On Anthems, Protests, Free Speech, Hard Truths, Etc.

Musings of your humble servant

 

kneeling

Prefatory Disclaimer: For a variety of reasons and circumstances, this article was not posted at the time it was initially finished. As the NFL looks to be trying to stifle this issue, the subject in this article remains a timely one. [Shawn 10/12/17]

“Not long after the newborn settled into his new parents’ arms, the adoption agent wanted to be clear on what they’d be taking on. The baby was a boy. He was 5 weeks old. And he was, Rick and Teresa Kaepernick were told, a ‘special-needs child.’

The couple had lost two biological sons to heart ailments; baby Lance lived 23 days, and Kent made it only four. Now this.

‘What’s wrong with him?’ Rick would, in a 2007 article published in the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal, recall asking the agent, who said the boy was biracial — the son of an African American father and a teenage white mother.

Unfazed, the couple signed the papers and took baby Colin home…”{1}

I have been hearing a lot about the whole controversy of some football players who have chosen for various and sundry reasons to not stand for the national anthem. Originally, the Usual Suspects on the conservative side of the political divide were dismissive of this because the originator of these recent developments was one Colin Kaepernick. It was easier for them to be dismissive because Kaepernick fit many of the stereotypes of what these folks view as undesirable. He was heavily tattooed, he grew his hair into a huge afro, he wore socks with pigs dressed as cops on them, and a variety of other provocative things.

I could argue that the real issue with these sorts is that Kaepernick is dating a Muslim girl and is at least flirting with a conversion to Islam. But whether that is the reason or not, the bottom line is Kaepernick has not distinguished himself on the football field in recent years despite his obvious athletic gifts. So it was easier for these folks on that front to be more dismissive of this as a football player riding the bench trying to get attention and for a variety of reasons, no football team in the NFL wants to take on everything involved in having this player on their team.{2} However, with the latest torch carrier of this issue, it is not so easily ignored as in the case of Colin Kaepernick: as said torch carrier is one Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks.

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For you see, when the person involved is a highly regarded Pro Bowl defensive lineman, a Superbowl champion, and who plays on a regularly contending team, that has a way of getting more attention. And attention it has gotten for not only has Bennett taken to sitting during the anthem but he also received a gift of sorts to aid him in his public stances:

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bennett las v

Of course the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) says something different than Bennett so the question is, who does one believe apriori? I have a general policy on these sorts of things{3} but nonetheless, it would be easier to know the truth one way or the other if the arresting officer had not failed to violate his own department’s policy:

“Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, the Las Vegas police and the union that represents the officers have each given their version of what occurred when Bennett was detained in the early morning hours of Aug. 27.

A device that could reconcile what happened was not activated as Bennett was confronted at gunpoint and handcuffed: body-worn cameras that are required to be used in such situations by officers of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

‘This is very troubling,’ Roxann McCoy McCoy, president of NAACP Las Vegas, told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. ‘The NAACP and ACLU fought to make body-worn cameras mandatory and they are now mandatory for a reason. We have seen it time and time again where officers have not turned on their cameras, which is a violation of policy. I consider this a big issue. They have the cameras so we can see what’s happening. That’s the whole point’.”{4}

Having touched briefly on those matters, I want to return to the lengthy statement put out by Michael Bennett after his ordeal before resuming with this article.

It would be dishonest of me if I did not admit that I have some quibbles with Michael Bennett’s longer statement. However, whatever quibbles I may have with bits of it{5}, the substance of it I fully concur with. I have long thought we need reforms in the justice system including areas such as civil asset forfeiture, ending the war on drugs{6}, general reforms of sentencing guidelines{7}, etc. However, what is needed more than anything else is a reform of attitudes. Bennett has also taken to ditching his previous hip gyrating sack dance{8} for one where he raises a black power type salute over a fallen quarterback. To be honest, I do not know what to think of that. I am not going to dismiss it out of hand but at the same time, the gesture makes me uncomfortable. A lot of this stuff makes me uncomfortable. But does something being uncomfortable mean it should be ignored?

