Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kap's Not Wrong...But He Is

It's been a while, but we've been busy - Fat Guys have lives, you know! - but there have been so many things that have sent me off to rant about that I've been totally frustrated and find myself wishing I had kept a list.

Finally, though, I have a moment (contain your excitement) and need to vent my spleen over this Colin Kaepernick brou-ha-ha.  Unlike so many expressing their opinions on social media, I apparently am near alone in thinking that this issue is more complex than memes allow.

Let me start with something really important: I don't agree with Kaepernick's choice of protest here.  HOWEVER, if you REALLY think that the reason behind it isn't valid, then you're living in a bubble. You can't look at what has happened in this country over the last 18 months or so and think everything is hunky dory. 

Kaepernick chose to stand up and have his voice heard by sitting down and he has caught a lot of flack for it from inside and outside the NFL.  He certainly has people talking, though regrettably not about the issues that need to be discussed.  You could say that's the fault of the listeners, not the speaker, but if you want your voice to be heard, you can't bury the lead either.

Here is where I think Kap erred.

The anthem and, by extension the flag, are broad representation of the United States of America as a whole. Neither are symbols of only oppression and divisiveness.  The Star Spangled Banner is an expression of freedom and democracy known around the world.  It is a symbol that our soldiers fight under, sure, but it also has flown (and been played) to honor our athletes in Olympics, welcomed countless millions to Ellis Island, provided broad opportunities for people to rise up through the lowest levels of society to make fortunes or even lead a nation.

Blatantly disregarding the anthem is to disregard all that have died in for this country as well as turning a blind eye to the broad spectrum of society that it represents and honors.  I am represented by that anthem and, perhaps more importantly, George Grevelis, the long gone founder of my family in America is represented by that anthem.  He never fought for his new country (they wouldn't let him, he was too old at the start of WWII and he was laughed out of recruiting offices all over the North Shore of Massachusetts, much to his lifelong regret), but he made it his home and raised sons who did serve and provided opportunities to his now countless great grand-children starting to make their way in, what was for him, a strange new land with limitless opportunity.

Before you think I'm going to get all holier than thou on you, we're not a perfect people.  That flag and then, after 1931, that national anthem, has overseen some horrendous acts of violence and state sanctioned racism. 

The anthem was played in concentration camps or, as we prefer to call them, "internment" camps of Japanese Americans during WWII.  The flag flew over slave trade markets for nearly two centuries before the Civil War.  It was the crusading flag in the banishment and attempted extermination of Native Americans.

These are not pretty or proud moments in our history, but for better or worse they shaped who we are and what we've become.  America isn't perfect but, for all her flaws, she's done a pretty good job being a beacon for the world; a ray of light in some of the darkest of times.  Much has been sacrificed by many - civilian and military alike - to get us where we are and more sacrifice will no doubt be required to make us even better.  The National Anthem will be the rallying cry that will call us all to do our duty like the many before us who already have.  Turning your back on all that represents has buried your point rather than enhanced it.  Ignoring all that is good and right in America by disrespecting the Anthem that now represents all of us, turns many away that would be in your corner.

NBA and WNBA players have protested and brought attention to the same issues you wish to be heard about in a way that educate and tried to bring people together, not by alienating most of mainstream America. They used a scalpel, not an axe. 

Again, I don't think that you're wrong in what you're trying to change, but it wasn't a well thought out way to go about it.  In my opinion, of course.

And a couple of final points before I close.

- Apparently to many of you the only people that can speak out about an issue are those directly affected by it.  Archbishop Iakovos, the late Greek Orthodox Archbishop for North and South America, marched with Dr. King (dark robes, big hat, beard, staff...you've seen him in the photos).  He was neither African-American nor oppressed, but he saw the plight of others and spoke with his words and actions.  Today's right wing social media would probably show him in a meme in his robes, in a full, ornate church with the words: "Tell me again how oppressed you are?" 

And what of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Lyndon Johnson?  All of whom were considered traitors to their class and/or race because of the causes they championed.  The thought that you have to be oppressed to understand it, say something about it or do something about it is simplistic - to say the very least.  Many of you running those memes out there on Facebook are many of the same people I read posting about what the underprivileged segments of our society really needs.  By your own logic there is no way you can know because you ain't them.

- Finally, remember a few months ago when you all were singing the praises of the recently departed Mohammed Ali?  Anyone recall all the hateful comments thrown his way in 1967?  Maybe you threw some yourself before praising him nearly 50 years later as a 'courageous hero'.  Fifty year hindsight can change the complexion of many issues and stances.  Keep that in mind as you attempt to tar and feather someone who might be making you a bit uncomfortable.