By Max Greenberg
Evolution of a Patriotic ManUploaded: Sep 26, 2017
When Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem last year I was of the mind that he was out of line, being disrespectful of the flag and the anthem and was trying to distract from his poor play on the field. I never did like all those tattoos which to me called out his poor judgement on how to live his life. If I recall, at that time there weren’t “so many” instances of police shooting and killing African Americans. There were some, but I don’t think there were “that many.” So, in my white mind, Colin was not justified in his protesting, and besides, he was a highly paid athlete who wasn’t delivering what he was being paid for, so he should just shut up and go away.
Then we started seeing other players join him in taking a knee or sitting out the anthem. Eric Reid from the 49ers. Players from other teams. Some white players started showing their support in various ways. Last year when Colin wore those pigs dressed like cops socks I thought he was taking things too far. But you know what? Serious, deadly things were happening to African Americans at the hands of the police. You could watch videos of it if you didn’t really believe they were happening. And maybe those teenagers and young men weren’t doing things which justified such a deadly use of force by the police. There was real fear in the communities of people of color. There always has been, but it was being ratcheted up to an alarming degree. Maybe radical times called for a more radical protest. Wearing socks with police as pigs, maybe that was stepping over the line. And certainly that caused people to start choosing sides. But that was unfortunate. Because there are no sides to choose here. 99.999% of our police force do a great job protecting us and deserve out respect and gratitude. Most dangerous job in America. But there is that .001% who are either poorly trained, over-scared, or out and out racists. Their actions undermine the confidence in the police that people on the other end of the stick (or gun) have. Or used to have.
Now you have a President who publicly told police it would be fine for them to treat arrested suspects more roughly when putting them into the back of a patrol car. And he chuckled when he said it. OK to bang their heads a little bit. Seemed like another silly Trumpism at the time. But that sent a strong message to law enforcement: do whatever you want to suspects you arrest. I’m backing you. This President now has attacked those who take a knee and protest, as unpatriotic and as disrespecting to the flag and our military. Actually, I now see that the opposite is true. These athletes, and some owners, by their protests are asking our country to do better and to honor our freedom and the concept of equality and justice. There is no dis-respect to the flag, anthem, military or police meant here. And now that the President has once again weighed in by telling owners they should fire the son of a bitch who dares take a knee, he has succeeded in unifying the players in a way no one else could have. (While the fans are reported to be “divided”, I believe that is a temporary condition that will evolve as time, and statements, and thoughtful reflection go by.) He’s also trying to interfere with their business by suggesting fans boycott the games until they in essence get back on the plantation and just “do their jobs.” And while they are at it doing their jobs, could they bang a few more heads for our viewing pleasure, he humbly asks.
I love LeBron James’ response to Trump’s “withdrawing” of his invite to the World Champion Warriors to visit the White House, something which it was becoming publicly apparent most or all of the team had no interest in doing in the first place. After calling Trump a bum, he reminded us that it used to be a great honor for championship teams to visit the President, “until Trump showed up.” Couldn’t have put it any more precisely.
On the other hand, Trump is getting just what he wants: A distraction from all his problems; a wedge being driven between black and white, and red and blue. We dishonor our flag, anthem, constitution, country if we don’t oppose this bum-of-a-President and do everything to keep all of these things safe and intact until he is gone from our lives. Taking a knee should now become a national symbol of opposition to the authoritarian attempt to undermine our democracy.
My father, Francis X. Greenberg, a WWII veteran who fought across Europe all the way to Berlin, would have been proud to see the nation taking a knee in protest and in support of us being a better nation, both home and abroad. Just as he came to oppose the Vietnam war when it became apparent it was a dishonest disaster. My father had no middle name, but after reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X he gave himself one. This is not a black v white issue as Trump would like it to be.
Don’t let this President hide behind the cloak of patriotism to disguise his bad intent. As was profoundly stated by Samuel Johnson: Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
That was then. This is now.