Taking a Knee
A wealthy white friend of mine includes me on occasional BCC emails containing golf jokes, sex jokes, and, every now and then, political jokes. The latest one I got — and I thought it was pretty funny — proposed a massive boycott of the NFL on our most sacred holiday weekend (Veteran’s Day). The humorous rationale, I learned from the email, was to “hit the owners where it hurts, in their wallets.” If they won’t man-up and fire any player who dares to disrespect our anthem and our flag (and our military and police officers and anyone else in a uniform) then we simply won’t consume their product!
LOL. Good one.
The email also urged me to join a (real) Facebook group dedicated to boycotting the NFL. I could feel the genuine patriotic passion. These people cared.
But I wondered: Had I missed all the other impassioned emails? The ones decrying the killing of yet another unarmed black person by a police officer?
I suggested to my friend if all of us wealthy white guys could get ourselves as fired up over the social justice issues NFL players were protesting as we do for abstract symbols and horrible songs — well, that would certainly be one step toward making America great (again). Where were those emails?
He wrote back (in ALL CAPS) to clarify. According to his news sources — more ironic humor — 80% of the murdered had refused to put their hands up, so. . .”IT’S SIMPLY ABOUT RESPECT.”
I did not write back. Everything was perfectly clear now. It really was about respect.
My friend and his boycotter cronies, and President Great, and, it seems, everyone who takes umbrage at celebrity athletes using their platform to draw attention to systemic American problems — these folks have far more respect for “everything our national anthem represents” than they do for the citizens who die at the hands of police in highly un-American circumstances. They like to assure concerned ninnies like me that what’s been made to seem like a big problem for black people in this country isn’t really a big problem — it’s a small problem, since, according to their news sources, one-in-five unarmed black people shot by the police were obeying the law when they were murdered. That’s 20%. See? The other 80% deserved to be killed, according to the rules of the game. So Colin Kaepernick and all them other uppity Negroes in the NFL are making it out to be more than it is. In actual fact, it ain’t nothing.
OK. It’s something. But it’s not something important enough that someone should have the audacity to take a knee during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
According to my way of looking at the world, it is important enough. It’s necessary. Heroes like Kap and all the brave individuals who have exercised their uniquely American right to peaceful protest have inspired revanchist Americans like my friend, swaddled in golf courses and NFL broadcasts, to at least begin discussing the issue. (First rule of all big problems: decades will be wasted while “conservatives” argue that it’s not really a problem; ibid. Cigarettes, Lead, Climate Change.) Taking a knee is a start toward a better society.
Taking a knee has also helped America understand a few things about its anthem:
- Terrible song with horrendous lyrics.
- The anthem has no place at sporting events, except to remind true patriots how inextricably intertwined are professional sports leagues, corporate advertising, and the U.S. military.
- Like most “great” artifacts of our glorious history, it was authored by a slave owner.
With all due respect to the millions of Americans, many of them living south of the Mason-Dixon, who wish slave-keeping were still an acceptable practice, who view black people as a caste of second-class citizens, who have got themselves convinced that all this police brutality nonsense is a giant hoax cooked up by George Soros — I will have to take a knee the next time you send me one of your absurdly funny emails.