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Look, its easy to caricature anything and what I have seen not a few folks of a generally conservative persuasion{9} try to find ways of dismissing this. For illustration purposes, here are just some of the responses I have seen to this in social media formats from some conservative Usual Suspects:

The notion that Colin Kaepernick is even remotely comprable to the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s era is extremely offensive to the memories of the 1960s civil rights protests.
People like Rosa Parks and MLK were courageous people. Colin Kaepernick is a first-class douchebag.
They weren’t protesting the arrest of knuckleheads for domestic violence and armed robbery
In no way is the kneeling of millionaire athletes equivalent to the civil rights struggle. That is an intellectually and morally flawed comparison. If these players are upset about something they should ban together to do something that actually impacts the people or communities they are supporting. These players have greater power by going into those communities and meeting with police or whomever they’re protesting against than they do in disrespecting the flag of our nation
[Tomlin], like all those who “take a knee” in protest is an uppity asshole.
MLK never would have acted like a triggered snowflake. Yes people were actually discriminated back then even after Republican president Eisenhauer deployed National Guard troops in Arkansas to protect 6 Negros from physical threats by bigots. The NFL are overpaid jerks who are doing what is fashionable and trendy with no risk. I want to watch a game not a bunch of millionaires make fools of themselves.
The ones on their knees regard MLK as an “Uncle Tom Ni**er”. They’ve cast their lot.
Gotta keep that gravy train. The new slaveholders.
Don’t think MLK would have agreed with a bunch of rich athletes, most of whom have no idea what racial discrimination really is, disrespecting the country this way.
what point are the trying to make with protesting during a 3 minute National Anthem? As you can see, it’s causing much more division then unity. What exactly is the protest about?

More could be posted along these lines but I trust what is posted above is sufficient for now.

Maybe one of the reasons I have sympathy for some of the points underlying this protest is because I have been subject to excessive harassment by folks in the law enforcement community in my life. A few examples could be noted but I will illustrate just one for the sake of demonstration at this time.

When I was younger, my first car was a 1975 Dodge Dart. Mechanically it was sound but electrically not as much. One of the problems it had was lights would go out in the running boards, license plate area, tail lights (particularly on the right side as I recall), etc far more frequently than would be the norm. And I lived in near a small town where the cops basically funded the town with tickets -I think you may see where this is going. In that area and a number of other places, I was pulled over at times so frequently that even many years later and to this very day, I am at times highly uncomfortable when I see a police car behind me or alongside me in traffic.{10} I have to constantly fight the temptation to change lanes, pull into a parking lot of a place I am not going to, etc and let the cop car pass before I get back on the road. And while I do not do the latter nearly as often as I used to, I still from time to time out of long ingrained habit do it. While not the only personal experiences I have had with law enforcement officials, I posit the above to point out a psychological phenomenon that is hardly unique to myself. And I am as white as white can be!{11}

I was talking with my spouse over the weekend and remarked at one point that a problem with this issue is a lot of folks cannot relate to what they have not experienced. For example, what its like to deal with cops that are frankly assholes? Not all cops are mind you and not even most. However, there are more bad apples in law enforcement than most self-proclaimed “patriots” care to admit to. To wit:

“[T]here are non-crazy reasons why NFL players might protest on the broader subject of police misconduct, which is where this story kind-of, sort-of began.

The current unrest began with the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, but that case was always an imperfect cause celebre: Brown wasn’t an innocent bystander, and it wasn’t clear that the police acted poorly. But even as the Ferguson story was unfolding there plenty of other examples of police behaving badly. The Eric Garner story sure as hell should have freaked out anyone in the country who worries about having a police force that is (a) empowered to kill for almost no reason; and (b) is not held to a reasonable degree of accountability by the other pillar of the criminal justice system…

Anyone who looks around the country and believes that black folks don’t have a totally different experience with the police than white folks is simply kidding himself.

There are probably a hundred reasons for this, including: the proliferation of handguns (I say this as a factual matter, not a moral judgment), usage of illegal drugs, and actuarial facts about violence. Racism may have a little to do with it (as Freddie Gray’s death suggests) or a lot (as the Colin Kaepernicks of the world would suggest).

