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Pence’s drama demeans protests

Medha Upadhyay

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Vice President Mike Pence turned heads on Oct. 8 when he walked out of a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers after members of the 49ers team knelt for the National Anthem. Pence later voiced his frustrations on Twitter, tweeting that he “will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” later adding that Americans “should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us.”

I found his reasoning strange, considering that Americans are united by the belief that all men are created equal, and that all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our unity is much more than a flag or a song — it’s our values that hold us together. If there are people in our country who fear for their lives everyday, they’re clearly not feeling welcomed in America. This is an obvious sign of division in our country. If the administration wants people to stop protesting, they need to make sure that all of America’s citizens feel equally valued and protected. Otherwise, it shouldn’t come as a shock that these sidelined citizens would be upset and be looking for a way to express their opinions. Kneeling during the national anthem is how these players choose to bring attention to the oppression of minorities and police brutality.

Despite his severely misled intentions, Pence had the support of President Donald Trump, who had asked Pence to leave the football game “if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country.” Anyone who has heard the debates raging over the national anthem protest has surely run into the argument that the protest is disrespectful to our country. Here’s a novel idea: rather than spending such an obnoxious amount of energy debating whether the protest is “respectful” or not, the Trump administration should be actively trying to find solutions to issues that are being protested such as police brutality. There are obvious problems that still exist in America, and it’s their job to fix it instead of making excessively dramatic exits and arguing about morality. Whether or not they agree with the protest, they should acknowledge the police brutality and racial segregation in America, and do something about it. These football players have broken no law, nor have they harmed anyone. Rather, they have been courageous, taking action even in the face of racial threats and unemployment.

Some argue that athletes should be “grateful” for living in America, where they are able to make millions of dollars playing sports. Yet, the true reason that Americans should be grateful is because they have certain unalienable rights. The wonder of being an American is that when something goes awry in the country, citizens have the right to point it out. In fact, they are expected to fight against injustice. It’s not about being grateful whether these players are grateful or not is unrelated to the fact that there is injustice in America. They are using their platform to bring attention to an issue, and Pence walking out shows his and the Trump administration’s lack of support.

There are two important things to note about this protest. One: it’s legal. Two: police brutality and racial segregation exist in America. So why do we keep returning to the insignificant issues? Maybe we should stop turning this protest into reality TV and instead focus on the actual problems that our country is facing. Pence, as a major leader in America, should be spearheading these efforts, not turning his back on them.

Pence attending a football game only to leave moments after the national anthem was an unnecessary display of what America already knows: the Trump administration is opposed to the national anthem protest. What they have yet to show is their commitment to the cause that these players are fighting for.

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Pence’s drama demeans protests