Relative history

Age of the Geek Column: Oh, Nike, what have you done now?
The shoe company has made headlines after announcing and then un-announcing the release of some star-spangled sneakers decorated with the original flag of the United States. Set to release for Independence Day, Nike pulled the sneakers, reportedly due to intervention of Collin Kaepernick, who has a turbulent history when it comes to the flag.
Ignoring the fact that commercializing the American flag for use on apparel is probably against the spirit of the flag etiquette in the first place, response to Nike's decision to pull the shoes was not well received by… well, basically anybody.
On the right, the response was exactly what you would expect. As a true champion of the free market and First Amendment, Arizona's governor used his position of power in the government to retaliate against a private business. Meanwhile Sen. Ted Cruz, who represents a state currently holding children in concentration camps, expressed his outrage that Nike wouldn't be releasing a pair of sneakers. All the while, everybody else used this as an example of PC culture running amok.
To which the left has largely responded, "Yeah, this is probably PC culture running amok."
It's disingenuous to hold past civilizations to contemporary standards.
Yes, early American colonists brought diseases that wiped out most of the native population and spent the better part of the next couple centuries inflicting atrocities on the survivors, all while building their new nation on the back of slave labor. This must never be forgotten but at the same time it cannot be all we dwell on.
We can forget that, no matter their faults, our founding fathers strove to make things better.
We are an objectively better and more just civilization today than we were in the 1700s. That was the point. It's right there in the Constitution. "We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…"
Not a "perfect union," a "more perfect union."
In the 1700s, a "more perfect union" meant that only white men could vote or own property, and sometimes that property was other people. That's pretty bad by today's standards, but crazy progressive for the era.
A century later the idea of owning people fell out of vogue. Another radical step for the progressive cause. So radical that we fought a war over it. While it's technically true that the Union soldiers were fighting on behalf of a country that didn't allow non-whites or women to vote, that's really taking the historical reality out of context.
It would be almost another century before this country came around to the idea that everybody should get to vote. Great progress in a society that couldn't have been achieved without building off the previous progressive achievements.
We'll never be a perfect civilization but we must always strive to be better. Better today than we were yesterday. Better tomorrow than we are today. If we are better now than our predecessors were back then, that means they did it right. They established the building blocks that allowed us to go higher. We wouldn't have "modern standards" if we didn't have lesser standards to improve upon. Complaining about their actions is like criticizing somebody for not being able to see as far as you while standing on their shoulders.
Unlike the Confederate Flag, which was an explicit symbol of people in opposition to progress, the 13-star flag represents the drive to do better.
Or, at least it should. Following the controversy there are now no shortage of "patriots" displaying their newly-discovered love of the 13-star flag for no reason other than to express their dislike of the black man best known for uncomfortably reminding us all that we have to keep striving forward towards that more perfect union.
Ironically, Kaepernick may be wrong about the 13-star flag now but his detractors may ultimately make him right by co-opting it as a symbol of hate anyway. White nationalists have been trying to co-opt the flag for a couple years now and this may be the incident that cedes it to them for the foreseeable future.
In the end, almost everybody involved in this fiasco loses. Kaepernick loses credibility, Arizona loses jobs, and the rest of have another cultural icon to defend from regressives who would pervert its meaning for their definitively anti-American ends.
The only winner here seems to be Nike, whose stock has seen a nice bump thanks to the controversy. If I were more cynical, I might suggest that was the intention all along.
Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and hopes Americans of the next century judge us more fairly than we judge Americans of the last century.

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