Respect, Protest and Patriotism

I don’t much like Colin Kaepernik. He reminds me of that whiny-voiced type of jock in high school who likes pranking people via pantsing or wedgies and then skipping away and giggling and tittering and cackling like a witch on Halloween. You know the one. He was never exactly mean, just… well, boorish would be the right word. I have no idea if he was ever actually like that, it’s just his voice evokes that image for me. But his on-the-field play was also something that I didn’t like. He was (and probably still is) frustratingly good. Frustrating, because he always seemed much more interested in looking good than in winning. He never looked like he wanted to lead a team, just wanted to look like he was trying to win the game single-handedly.

But when he started his Black Lives Matter protest by sitting during the national anthem, I thought, well… maybe he is ready to lead. Because nothing about that looked good, that was for sure, but he was sacrificing his public image to try to support a cause which meant more to him than football. And when he switched to kneeling instead of sitting just to make sure he was not disrespecting our service men and women, I was again impressed. Here was a guy who had gone from being snide and chirpy in every interview and commercial I had seen him in to being not just compassionate, but also considerate.



But even though I’ve revised my view of him a bit, I don’t agree with his form of protest. I don’t think it’s appropriate to protest the treatment of black people by police officers by kneeling during the national anthem at a football game. Not because it seems disrespectful to the flag (which it isn’t – stretching it horizontally across a football field, however, is) or to service men and women (I’m not one and I can’t really see the disrespect, but I certainly understand being offended – but those are different things!) No, it’s because in performing his protest, he has not started a national dialog about race and equality. He has started a national screaming match about flags and patriotism.

His point has been buried. No one is talking about Black Lives Matter right now. And why? To me it’s because of the fallacy of this argument:


Except… Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation. She was protesting how black people were forced to give up their seats to white people. The same as the men and women who staged the sit-ins at the lunch counters were protesting restaurants and how they treated minorities. The protest was focused, it was simple and it was local. But it was powerful, so it attracted national attention. How anyone is protesting police brutality and racial inequality in the eyes of the law by kneeling during the national anthem at a sporting event is beyond me. And it seems evident now that it’s beyond most people. Is there police brutality at the football game, Colin? No? Then don’t you think you should go and stage a peaceful protest in front of or within the halls of the police stations and courthouses in places like Ferguson, Missouri?

Confront the injustice where it is actually occurring. Talk to the people who are committing it. Direct the nation’s gaze to them, not to yourself. I have a friend who once shouted “Black Lives Matter!” at a police officer who was buying some lunch at the place where we work. I told her that doesn’t do anything but piss off a guy you don’t even know. I think she sort of understood me, but I wish I had explained it better. My point was, if that cop or the unit he belonged to, had killed or beaten up an innocent black person, then that is an act that should be protested. But to antagonize an officer buying some lunch in Medford, Massachusetts because of what cops in Ferguson, Missouri are doing is to simply create an enemy out of someone who could have been a powerful potential ally.

You have to be smart. And your message has to be focused, simple and local. Symbolic gestures are useless, temporary and easily misunderstood. Kaepernick’s protest has launched not a national dialog about racial equality in the eyes of the law, but has inflamed the fast spreading infection of national divisiveness at work in the country. Patriots clash over who is the better patriot. Instead of meaningful dialog about the proper policing of our communities, we have yet another installment in a seemingly endless stream of rhetoric and name calling. This is what happens when a protest loses its focus, or in this case never really had it.




Okay, I’m off my soap box. Work continues on the new Grant Scotland book, but it’s looking like I may have to scrap this one entirely and start over. We’ll see. I’m pushing through.