But the fraught nature of interactions between police and black people is a basic fact of life and you can’t even begin to engage with the questions at hand if you don’t understand that it is a real thing.”{12}

 

I wanted to quote the above excerpt because I have referenced subsequent parts of that article in recent days and indeed many of the attempts to dismiss the protesters (including some of the above short compilation of comments) were in response to what will follow. Moving on, we come to a factor that I believe explains some of the conservative hostility to this protest:

“Conservatives have a blind spot for the police for reasons that are mystifying. Conservatives, after all, are hugely distrustful of government authority. Someone from the IRS or the EPA bosses citizens around and deprives them of their property and conservatives freak out.
But call that agent of the government a cop, give him a gun, the authority to kill, and a public sector union devoted to ensuring he faces zero accountability? Suddenly only racial agitators and liberal namby-pambies question his actions.”{13}
Some of the inevitable responses to the above were to try and claim the analogy is apples and oranges but is it really? The idea that government agencies can wield and abuse power they accept but when you take the authority to more local levels, somehow these same folks think the police are immune from similar abuses of power. Lord Acton astutely noted once that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and while conservatives love such quotes when wielded against the Leviathan of big government, they somehow get no small number of blind spots when the corruption of authority is done by folks in law enforcement. To note just a few examples:
“Here are, in no particular order, three cases that ought to greatly disturb anyone who worries about the abuse of government power:
In Fairfax, Virginia, police conduct a late-night breach into an Iraq veteran’s apartment. They point guns at him, roust him from his bed, and handcuff him. It turns out to be a preventable case of mistaken identity: They failed to check the identity of the apartment resident with the building supervisor. The cops leave without so much as an apology.
In Philadelphia a man with a license to carry firearms is confronted by police who clearly do not understand their own local open-carry laws. The police scream at him, curse at him, threaten to kill him, and then handcuff him. The citizen remains calm and respectful throughout the encounter. We know this because there’s audiotape. Eventually, after the police figure out that they’re on the wrong side of the law they grudgingly let the citizen go. But after the guy publishes the audio of the encounter, he is charged with disorderly conduct.
In Canton, Ohio, police pull over a couple for a routine traffic stop. The man tries to inform the officer that he has a concealed-carry permit, and thus a firearm. The cop keeps cutting him off and won’t let him speak. When the cop discovers the weapon on his own, this is what transpires:
‘I could blast you in the mouth right now!’ the officer says in the video after finding out about the man’s gun. ‘I’m so close to caving in your Godda**ed head,’ he adds. ‘You fu** with me! You’re just a stupid human being!’
He continues: ‘Fu**ing talking to me with a Godd***ed gun! You want me to pull mine and stick it to your head? … I tell you what I should have done. As soon as I saw your gun I should have taken two steps back, pulled my Glock 40 and put ten bullets in your ass and let you drop.’
‘And I wouldn’t have lost any sleep!’ he screams.
These are not the imaginings of Al Sharpton. These are things which happen, in the real world…
Now, you might ask if this sample is a handful of isolated incidents or the tip of an iceberg. That’s an important question and one about which every American ought to be curious, because the answer is not obvious.
What is obvious is that if this sort of thing happens to middle-class white people, then there’s every reason to believe that it happens to poor black people, too. Probably more often. And possibly much, much more often.”{14}
Now then, I used three examples of white middle class folks being harassed by law enforcement and used as my source a conservative publication.{15} Do I have the attention now of any conservative-minded white readers of this article or are the reflexive dismissals and excuse making going to continue?
“If police officers who acted badly faced criminal consequences for their behavior most of the time, then I suspect that society would not get so upset about incidents of misconduct. It would be much easier to accept the few-bad-apples explanation and move on about our lives accepting that the benefits of police outweigh the costs.
But that does not seem to be the case. Look at the Eric Garner incident, where the local prosecutor presented charges against the police officer who killed garner to a grand jury—but managed to do so in such a way that the officer was not indicted, but the bystander who videotaped the murder was.
It took more than two years for Cleveland to fire the cop who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice seconds after arriving at the park where Rice played with a pellet gun—and the firing was for lying on his application, not the fatal shooting. That officer never faced charges, but even when cops are forced to go through the criminal justice system, convictions are rare, as happened with the man who shot Philando Castile.
Look at the murder of Walter Scott. Scott was gunned down by a police officer while unarmed and running away. The officer then called in a false report, claiming that Scott had assaulted him, and then calmly planted evidence on Scott’s body. The officer got off on state charges and was convicted on federal charges—but only after a videotape of the incident surfaced. And having been caught lying about a citizen and planting evidence, the municipality seems to have done nothing to investigate the officer’s previous arrests. (Planting evidence may happen more frequently than we might hope.)
For Pete’s sake, in 1981 police arrested Mitt Romney—Mitt Romney!—for ‘disorderly conduct,’ which is one of the ways that police level false charges against citizens when they’re in a bad mood. Go read the story of the arrest. The charges were dropped only because Romney threatened to sue the officer for false arrest. Which is fine. But in a rational world, the officer who committed the false arrest should have lost his job.
Paid agents of the state should not be allowed to knowingly make false charges against the citizenry. Full stop. If you can’t trust a police officer’s judgment in charging a crime, how can you possibly trust his judgment in the use of deadly force?…
So the problem isn’t just bad cops, or good cops making bad decisions. That has always happened and always will happen. You can’t make justice perfect. You could however, change the system so that police face more accountability for their actions.
But that’s a heavy lift, for lots of reasons. For starters, there are the police unions (which, for some reason, are the only public sector union conservatives love). Like all unions, the police unions exist for the sole purpose of insulating their members from professional consequences. Then there’s the human disinclination against whistleblowing and the fact that prosecutors rely on cooperation with cops for their livelihoods.
The point is: Changing this culture of institutional indifference to police misconduct is hard and kneeling down during the national anthem isn’t going to get the job done…
All of that said, qua protest, the Star-Spangled kneel-down is probably the most respectful form of protest, ever. Football players aren’t turning their backs on the flag. They’re not raising the black-power fist. Kneeling is reverent. It’s what we do at the most solemn moments in church. As Gabriel Malor puts it, the tenor of the protest isn’t that America is bad or evil: ‘they’re kneeling to indicate that America is in distress.’
Which was, come to think of it, the entire raison d’être of the Trump campaign.
We should wish that every protest movement was so thoughtful and humble in its expression.”{16}
Are you even starting to feel uncomfortable now? 

