Marie Tillman, widow of Pat Tillman, the pro football player killed 14 years ago in Afghanistan finally addresses in the Washington Post the question many have asked: What would he say about pro football players who kneel during the National Anthem as a symbol of concern about racial inequity in the U.S.
I was Pat Tillman’s wife, but I can’t speak for him. Neither can you.
But she does have things to say about Tillman’s approach to issues of controversy. An excerpt:’
I’ve been asked to comment countless times on what Pat would have thought about the National Football League protests, but I’ve always declined. Over the years, I’ve become used to people wanting to know what he would have thought about something in the news, or assign a way of thinking to him based on what they know about who he was at 27. They want to freeze him in time. I find it ironic because Pat was always known as a free thinker who was constantly growing. He was very different when we got together at 16 from who he was at 27, and he would have been different, too, at 42. We should be able to respect his willingness to sacrifice for what he believed in without looking at it through the lens of today’s divisive political climate. So while I still refuse to speak for Pat, I will speak as a widow, a wife, a mother, an American and, yes, a patriot.
I think that patriotism is complex, like Pat himself. It is not blind or unquestioning. And it’s a fool’s errand to argue over who’s allowed to claim sacrifice. Many of the kneeling athletes say they are protesting as American patriots who want the nation to be better than it is. When I look around at the vitriol aimed at them for expressing their beliefs, and at the compulsion to simplify complicated issues to pit people on opposing sides, I want to kneel, too. Because I believe we are at our best as Americans when we engage in constructive dialogue around our differences with the goal of understanding one another.
Speaking of rancor: Donald Trump prompted an outpouring of it yesterday for skipping the 100th anniversary of the World War II armistice on account of rain.
A better story: On Dan Crenshaw, the former Navy seal who lost an eye in combat and recently won a House seat in Houston. He made a stellar appearance last night on Saturday Night Live, by way of an SNL apology for a lame joke about Crenshaw by Pete Davidson a week ago.