It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum. Today, Yours Truly decided to take a step back from the usual architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design-related topics and take a look at the controversy surrounding #takeaknee. Before we get going, the usual reminder about hurricane relief and the DACA deadline. First, Puerto Rico badly needs help. It seems that Mr. Donald Trump has forgotten that the Caribbeanean Island is part of the United States. Thank goodness for the National Football League players (more on them shortly) who are organizing a fundraiser this Thursday. Further, what is the problem about sending earthquake relief and rescue workers to Mexico? Blogger realizes that tweeting about the NFL is a higher priority for POTUS than extending a hand across the border and the Carribeanean Sea. Deplorable. Second, today is September 27, 2017 and the October 5th DACA renewal deadline is the less than eight days away. Immediately go to uscis.gov and fill out the application. If the five hundred dollar fee is an issue, you can go to unitedwedream.org, a very useful website with information on how to pay for application. Good luck. Onto today's subject.
It has been the longstanding custom in the United States, prior to the start of an athletic competition, to stand for the National Anthem. Both spectators and competitors usually stand, gentlemen remove their headgear and place it over their hearts, and sing the Star Spangled Banner. So ingrained is this custom that to do otherwise is considered sacreligious. So imagine the outcry when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his then-teammate Eric Reid decided first to sit through the National Anthem, then kneel in protest to the police-related killings of young African-Americans. In a brilliantly written opinion editorial, "Eric Reid: Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knew," he explained,
In early 2016, I began paying attention to reports about the incredible number of unarmed black people begin killed by the police...the killing of Alton Sterling in my hometown Baton Rouge, La. This could have happened to any of my family members who still live in the area...I wanted to do something, but idn't know what or how to do it. All I knew for sure is that I wanted it to be as respectful as possible...(mobile.nytimes.com: Sept. 25, 2017; date accessed Sept. 27, 2017)
The decision by Messrs. Reid and Kaepernick was not a simple one. They carefully considered how to get involved in a way that would have a positive and meaningful impact on the social justice movement. After hours of deliberation, they chose to kneel, rather than continue to sit. Mr. Reid explains,
We Chloe to kneel because it's a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a fla flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy. (Ibid)
A beautiful metaphor.
For his part, Mr. Kaepernick was punished by the NFL-not resigned to his team and no other team would sign him. Fortunately Mr. Reid continues to play for the San Francisco 49ers.
However at a rally in Alabama, this past Friday, Mr. Trump put his white hot spotlight on the issue. Speaking at a rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, Mr. Trump told the boisrous crowd,
...NFL owners should respond to the players by saying "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he's fired. He's fired. (CNN.com; Sept. 23, 2017; date accessed Sept. 27, 2017)
...If fans would "leave the stadium" when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, "I guarantee things will stop. (Ibid)
Pretty strange remarks, considering he was in Alabama to show his support for Mr. Strange. These rambling non-sequiturs have become so common for Mr. Trump that there is almost no point in getting outraged. Yet, Mr. Trump's remarks strike at the very heart of American culture.
We Americans really love our football. Nothing says an autumn Sunday like watching a full day of twenty-two (eleven on each team) bash into each other over an egg-shaped ball. We cheer for our team, get excited over touchdown, get into heated debates over every call. We live vicariously through our home team.
Athletes, like Mr. Reid, and by extension entertainers, are expected to fulfill our fantasies. We have to remember that celebrities do not live in a bubble, insulated from the realities of today. Yours Truly was reminded of this yesterday, reading over some comments posted on a band Facebook page. The band posted a picture of one of the members, posing next to an image of American flag with the caption "It's hard to be a stand up guy in a world full of sit down people." The hostility came fast and furious. The essence of them was your only job is to entertain us and provide some escape. Keep your opinions to yourself. It is this kind of thinking is what truly baffled Eric Reid.
In his Op-Ed piece, Mr. Reid writes,
It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it's exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest. (mobile.nytimes.com: Sept. 25, 2017; date accessed Sept. 27, 2017)
It is also baffling to Blogger why kneeling, instead of standing, during the national anthem is considered disrespectful to the flag, the national anthem, and military personnel as if they are objects worthy of religious veneration. However, not everyone sees, what has been dismissed as "a piece of cloth" and "a song," as objects of veneration. That piece of cloth and that song are symbolic of a country that is supposed to ensure Liberty for all. However, not everyone sees it that way. In today's Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley writes of being raised as a Jehovah's Witness and being taught that all forms of patriotism was considered idoltrous.
Growing up, I was taught that the flag was an idol and that saluting it was a form of idolatry, which was forbidden. Indeed, all forms of patriotism were discouraged. No joining the military. No running for office. No voting or taking sides in political debates... (foxnews.com; Sept. 27, 2017)
As a child, Mr. Riley's mother would meet with the principal of his school, on the first day of class, to explain that as Jehovah's Witnesses he would remain silent doing the recitation of the Pledge of Allgiance every morning. When his father, not a member of the church, took him to sporting events, Mr. Riley's father would stand while Jason Riley would sit. Mr. Riley Sr. never said a word out of respect to his mother. Mr. Riley points to a 1943 Supreme Court ruling regarding forcing a child to salute the flag. He writes,
...the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), that forcing children to salute the flag violated the Constitution. The court held that saluting the flag is form of utterance and that the right not to speak is equally protect under the First Amendment as the right to free speech. "The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own," wrote Justice Robert Jackson...(Ibid)
Jason Riley concludes with these words from Justice Jackson
...To believe that patriotism will flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institution to free minds...(Ibid)