In Regards to Disrespecting Veterans

Image result for Take a knee

James Brown

Died in custody while serving a two-day sentence for DUI. Left naked on the floor of his cell for hours after complaining of trouble breathing. Video shows him begging for medical attention prior to his death.

Veteran
PoC

Say his name

I am thoroughly tired of the drama around the NFL and #takeaknee. The sanctimony and self-righteousness spewed by those against the protest against police violence towards people of color have reached the point where they make me heartbroken. Opponents continue to wrap themselves in the flag in rather the same way that Kid Rock did when he cut a hole in one and used it for a poncho – they wear it like a magical cloak to disguise themselves while at the same time committing acts of fundamental disrespect to it and what it stands for,.

Parminder Singh Shergill

Shot 14 times and killed by police, after they were summoned to assist with transporting Shergill to a VA hospital. Police claim that he lunged at them with a knife. Family claims he had his hands in the air and shouted “Don’t shoot!”

Veteran
PoC
Diagnosed with PTSD

Say his name.

“Disrespect for the flag” and “disrespect for veterans” are two of the fundamental arguments that opponents use to discredit the movement. Athletes, they claim, are showing disrespect for the flag by not standing for the National Anthem, and are by extension showing disrespect for to all those who served their country by disrespecting that flag,

but there is something that these Sunday morning patriots are forgetting when those athletes take a knee against police violence: there are two groups that are disproportionately targeted by police when using lethal force – people of color, and individuals with mental illness.

Veterans are prominent in both of these groups. As of 2015 Blacks and Hispanics made up approximately 29% of active military personnel. Blacks in particular serve in the military in higher numbers than their representation in the general population.

And veterans are much more likely to suffer PTSD or major depression than the general population. It is estimated that 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or major depression – that’s 20% of Iraq/Afghanistan vets, twice the rate of PTSD and major depression in the general population of the US.

Stanley Gibson

Shot and killed by police while sitting in his car. He was unarmed.

Veteran
PoC
Diagnosed with PTSD

Say his name.

Veterans of color exist in the cross-hairs of two groups that police target for violence more than any other – people of color and people with mental illness. Unarmed PoC are shot and killed by police 5x more often than white people relative to population. This is a huge disparity. One quarter of ALL victims of police violence are mentally ill.

Jose Guerena

Shot 71 times by police who entered his home on a highly questionable warrant. Guerena, who was asleep at the time of the raid, believed that his home was being broken into and armed himself, but never fired his weapon. Later analysis showed that the safety was still on.

Veteran
PoC

Say his name.

NFL athletes have attempted to bring the disproportionate police violence against PoC to the attention of the wider US populous through their protests at the beginning of games. You don’t have to agree with their methods to understand that the problem is real, and that it’s a vital issue, both for those who are concerned with social justice generally, and those who are concerned about veterans issues. People are literally being shot down in the streets or killed through police misconduct or neglect, and many of those targeted are, in fact, veterans.

Those who purport to be angered by these protests because they are not respectful miss the larger issue. Which is more disrespectful – to shoot unarmed people down in the street with little or no consequence, or to take a knee at a football game? Which do veterans need more – better mental health treatment and a system that won’t kill them for the scars they suffered in service, or forcing some guys to stand up at a sports game?

So I am done listening to arguments by these so-called patriots who bitch and moan about disrespect for the flag or for veterans. Our flag symbolizes freedom and equality, and it is not disrespectful to bring attention to institutional failures to live up to these ideals. Our veterans, particularly those who are people of color, are themselves victims of this institutional failure. They are literally dying because of it. Those who are kneeling are kneeling in part FOR veterans. They kneel to bring awareness and justice to those who have been killed, and hopefully to save future veterans from the same fate by changing the institutions that are killing them.

Johnathon Montano

Killed by police. After waiting for four hours for dialysis at a VA hospital, Montano announced his intention to travel to a different facility, with a shunt still in his arm. Nurses called VA police who tackled Montano, beat his head against the floor, and stomped on his neck, causing a stroke which killed him.

Veteran
PoC

Say his name.

You self-styled patriots are doing no more than deluding yourselves and wallowing in your own sense of self-importance if you think that kneeling at a sports event is disrespectful to veterans. It may seem disrespectful to you personally, but not to the families of James Brown, Parminder Singh Shergill, Stanley Gibson, Jose Guenera, and Johnathon Montano. Not to the literally hundreds of thousands of mentally ill vets who live every day with an increased risk of police violence. To them it is you who are disrespectful, because you have forgotten them, you have left them behind. But the athletes of the NFL remember them, and those who kneel are doing so to make the United States safer for them.

So feel free to sit and watch your NFL games (or boycott them – whatever), to sit in the stands and munch your hotdogs and beer, to sit on your couches and snack on chips. And when the athletes kneel, feel free to express yourselves (because we all know that while kneeling during the National Anthem is disrespectful, screaming “BOO!” until your face turns purple during the National Anthem is perfectly OK, right?) But once the anthem is over and the game starts and you settle into your seats or lounge chairs…

…say their names.

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