Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is running against Ted Cruz for his Senate seat this November. Rep. O’Rourke has been campaigning and pushing the needle closer and closer over the past few weeks, in no small part to impassioned moments like last Friday, when he was asked by a young man, during a Houston town hall meeting, this question:
Young Man: I do come from a family of veterans, and you mentioned football season earlier, and I kinda wanted to know how you personally felt about how disrespectful it is—like you have the NFL players kneeling during the national anthems. I wanted to know if you found that disrespectful to our country to our veterans and anybody related to that II just I find it incredibly frustrating that people seem to be okay with that and I would just like to hear your input.
O’Rourke very graciously took the reins from this young man and then proceeded to hand out a succinct lesson on civil rights and non-violent protest, and its place in American identity.
O’Rourke: Thank you Thanks for a great question—again on a really tough issue, that if we don’t talk about is not going to get better. The question is: how do you feel about NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem, and is it disrespectful to this country, to the flag, to service members who are right there tonight—where it is tonight in Afghanistan—and those former service members retirees and veterans who are here with us today? Thank you each for your service. My short answer is no. I don’t think it’s disrespectful. Here’s my longer answer.
But I’ll try to make sure I get this right because I think this is a really important question, and reasonable people, reasonable people can disagree on this issue. Let’s begin there—and it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue. Right? You can feel as the young man does, you can feel as I do. You’re every bit as American all the same.
But I’m reminded, somebody mentioned reading the Taylor Branch book Parting The Waters, and the King years, and when you read that book and find out what Dr. King and this non-violent, peaceful movement to secure better—because they didn’t get full—civil rights for their fellow American, the challenges they faced—those who died in Philadelphia, Mississippi for the crime of trying to be a man, trying to be a woman in this country. The young girls who died in the church bombing, those who were beaten within an inch of their life crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, with John Lewis. Those who were punched in the face, spat upon, dragged out by their collar at the Woolworth lunch counter, for sitting with white people at the same lunch counter, in the same country where their fathers may have bled the same blood on the battlefields of Omaha Beach or Okinawa or anywhere that anyone ever served this country.
The freedoms that we have were purchased not just by those in uniform—and they definitely were—but also by those who took their lives into their hands riding those Greyhound buses, the Freedom Riders in the deep south; and in 1960, who knew well that they would be arrested and they were—serving time in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Rosa Parks getting from the back of the bus to the front of the bus.
Peaceful, non-violent protests—including taking a knee at a football game—to point out that black men, unarmed; black teenagers, unarmed; and black children, unarmed; are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement without accountability and without justice. And this problem, as grave as it is, is not going to fix itself. And they’re frustrated, frankly, with people like me, and those in positions of public trust and power, who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done, and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country.
And so non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it. That is why they are doing it. And I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully, standing up, or taking a knee, for or your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place. But thank you very much for asking the question.
Get all the feelings watching the video below.