Item: Football player Colin Kaepernick kneels before the American flag during the National Anthem as a protest against racism in America, and kicks up a storm of protest and counter-protest. He is accused of being disrespectful to the flag and the country.
Item: Nike, the shoe company, decides to make an Independence Day-inspired line of sneakers featuring the "Betsy Ross" flag, then reneges when Kaepernick objects, saying that the flag is a symbol of racism.
Item: Another shoe company takes up the slack—and I'd say the profits, except those are apparently going to a veterans' charity—and starts producing shoes with the Betsy Ross flag design. It is cheered by those who are offended by both Nike and Kaepernick.
Has the world gone totally mad?
No one can truly know another's thoughts, but I'm pretty sure that when Mr. Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem he was not expressing his respect for America and her flag. I'm equally confident that the manufacturer of the new shoes sees this as a way to express love for flag and country—giving no thought to the idea that the flags thereon would soon be worn on the feet and dragged through the dirt.
I care nothing for Nike (their shoes are out of my price range) and no more for Kaepernick than is required of me by my claim to be a Christian (usually less, I'm afraid—but I can't blame him for my own fault). But it was firmly impressed on me as a child that kneeling is the ultimate gesture of respect, save only for complete prostration, and that wearing the flag as an article of clothing—let alone footwear!—is disrespect beyond the pale. I believe that attitude has the force of history behind it.
It's at this point that my inner cynic rises up and declaims, "A plague on both their houses!" How can we hope to communicate when words and symbols have inverted their meanings?