There are serious problems involved here and its more than just a trivial case of black NFL players who are rich spoiled brats. Incidentally, not a few who make this claim also are supporters of President Donald J. Trump who is richer than every NFL player combined. Yet I do not see these folks claiming that the president should shut his yap on these or various other matters! If they are not going to listen to someone like Michael Bennett{17} then maybe Citizen Trump can advise President Trump and others on these matters.{18} As for the frequent referencing of Dr. Martin Luther King as a way of trying to rebut the modern protests, Jaded Politics founder Darvio “Kingpin” Morrow had this to say recently:

“No one wants to admit that. I’ve been saying that over and over and over again and posting the quote to prove it. But people are much more comfortable with their watered down version of MLK and act as if the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech is the only speech he ever said. There’s so much revisionist history in terms of how people actually responded to his marches and protests at the time. That’s why it kills me when I hear people say ‘they should be protesting like Dr. King did instead of what they’re doing now.’ That just shows ignorance of history because some of the same criticisms said now were said then (and worse).”{19}

There are in short a number of parallels, some more significant than others. I have acknowledged more than once that some of this stuff makes me uncomfortable in part (I am sure) because on some level I cannot fully relate to the more legitimate of the grievances. And I say this despite having walked in a lot of circles and seen a lot of things that many of my general disposition either have not or refuse to acknowledge.

