Op-Ed: I Stand with Colin Kaepernick 

​Not often do I like to get political on this blog, but the hoopla about Colin Kaepernick’s protest gives me reason to chime in. In a nutshell, I stand with Kaepernick and support him in his protest. I haven’t saluted the flag during the anthem or recited the pledge in years and I will continue not doing so until we see some dramatic changes here. 

Before you start jumping down my throat, let me say that I am a freedom-loving American patriot. I love my country. I love what my country stands for on paper. I would fight a just war on my country’s behalf (by just I mean one that directly affects us and our safety – none of this stupid police action bullshit that we currently involve ourselves in). 

I do not, however, particularly love the way the paper is put into application/practice because it negatively affects me and multiple minority groups I’m party of. For one, I am an atheist and it’s not easy being an atheist in this country. We are often the target of police harassment, job discrimination and in my home state and seven others we are effectively outlawed from running for or holding public office. It’s not particularly fair in a country that supposedly embodies freedom of religion, now is it? 

However, the mild discrimination atheists face in this country is nothing compared to the major, wide-scale discrimination we autistics face in this country. I’ve already told you about how I am effectively shut out of my dream career (airline pilot) on sole account of my autism diagnosis. It’s like the FAA makes a blanket rule for all of us instead of evaluating us individually. In a similar way, we are shut out of any and all military, police, firefighter, EMS, etc. service as well. Hell, even in “civilian” jobs we are often passed up for our neurotypical competitors despite the fact that we might have better qualifications for the job in question (why do you think autistic adults have a disproportionally high unemployment rate?). We are often at the butt end of police brutality because our police either do not receive adequate training to recognize or choose to ignore the signs of autistic meltdown. 

I know people with a whole myriad of other disabilities face similar discrimination in this country. It is true that we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that was signed into law by Elder President Bush that says academic and work environments must provide “reasonable accommodation” for people with disabilities. However, very rarely is the letter of the law actually put into practice in any work or education environment. 

Despite my rantings above, I do wish to say that I fully support our police, firefighters, military, EMS and all of our other public servants. I realize that a vast majority of them are truly good people doing very difficult jobs and doing them to the best of their abilities. I will never question that the majority truly protect and serve. It’s the few bad apples who ruin the bunch (well, perhaps with the exception of our politicians who are almost all rotten apples). 

In conclusion, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. That includes otherwise offensive, unpopular or dare I say it anti-establishment speech. It protects your right to stand and salute the flag and my right to sit and turn away from it. It protects your right to fly a flag and my right to burn one (not that I would, just using it as an example). Let your conscience guide you to make the correct decision for you. 

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