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Honoring the symbols of freedom reminds us to shoulder the responsibilities of freedom

I know this will surprise some and offend others, but I’ve begun to revisit my thoughts about Colin Kaepernick.  No, I’m not a fan, and I don’t like the kneeling for the national anthem.


However, when he told his friend Nate Boyer that he planned to draw attention to social injustice by remaining seated during the anthem, the former Green Beret advised him to take a knee instead, arguing that it would serve as an alternative form of respect rather than a sign of disrespect.

To his credit, Mr. Kaepernick accepted the advice and tried to navigate a middle path.

It didn’t work, of course.  Oh, it did generate plenty of discussion and debate.  But it was interpreted by many as a rejection of American values rather than a symbol of American shortcomings. Instead of promoting constructive conversation, Mr. Kaepernick succeeded mostly in deepening the political and racial divide.

But that’s a far cry from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s decision to cancel the national anthem altogether.


After initially refusing to comment, Mr. Cuban — apparently under pressure from the NBA — tweeted a predictable expression of respect for flag and country while pleading sensitivity for “those who do not feel the anthem represents them.”

A better leadership move would have been for the self-made billionaire to remind his millionaire players that few countries in history would have provided them the opportunity to achieve such extraordinary fame and success.

Over 1500 years ago, the sages predicted the arrival of a generation that would have “the face of a dog.” In a tantalizing interpretation, the early 20th century sage Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman explained the sages’ imagery:

A dog on a leash trots out front, appearing to be leading the human who follows behind. But when the dog veers off on its own, a sharp tug on the leash conveys the will of the master, and the dog quickly complies to the silent command issued from behind.

It’s hard to imagine a more prophetic description of our times. Our so-called leaders pander to voters and special interest groups, shifting their positions to curry favor and popularity so they can preserve the privileges of leadership while pretending to lead. Long gone are the days when genuine leaders of high character and integrity summoned the people to embrace the better angels of their nature rather than encouraging them to wallow in their own predilections and immediate self-interests.


The United States is the first country in modern history established on the principles of equality and justice, together with a recognition of a higher standard of morality.  As a country, we are far from perfect, because human beings are far from perfect.  But we have steadily moved forward, and the injustices today are fewer and lesser by far than the injustices of the past.

Of course, we must commit ourselves to do better.  But to ignore or negate the extraordinary achievements of this country is the most reprehensible expression of ingratitude.

The Hebrew term for gratitude translates literally as “recognizing the good.”  Once we acknowledge the good in our lives, then we create a context in which we can acknowledge the bad as well.  But if we fail to recognize all the blessings and opportunities we have been so fortunate to inherit, then we betray those who came before us and gave their hearts, their souls, and often their lives so that we can have the freedom to set our sights even higher.


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Rabbi Yonason Goldson is director of Ethical Imperatives, LLC. He is an ethics speaker, strategic storyteller, TEDx presenter, and author. He is also a recovered hitchhiker and circumnavigator, former newspaper columnist, and retired high school teacher. Visit him at