be able to oppose something without becoming frothy-mouthed and obsessed, as some veterans online have done over Nike’s ads. We should embrace Special Forces veteran Nate Boyer’s insistence that we show compassion for those we don’t agree with, while also acknowledging that everyone is free to boycott and destroy their Nike gear as they see fit.

.. What’s more, believing that we have a special claim to the flag conflicts with the fundamental values of the armed forces, which elevate service over self. Serving is an honor the American people grant us, and it is Americans — in their totality — whom we serve. This does not give us license to appropriate national symbols as our own exclusive banners. Service is a privilege, not a way to purchase greater moral authority.

Jocks Rule, Nerds Drool

Elon Musk, didn’t improve nerds’ image when he tweeted that a diver who assisted in rescuing 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand was a pedophile. Mr. Musk later apologized, and said he had been angry with the diver for criticizing Mr. Musk’s design of a mini-submarine to rescue the boys.

.. The notion of nerds being kinder than other men fades faster every day. Part of that has to do with the way nerd culture has subsumed popular culture. Some of the most popular movies in America are based on comic books. If it was a little nerdy to spend too much time on the internet in the ’90s, well, everyone is now on the internet essentially all the time.

.. Nerds are the overdogs now. If they got into tech early, they’re obscenely wealthy, and all of America now likes the stuff they enjoyed as kids. But they’re not wielding that power in a way that is especially kind or thoughtful.

.. So what about their old schoolyard nemeses, those heartless bullies — the jocks?

Well, they suddenly seem pretty great by comparison.

Last week, another N.B.A. player, Stephen Curry, raised over $21,000 through a live-streamed event to help benefit the family of Nia Wilson, a young woman who was stabbed to death at a train station in Oakland, Calif.

In June, the former N.F.L. player-turned-actor Terry Crews gave Senate testimony in which he spoke about having been sexually assaulted and warned against the “cult of toxic masculinity” that led him to believe he was more important than women.

.. And of course there’s Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, who drew national attention to police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

.. None of these guys sound like the heartless, monosyllabic brutes pop culture made jocks out to be. They sound like the kind of men who would patiently listen to you and commiserate after a nerd sexually harasses you.

.. These jocks are deeply decent men standing up to bullies in power. Just like nerds in old movies used to do.

The Real Problem: The Militarization of the NFL

Professional sports should stop shilling for the warfare state.

Before 2009, Colin Kaepernick would have had to find some other way to protest racism against African Americans.  That’s because until the height of the Iraq War, NFL football players weren’t even required to leave the locker room for the national anthem, much less stand for it.

..  The singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” was mandated during another war, World War II, when the NFL commissioner at the time mandated it for the league. The players were told to stand for it about the same time that the Department of Defense was ramping up massive recruitment and media operations around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They began paying sports teams millions in U.S. tax dollars for what amounted to “paid patriotism,” or mega-military spectacles on the playing field before the games. It got so bad that there was a congressional investigation led by none other than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a veteran and considered one of the most patriotic men in the Senate.

.. What McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) found was that between 2012 and 2015, the DOD shelled out $53 million to professional sports—including $10 million to the NFL—on “marketing and advertising” for military recruitment. To be sure, some of that was bona fide advertising. But many of those heart-tugging ceremonies honoring heroes and recreating drills and marches and flyovers are what the report denounced as propaganda.

.. given when and how it was mandated for players to honor it, the national anthem has been used a prop in this near-religious convocation. In recent years, soldier parading, flag-waving, and jumbotron shout-outs to warriors have become de rigueur at NFL games. Consider the display put on at Super Bowl 50: A flyover by the Blue Angels fighter jets, and 50 representatives of all military branches singing “America the Beautiful” against a backdrop of a giant flag. During the game,a Northop Grumman advertisement  proudly announced America’s conceptual sixth-generation fighter jet “of the future” to an unsuspecting audience, a year after it presented its new long-range bomber during Super Bowl XLIX. How much that ad time cost the company is anyone’s guess, but it is no surprise that defense contractors are hawking their billion-dollar war wares between game play these days.

.. Postwar affluence and the increase in white-collar jobs, when combined with concerns about the power of the Soviet Union, led many Americans to fear that men were too effeminate and weak. These anxieties created fertile soil for the growth of football, which became a way to affirm masculinity and fight the supposed “muscle gap.” If you didn’t embrace football—which seemed to embody Cold War ideas of containment—you might be suspected of deviant behavior like homosexuality or communism.

.. But isn’t that the problem? “Football is a warlike game and we are now a warlike nation. Our love for football is a love, however self-aware, of ourselves as a fighting and (we hope) victorious people

.. football—with its obsessive territorialism, regimented hierarchy, and peculiar combination of strategic prowess with brute force—has always been at risk of militaristic co-option.