Good for President Obama for acknowledging that the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers has a right to protest racial injustice by refusing to stand when the national anthem is played.
Thanks to a heroic decision of the Supreme Court during World War II, schoolchildren also have the right to refuse to salute the flag in class -- a right that actually proclaims the flag to be the flag most worth saluting.
But the quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, isn't necessarily persuasive. For of course the country isn't and never will be perfect; it will always be full of legitimate grievances, like Kaepernick's -- recent shootings of black people by police officers, several of which, captured on cellphone video, seem murderous.
The key questions are whether such shootings are policy or aberrations and whether the country remains worth supporting for its ideals and the rights it bestows on everyone -- worth supporting for its objectives of "liberty and justice for all."
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said last month. "To me this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
But "people getting paid leave" is only a matter of due process of law while they are being investigated. Further, since the criminal-justice system will always be imperfect, either because its participants are fallible or because proof is not always available, some people will always be "getting away with murder." They're not all white police officers. Some are black, like O.J. Simpson.
Kaepernick is black, and if this country is really so oppressive to black people, why does he stay? Obviously the country is not so oppressive to him, as he is being paid $114 million under a six-year contract with the 49ers, wealth that casts an ironic sheen on his indignation. That's because his own well-earned success, duplicated by many other members of minority groups, is no aberration. National policy, flawed as it may be, is to facilitate it.
Exercising them as he has done, Kaepernick at least has reminded people of their constitutional rights and thus of the country's greatness. But he still may be rebuked, since, as Robert Frost wrote:
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
INDIGNATION INDUSTRY IS ASKING FOR IT: Years ago the comedian Steve Martin apologized facetiously to the National Association of Colored People "for referring to its members as ‘colored people.'" The other day a host of ABC's Good Morning, America, Amy Robach, apologized seriously for having said "colored people" on the air in a report about casting practices in the movie industry.
For reasons that aren't clear, it is OK for the NAACP to perpetuate the phrase but insulting if not racist for anyone else to use it. It's also OK to say "people of color."
So what's the difference? Only fashion.
Robach may have been unaware of that fashion and she plainly meant no harm, but she was quickly condemned on "social media" and was intimidated. So she issued a statement calling her choice of words "a mistake" and "not a reflection of how I feel or speak in my everyday life," adding that she had intended to say "people of color."
The indignation industry may snicker at all the innocents it is intimidating, but if it wants to understand what has given rise to Donald Trump and other forms of angry reaction in politics and public life, it needs only to look in the mirror.
Chris Powell, an essayist on social, political and economic maters, is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.