Thursday, September 28, 2017

Taking a Knee

What a strange expression. Whose knee are you taking? Where are you taking it to?

What a strange time. The same conservatives who are squawking about athletes disrespecting Old Glory think nothing of flying the Confederate flag, which is a whole lot more disrespectful, if you ask me. Nobody ever asks me.

Besides, thinking it's a protest of the flag or the anthem is misguided. It's not about the flag or the anthem. It's about the more than three people shot by police every day in the United States, most of them persons of colour. In many cases these people did nothing wrong at all; in others, they broke a law, but certainly didn't deserve being shot for it. And this doesn't happen NEAR as often if you're white.

Colin Kaepernick did it first, of course, and he paid a heavy price for it. His career is all but finished, his jerseys are burnt, and all because he wouldn't do something that supposedly isn't required. You do know that, right? Americans are not required to stand for the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance? The countries where that sort of thing is mandated by law generally aren't places you would like to live. Those are places, not with Presidents or Prime Ministers, but Dear Leaders.

There's another fine contradiction. Kneeling for the anthem is a form of free speech. Free speech, you know, that thing conservatives claim is under relentless attack by an army of Godless liberal snowflakes? Yet they're first and loudest to decry the injustice whenever one of them, ahem, coloured people dares to impugn their precious anthem.  Nothing about the injustice those coloured people face every day, oh, no. Nothing about how you can be shot for the heinous crime of jaywalking (but only if you're black). Nothing about being systemically deprived from the riches of society--there are black millionaires on that field, therefore there can't possibly be systemic poverty and racism, let's just take our heads and SLAM THEM INTO THIS HERE DESK...

But whatever. The smoke was starting to clear, and then out came Trump with his signature bull-in-a-russia-shop blather, saying that football players taking a knee were "sons of bitches" (as opposed to the white supremacists at Charlottesville, who were, you'll recall, "very fine people").

Flames: fanned.

Now this is spiralling out of control. The Pittsburgh Steelers chose (all but one of them, at any rate) to remove themselves from the controversy by not taking the field at all. This was, of course, widely seen as disrespectful. The Dallas Cowboys, together with their owner, DID take the field and collectively kneel. This was also seen as disrespectful. At this point there is NOTHING you can do that won't be seen as disrespectful to someone. 

As usual, I'm going to plug some empathy. Because that's what 'take a knee' is about. The athletes of colour and their allies who are engaging in this protest are not anywhere near as marginalized as the community they represent. They know this. IT'S NOT ABOUT THEM, either. This is something that is lost on a certain breed of conservatives who are outraged at this MONSTROUS DEFAMATION OF OUR FLAG, ANTHEM, COUNTRY, VALUES, AND WAY OF LIFE!!!

It astounds me just how many people seem to take personal offence at other peoples' politics. Suppose I don't stand for the anthem. How, why does that affect you? It doesn't. Maybe you think I'm virtue signalling; maybe you think any number of things. Hey, here's a thought: why don't you ASK? You may not agree with my answer, and I may not agree with yours, but without communication there can be no real understanding.

There are so many divides in American life. (And Canadian, too; we still have vestiges of working for the common good in this country, but they're fading, much to my horror.) Yes, we're divided along racial lines: substitute "indigenous person" for "person of colour" and our racism in Canada is very much the disgusting equal of that in the United States. Don't believe me? Go check out a reservation, preferably one of the remote ones where they've been under a boil water advisory for DECADES. Jobs are scarce, mental illness is everywhere (so many living survivors of a barbaric residential school system),  poverty and its attendant crime and substance abuse are endemic, and supposedly this is the fault of the indigenous people themselves. If you really believe this, I ask you to consider what living in an environment like that -- no jobs, no opportunities, no hope -- might do to you over years.

It's not just race, though. We are divided along class lines as well. It's taboo to talk about this in the U,S., a country where even the poorest are encouraged to consider themselves temporarily impoverished millionaires, but it's true. The rich get richer and the poor don't, and that's just the way the fabled 0.01% likes it.
If you're rich, odds are very good you have no real idea of what it's like to be poor. For damn sure you haven't considered how expensive it is.  I mean, seriously, you really haven't. It's not an exaggeration to suggest this divide, left unchecked, will tear society apart.

As if that weren't enough, we're dividing ourselves! Liberal and Conservative, Democrat and Republican, both sides are walling themselves off from each other, losing touch, growing further and further apart. And so we have people kneeling for the national  anthem, and other people with no idea why they're doing it and less than no inclination to find out. As a certain corrupt and dangerously unstable President might say,


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