Yesterday I posted about the "anthem" controversy......but only in terms of my appreciation for its ability to get people (who might not otherwise do so) talking about various issues regarding "free speech". Today I am going to briefly give my own opinions on the issues this controversy (which doesn't seem to be going away) has raised.
First there is the actual rationale for the whole kneeling thing; violent racism within law enforcement. Emotionally, one can look at this any way their personal beliefs point them....but a perusal of the statistics tend to support the assertion. The issue of racism in this country is complex and there is a lot of counter-productive rhetoric and behavior all around. But at the end of the day, if innocent people from one group in particular, tend to end up dead with any sort of frequency......there is a legitimate concern and cause for protest.
(Just as a related fact.....a while back I visited a historic prison. There was a lot of information there that surprised me about the history of criminal justice in America, but besides seeing a statistic that revealed that we incarcerate more people per capita than any other country, BY FAR, the other most startling statistic was the disproportionate frequency for which people of color are imprisoned for the exact same crimes as white people. This is not a matter of a total number of more crimes, this is looking at the same number of the same crimes and then looking at the incarceration rate. Odds are, if you do X and are black, you are exponentially more likely to be imprisoned than if you do X and are white. And that is not anecdotal. Race definitely plays a part in how our criminal justice system sees and treats you.)
-Should a paid athlete be allowed to use their own public sporting event to highlight a political issue? Honestly? It's up to the owners and leagues. Sports are essentially businesses that are privately owned. As such, the owner has the legal right to say, "my company, my rules". An awful lot of businesses restrict open displays of a political nature on the job. Sometimes they do this so that their customers are not confronted with political views that might deter their patronage, other times it is policy to maintain workplace harmony, and other times it is just the personal decision of the head of the company. And an owner could also permit political expressions.....particularly if they feel that curbing these expressions would be bad for business.
I worked for a company that restricted any expression of a political view that was not corporately endorsed. I'm sure others do or have as well. It's a legal fact of business. Athletes are no exception. As paid employees, they are subject to the same restrictions if their bosses impose them as anyone else. It is only the fact that they are so publicly 'high profile' that I believe the owners in this case feel it is smarter to just let them have these little moments rather than cause a controversy......the way Trump's remarks did.
-Are simpler political statements OK (like wearing a ribbon or emblem)......but not ones that revolve around flags/anthems? Or are flags and anthems the ideal place to focus attention on things that may be wrong in the country? To me it's all the same. Imbuing inanimate objects or rituals with too much power never leads to anything good. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of early American history.....with a living room that looks like an homage to the era of the Constitution and its authors.....but......I also grew up in a time when Vietnam protesters were burning the flag and Olympic medalists raised "Black Power" fists during the anthem and were stripped (initially) of their medals. So taking a knee seems trivial in comparison.
And to Dan's point in his comment yesterday, these 'gestures' are somewhat useless. But people seem to love shit like this. Unless you are actually, physically storming the bastille with torches and pitchforks.....or at least contributing money towards the effort.....kneeling, raising a fist, or wearing a colored ribbon isn't going to do much.
-How free should "free speech" be? Very free. The trouble is just about everyone I know agrees with the sentiment......but not the practice. It reminds me of something I used to tell people about the schmaltzy platitude: "be yourself". I always insisted that when people say that, what they really mean is: "be yourself..........as long as it is what I expect you to be."
The same is true for 'free speech'. I have seen countless interviews with people who insist that they believe in free speech and then went on to explain why some group they were protesting should not be allowed to say what they were saying.
-Is 'patriotism' supporting one's country no matter what? or acknowledging the bad and trying to change it? Anyone who knows me at all will guess which sentiment I embrace......which is the same one our Founding Fathers believed in and legislated to protect.
-Should a president make the sort of commentary Trump has made about this issue?
Even the president is entitled to be an asshole .....by law. So he can make remarks like this. But the question is: should he? And to that, my answer is "no".
I read an article yesterday that quoted a Tweet from Trump dating back to the Obama era where Trump criticized him for a comment he made suggesting that the Washington Redskins change their name. In it Trump said that the president should be focused on more important things. Fast-forward to the present. Not only is he divisive, but he's a blatant hypocrite.
-From the 'Trump perspective' ....is this really about the anthem and kneeling, or is this a tactic of diversion......or of division? Worse, is it merely about disrupting an organization he personally doesn't like? I can't say for sure, but this current vent seems no more or less suspicious than any other from him. Meaning there are plenty of clues to suggest this is a diversionary tactic, or one of pandering to a base, or even just an attack on an organization he personally dislikes. What I do NOT believe it is......is genuine. And that belief is based on the lack of any similar precedent being genuine.
I say this because, despite past remarks having 'grains of truth' within them........they are never delivered in anything but an obvious antagonistic, bombastic fashion. Assume a similar opinion as Trump's on this 'kneeling issue' and imagine a president saying this: "While it troubles me that we continue to struggle with racism in our country, and while I fully support any safe and lawful demonstration designed to address injustice, I am also of the belief that there is a time and a place for everything. Public protests are sanctioned by our laws, but there are times people just want to enjoy some form of recreation and it is unnecessary to imbue these times with personal politics.....especially when those being confronted with these protests have paid their money for something else and the gestures being employed to make these points can appear disrespectful....even if that is not their intent. Businesses have always retained the right to protect their customers from unwanted controversy, and perhaps this would be a good time for the NFL to decide if their games are the proper venue for personal political expressions. In the end it is their choice, but sometimes people just want to relax so that once refreshed they can address the other important issues that face us in other venues." See? It can be done. But instead our Bully-in-Chief opted to deride, curse, and suggest extreme retribution.....and in the process, pander to a base that loves its symbols, and is not terribly sympathetic to the plight of people of color. If Trump said what I wrote, I might believe he was just about separating politics from entertainment......but he didn't. Instead he chose to be intentionally divisive.
-Are we a hopelessly divided country, separated by race, ideology, and wealth? I used to just believe 'divided' but not 'hopelessly divided'. Now, however, I am of the opinion that the extent and bases for this division are too vast and entrenched to ever change.
So those are my views on all of this. Comments are welcome as always.
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