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A Virgina man made his grandpa into a viral counterpoint on Sunday when he posted a photo of the 97-year-old World War II veteran taking a knee on his lawn.
“Those kids have every right to protest,” Missouri farmer John Middlemas told his grandson Brennan Gilmore, who posted the photo on Twitter.
The photo quickly spread across social media and the tweet has been liked nearly 400,000 times as of this posting.
“I wanted to communicate what I always told to my grandkids and everybody else,” Middlemas told the Springfield News-Leader, with the help of his daughter. “When they’d go to bed at night, we’d tell the kids we wanted to be like Jesus.
“I’m trying to say that you have to love everybody. We don’t kill people. We want to make people live.”
Much of the conservative argument against kneeling for the anthem or the flag—further fueled by tweets from President Donald Trump—has been centered on it being disrespectful to those who have fought for our country. But Middlemas and the many other veterans who #TakeAKnee in solidarity with Black Americans against injustice have let the air out of that false-equivalence argument. Starting with quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling last season, sitting out the anthem has never been about hating veterans or the flag; it’s about peacefully protesting police violence against Black people.
Middlemas—who participated in Springfield’s 2013 “Unity March” honoring Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech—told the local paper that the one person he hoped to reach with his photo is Trump, who was still tweeting about the NFL knee protests on Monday morning.
The president is “garbage-mouthed,” Middlemas said.
Jessica Machado is the IRL editor of the Daily Dot. Previously, she was an associate editor at Rolling Stone. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Elle, Vice, Salon, BuzzFeed, Guernica, Bitch, Bust, the Cut, the Awl, the Toast, among others.