This morning I woke up to another news day with protests and a statement from the President that he is getting military ready to confront those protesters if the locally elected officials fail to do what the President demands in the way he demands it – something that has been done in Libya, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, and many other countries that Americans used to think of as “backwards and evil”.
I was shaking as I took a shower this morning thinking about how I should react because what I am seeing and hearing is so against everything I stand for in my life. See, I come from a mostly right winged family and have friends and family who are police officers that I am enormously proud of. Moreover, my Facebook news feed is full of anti-protest posts and even anti Colin Kaepernick rants.
Right now, my brain is telling me to stay out of this fray as my dream of getting the ideas in my new book out to the world may be severely damaged or even ended. But if I listen to my brain right now, then I will only succumb to fear and will no longer be who I am – which is especially critical during turbulent times. So, I choose Alignment and this is what I have to say.
Colin Kaepernick was right and is a great American using his platform and his rights exactly how our forefathers envisioned. I respect Mr. Kaepernick as a man who has integrity. What the NFL did by shutting him out, as we learned earlier this week, is a failure of leadership and a failure of our citizenry to think critically for themselves – and really listen to the plight of our fellow Americans. Unlike many others, I do not believe that 100% of those who do not support his actions are racist, or hidden racists – instead, I believe they are lazy.
Trump went against Kaepernick very strongly and ignited an army of his followers against him. Certain media figures, including Ted Nugent of my home state of Michigan demonized his actions as Anti-American and created a narrative that kneeling during the anthem was dishonoring soldiers who died for those freedoms. Many of the folks who are connected to more right leaning communities listened to these simplistic arguments and adopted them so they could have a justified safe position that kept the peace. These people were not hidden racists, they simply either didn’t want to think about it or placed a value on peace inside their social circles over taking a critical position.
But now our country is in trouble because we did not listen, because we were lazy and because we did not have leadership willing to take action. So, it's worth our time to take a moment to consider a different perspective and think more deeply about it.
To create some context, let’s have a look at the largest democracy in the world – India. Right now, in India there is an extraordinarily strong backlash against the Modi government for being right winged nationalist. They are doing their best to make laws that require people, by law, to honor the National anthem. Why? Because India is a place with millions of gods, where a cask system and its numerous languages keep people apart. It is difficult or maybe even impossible to find a common Indian story or belief that all people share – something critical to having a country at all. At the same time soldiers are standing a line on borders that are in conflict and putting their lives on the line to establish a country while young people are sitting down drinking coke and eating French fries during the anthem at sporting events. India is fighting to get a shared country identity through a sign of respect during the anthem – because that is a symbol to show the country is united.
Our forefathers were also looking to create common stories and symbols to unite us, because it is critical to bringing a country of misfits together (which is what the US always has been). When the US was started, the people of the 13 colonies identified more with their colony than the country. It took a tremendous amount of listening and negotiating between very different and conflicting positions to bring the country together. And in the end, our forefathers had succeeded, the US is a Nation with common stories and dreams. We fight for our freedom of speech, religion, and to bear arms. We fight to maintain the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness. But today we are allowing small things to divide us and keep us apart because we create sides that no longer listen to one another. (Really showing respect by kneeling instead of standing is a dealbreaker?)
My Grandfathers and Uncles fought in World War 2, The Korean War, and Vietnam. They fought for our freedoms. I strongly believe that freedom includes the right to show respect during the Anthem in my own private way. For me, to this day, I still make the scout sign over my heart during the Anthem – As an Eagle Scout it is my way to show respect.
Had Colin Kaepernick decided to sit on the bench and drink Gatorade during the Anthem – I would be disgusted. But that is not what he did. He decided to show his respect in another way, by kneeling silently (A suggested middle ground given to him by a Military Veteran). He took an honorable action to show respect in his own way – as an American honoring an American symbol.
I believe my Grandfathers would have considered the demand that you MUST show respect to the country in the EXACT same way as I show respect to the country as a form of tyranny not respect – especially if that demand was coming from the President.
So, the peaceful protester Kaepernick who wanted to point out an injustice and get a conversation going to make meaningful change was silenced. That meant, as a nation we never really listened to his side of the story and we never took the action necessary to address an obvious injustice. A lesson we forgot from our forefathers – a lesson that would have been useful to bring us together as a country.
Let’s face it, a lot of people die in police custody each year. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2003-2009, 60% of deaths in police custody were attributed to homicide by the Police officers, which equates to 2,931 people. From the data I was able to find, in the UK, over the same period there were 22 people killed by police. Even if we adjust for population size, the US police still kill almost 27 times as many people per capita compared to the UK – a country with a similar culture. This is a real issue, and the voices pointing it out are being silenced (Kaepernick) and demonized (Black Lives Matter).
If you have watched the videos of Floyd's death, you will have noticed that the police not only ignored Floyd, who repeatedly said he could not breath, but they also did not listen to bystanders who were concerned and pleading with them to check his pulse and get off his neck.
The protests around the country today are a display of upset because American voices are not being listened to and nothing is changing. I am not for violence nor looting nor property damage nor arson as a means of being heard. But rather than threatening people with military action, dogs and ominous weapons, now is the time for the leadership of the country to be listening and taking action to fix the problems. I love my country and am not afraid of the protesters destroying it. If we listen and change, like our forefathers had done, then we will be stronger because of those protests. I do however fear, as did our forefathers, a government willing to use military to beat its citizens into submission.
So, when it comes to Alignment, now is the time to stand up and declare who you are and take steps in alignment with that. If you are a protester, who do you want to be right now, and who are you being if you destroy an innocent person’s business? If you are an officer, who are you being right now and how is that consistent with serving your community? If you are a government official, who are you being right now and how can you serve all of your constituents on both sides of the political perspective by finding common ground for action? And if you are a person on the sidelines, who are you being right now, and what actions will you take so you can be both aligned with who you are, and proud of the actions you have taken during these turbulent times?
I apologize for the length of this blog. I am a slow writer and this blog was written comparatively quickly. But I choose to get it out into the world before I had time to get it as perfect as I would have liked, so please excuse any errors or omissions in the flow.