There has been a kerfuffle…almost a furor… in the media lately about a football player who sat during the national anthem as a way to draw attention to the on-going inequity in how black people are treated by police. The inequity is well-documented and egregious. It has often resulted in people being killed or injured.
The degree of outrage has me Perplexed: this guy didn’t brandish a gun or otherwise act outrageously. He sat through the anthem knowing that the press would interview him about why so that he could communicate his concerns.
But maybe I should give some history about where I am coming from.
I am pretty patriotic. I have traveled enough, and seen enough, to really, truly believe that the United States is a great nation. I also believe that one of the key components of that greatness is the mechanisms for change and adjustment that are built into the constitution for when things aren’t right. The flag and the national anthem are symbols, but they shouldn’t be treated as idols.
Once upon a time I was a Cub Scout leader and we invited the American Legion to come and give the boys a presentation on flag etiquette. The Commander came and by the end of the presentation I understood why some people feel pretty strongly that they shouldn’t say the pledge of allegiance to a flag. The proper etiquette, as presented by this woman, was pretty much the same as treatment of the cross in many traditional churches. That was a point of concern during the Reformation: it had the appearance of idol worship, and it was also a way to seem reverential on auto-pilot. To accord to a flag the same level of “respect” as the cross bugged me a bit.
Fast forward a few years: I was at a small town parade here in western Washington with my father and son. At the start of the parade veterans marched with flags. The only person I saw that stood to attention and put his hand on his heart was my long-haired, wanna-be-a-rock-star son. No one else in my vision took off a hat or did any acknowledgment of the flags. Including my dad, who served in the navy and is “red”. The veterans marching so erectly and proudly holding the flags might have been invisible, everyone was straining to see what came behind them: What did the local grocery store’s shopping cart drill team have in store for them? How were the vintage tractors were decorated? It made me sad.
Fast forward again…not long after it came to my consciousness (there is often a significant lag between when a football personality does something and when I cotton on to it) that the player had sat through the anthem I heard a “news” bite that some mayor of a town in western Washington had canceled a Seahawks rally, because this player had sat through the anthem. He “left the door open for future rallies”. I was outraged: why is a town using community resources to sponsor a rally for a for-profit football team?
I am feeling all mixed up:
Is it worse for a guy to peacefully use his position and constitutional right of free speech to draw attention to a real problem of equity than to hardly notice the flag going by? Isn’t that football player doing exactly what our forefathers were aiming at when they framed the Bill of Rights?
Isn’t it worse that a town is using community resources to support a for-profit football team than that the mayor cancels it, probably because he wants to get free election year publicity?
I wonder how many people in that town pay mind to the flag going by in the parade?