Nonetheless, as this article is long enough, I will end it here with some words for those who would indiscriminately claim the mantle of Dr. Martin Luther King for themselves in some form or another while disparaging all forms or motives of those involved in the current protests.{20}

 

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, ‘If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” [Matthew 23:29-33]

Notes:

{1} Excerpt from the Article The Making of Colin Kaepernick (circa September 7, 2017)

{2} I should note that this is true only to a point as he was offered at least one contract in the offseason by an NFL general manager: John Schneider of the Seattle Seahawks. I have heard it was a one year $950,000 contract to play as the backup to starter Russell Wilson and Kaepernick turned it down.

{3} In a nutshell: as I believe in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise with average people, with authority I take the converse and operate under the presumption that they are guilty until proven otherwise.

{4} USA Today: Excerpt from the Article Missing in Michael Bennett Altercation? Activated Body Cameras (circa September 8, 2017)

{5} Namely the bringing of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin into it. (I fully concur with him on the Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Charleena Lyles examples and wrote recently for Jaded Politics on the inexcusable shooting of Philando Castile.)

{6} I was perusing some old published pieces on this subject in other mediums and realized I may not have actually set my views on this as they have long been in writing. There are very few positions I have now that were not the same as they were twenty plus years ago but the issue of the “war on drugs” is certainly one where my views on it have changed as I have gotten older.

{7} The principle here also applies to the point in footnote six.

{8} Bennett even caught flack for that gesture too so basically, he cannot win for losing when it comes to sack gestures it seems!

{9} Of which I am by the way.

{10} And that’s despite the fact that none of my more recent vehicles were quite the eye catcher of my old Dodge and some other cars I used to drive.

{11} I would argue probably too white but that’s a subject for another day perhaps.

{12} Jonathan V. Last: Excerpt from the Article Its Trump vs the NFL and We’re All Losers (circa September 25, 2017)

{13} Jonathan V. Last: Excerpt from the Article Its Trump vs the NFL and We’re All Losers (circa September 25, 2017)

{14} Jonathan V. Last: Excerpt from the Article Its Trump vs the NFL and We’re All Losers (circa September 25, 2017)

{15} I refer here to The Weekly Standard.

{16} Jonathan V. Last: Excerpt from the Article Its Trump vs the NFL and We’re All Losers (circa September 25, 2017)

{17} “I can’t sit here and say that he’s not my president, he’s not that, because at the end of the day he is the President of the United States and for him to say it’s a privilege and we shouldn’t speak on what we believe in because we’re making money, I mean he was a rich man too, and all of a sudden he’s speaking on what he believes in, and he still stood up for what he believes in and he’s the President of the United States, so what makes him different from us?” [Michael Bennett: Excerpt From the Article Michael Bennett Would Love To Talk With President Trump About Protest Issues (circa September 26, 2017)]

{18}

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
President should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name-our country has far bigger problems! FOCUS on them,not nonsense
9:09 AM – Oct 8, 2013

{19} Darvio “Kingpin” Morrow: Prefatory Comments to His Social Media Posting of the Article MLK’s Daughter: People Didn’t Like How ‘My Father Protested Injustice Either’ (circa September 25, 2017)

{20}  To be clear, the last quote from this article is not directed at everyone who finds these matters uncomfortable for some reason or another (maybe even some they believe are on some level laudatory). Instead, it is pointed sharply at those who roll their eyes and scoff wholesale at this whole situation and/or claim it has no real value whatsoever. I await to see if this disclaimer is ignored by those who will seize on the above passage and try to impute to me motives I have not expressed all because it contains certain words of discomfort to them. (And indeed it should for everyone!)

 

About Shawn McElhinney 15 Articles

I call fair balls and strikes on all subjects I write on. I do not believe in spin nor do I believe in being a slappie for any person or cause -even those causes I happen to generally agree with.

I write from a predominantly conservative point of view but I am not wedded to conservatism and when I view it as wrong or lacking on an issue, I will where applicable say so.

I am also a longtime Independent voter and while being an Independent is all the rage now after the last election season, to paraphrase that great western philosopher Barbara Mandrell: I was Independent, when Independent was not cool.

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