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Michael Lee joins the conversation on Kaepernick’s protest

Following the widespread NFL protests last Sunday, Ed wrote a thoughtful post in which he expressed that he found “such protests disrespectful” and questioned whether the playing of the national anthem was a proper time to protest. Not stating explicitly whether or not the protests were disrespectful, John countered that “during the anthem is the right time and place for such demonstrations.”

Also disagreeing with Ed, Charlie then responded, “By kneeling, these guys are not dishonoring the flag or the anthem. They are raising the moral argument that our nation has failed the ideals of the flag and the anthem.”

This week, Ed asked me at the office, “Who do you think is right?” I hesitated to answer because, as I told him, it’s more complicated than simply framing it as to who is right and who is wrong. And, frankly, there are more important questions to ask. This is my attempt to offer another perspective and add to the conversation.

Understanding Cultural Meaning(s)

The word “dog” is an arbitrary symbol or a sign that points to a certain category of animals with certain characteristics. It is arbitrary because we could have used “og” or “bzn” or any combination of sounds and letters to serve as a symbol to which we can assign meaning. So today, most would say that identifying a Pomeranian as a cat instead of a dog would be wrong because it violates the broad understanding and agreement over what the symbol “dog” should mean.

Besides words, gestures also convey meaning. As a third-culture person who immigrated to the U.S. as a child, lessons on cultural relativism came early and often. My earliest memory has to do with eye contact. …

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