“The essence of patriotism is the sacrifice of personal interest to public welfare.” – William H. Burnham

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2 thoughts on “Respect, Protest and Patriotism

  1. Rosa Parks was not just protesting public transportation, but the social mentality that was evident in the bigoted ‘unwritten rules’ that showed up in the use of public transportation. These previously uncontested rules delineated conventions between the ‘races’ [though being the same species, same race — the human race — IMHO]. Ms. Parks made her statement by her refusal to obey these bigoted unwritten rules on the bus itself. But there were plenty of other places where those contemporary social mindsets were imposed in the Alabama of 1955, and plenty of places to conduct a protest. Her protest, though, was impromptu and immediate, and therefore on the bus when she was pressured to show deference to a white passenger who had boarded.

    But, to return to the present, does one wait for police brutality to happen within eyesight in order to protest such inequality? That would be impractical. Also, consider that the football player in question qualifies as a celebrity in our country of sport jock worship, and, to quote Luke 12:48 [New International Bible] — “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked”. Or, to quote the more familiar and popular closing line of the origin of Spider Man — “with great power there must also come — great responsibility”. It is comforting to see someone, who could just skate through Life on his celebrity, to take on an issue, which could jeopardize said success, to draw attention to a cause greater than one’s self.

    But it was not Mr. Kaepernik’s fault that this issue was hijacked by the king of hijackers, our President Trump, in order to bolster his image with his shrinking political base. Even more demeaning to the American citizen, Trump deflected for the actual issue itself. Nor was Mr. Kaepernik responsible for the fact that the threatening topics — of the quality and value of black lives — were rarely discussed when the Twitterverse exploded with emotional responses (mainly the unconnected concepts of respect for the flag and American soldiers). The conversation was changed by the 20 million plus Trump Twitter followers and Fox News. When in fear of a conversation about the real subject, they wrapped themselves in the flag, and damned their opponents for being ‘unpatriotic’.

    This response is so bizarre, given the birth of our nation. If all of these protesting-the-protester people were around during the late eighteenth century, these ‘America First’ individuals would ensure that we would still be colonies of the British Crown. Our nation was founded on protests against inequality and injustice (surely most know the phrase, “No taxation without representation!”). Our founding fathers wrote a Declaration of Independence from tyranny. The very first amendment to the Bill of Rights was the right to free speech, allowing all citizens the guarantee to protest any injustice. I have my own view that the majority of those who wrap themselves in the flag in Pavlovian fashion have not actually read the Bill of Rights, much less understand the subtleties, nor the importance that the FIRST amendment was guaranteeing this freedom. If one is indeed a ‘patriot’, then one should not only respect a protester, but applaud one for taking such a honored way to improve the nature and condition of this country founded on protest. Perhaps these people would be happier with the political order of the seventeenth century? Do they understand that the definition of tyranny is, “cruel and oppressive government or rule”, and that our country is against such behavior?

    Colin Kaepernik *might* actually have been a boorish, pranking jock in high school, but there are some admirable, mature qualities in him now. Those who did not want to discuss the issues, that he quietly and respectively introduced to the wider world, hijacked his protest. They should be chastised for changing the focus, not him.

    These should be national issues of discussion, and deserve more people to bring them to a national audience. I applaud the sentiment, effort, and attempt. Sadly, a bumbling, self-centered orange-haired con-man with racial issues wanted to take away that sincerity, and pervert the message for his own gains.

    • • • § • • •

    On the subject of future writing (and please excuse my impertinence), just a few thoughts…

    When I find that a story that I am writing is not finding a strong enough foundation, it is usually because I personally do not care for it. By that, I mean that I do not feel drawn, nor compelled, by the theme, the issues presented, and/or the characters. One should write about issues that matter. If the writer is not inspired by the issues and characters, then the readers will be even less so. The conflict of your characters should come from your ideals being challenged in your stories, with the personalities within dealing with the ramifications of the various possible paths that a topic may take…and, eventually, the ‘truth’ of an issue being displayed. What topics inspire your conscience? What kind of responses are possible to those topics? What types of characters would best display those varying viewpoints? Where would the resolution take all these characters?

    Best wishes and good writing,


    Liked by 1 person

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