Activism, Education, Love, Social Awareness

Kneeling, the first amendment and permission to be lazy

It is now more than 2 years ago that Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the National Anthem while he was the star starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49er’s.  Most recently, I have seen several posts on social media holding him is as a role model, as a pioneer, as someone who is truly patriotic, etc…  I’m sure we have all seen similar posts.  From day one I felt that if he has the inclination to kneel, to lay on his back to work on his tan, to do jumping jacks during the Anthem for whatever his reasons are, I don’t have a problem with it.  Being fair, let’s be clear, the original Anthem was not a what we now know (https://www.theroot.com/star-spangled-bigotry-the-hidden-racist-history-of-the-1790855893), and if I am not a hypocrite looking back at my “N Word” post, I should have a problem with the Anthem.  Like the “N-word” the meaning of the Anthem has changed, it is now a way to honor the “protectors”: armed services, police, fire and I would go as far as Emergency medical, but that does not change the history of the Anthem.  Have I ever knelt, no.  However, since I became aware of what the meaning of the Anthem was originally, I do not celebrate it and I do not sing it (my awareness occurred about 20 years ago).

Colin Kaepernick chose his platform of the NFL to share an idea, expose a problem and present a way that others could choose to protest.  His intention was to protest the deaths and mistreatment of many minorities by the police across the country.  Being as clear as I can, I agree that there are many double standards (racially, gender, sexually as well as pretty much anything protected by IDEA <https://sites.ed.gov/idea/&gt;) and I wish there didn’t exist these double standards.  Do I admit being a heterosexual white male who doesn’t have any disabilities that I am awarded by the lottery of luck MANY things that the majority of people do not have; yes.  Am I going to apologize for it; no.  Do I feel “white guilt”; no.  Am I going to give up things that I have worked hard for; no.  Admittedly, I may not have had to work as hard as others, but I am also not going to pretend that I was fortunate enough to be born into a body that would allow me to be a center for an NBA team and not mater how hard I practice I will always be about a foot too short nor do I think that anyone who was born tall should feel “tall guilt” and sacrifice things to me, because I am only 5’10”.   I am not going to limit myself and my family for these problems.  I will stand for their right to protest.  I will be happy to do what I can in educating others to improve the future as I feel that is more productive that trying to do the impossible in changing the past.  I support Colin Kaepernick’s use of his platform to share ideas and protest; I do agree with the sentiment for which he protests.  I also support the right for people who I don’t agree with, who I think are whack-jobs, who are potentially dangerous to say whatever they want if they have the platform to do so; so long as it is not incendiary or  violent.

“The beauty of the Constitution is that it can always be changed. The beauty of the Constitution is that it makes no set law other than faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves…Our “founding parents” were pompous, white, middle-aged farmers, but they were also great men. Because they knew one thing that all great men should know: that they didn’t know everything. Sure, they’d make mistakes, but they made sure to leave a way to correct them.” (“With Honor”, 1994)  The First Amendment to the Constitution allows people the avenue to say whatever it is they want without fear of persecution.  Not all will be able to truly understand this:  If you have never lived in a state of fear.  The fear I speak about is beyond being afraid of the dark or of spiders, this is living in constant fear for your life or the lives of others.  The First Amendment to the Constitution provides for the citizens of the United States of America the expressed power to peacefully speaking what is on their minds, even in protest; to hold themselves up against the fear of being imprisoned, hurt, killed, or even threatened.  I am thankful for anyone who is willing to protect this right and not infringe upon this right (armed forced, police, lawyers and even politician, sometimes).  I am thankful for Colin Kaepernick expressing his right and I would not want to restrict his right to do so; it certainly does not hurt me in any way, and does not take away from my enjoyment of the NFL game.

Teaching in an urban public school I have seen students in my homeroom who have selected to remain seated during the “Pledge of Allegiance”.  I ask of them why they stay seated.  Thinking back to when I was in school there was discussion about whether as school could punish a student who did not stand for the pledge.  Honestly, I don’t recall much about the result, other than the fact there was a discussion, some people didn’t like the word God in the pledge and I seem to recall there being a “separation of church and state” being thrown around.  Here is my problem, with myself as well: I encourage people to not just “do” because they are told, understand why they are doing what they doing (especially if they are following a crowd, like standing for the Pledge or Anthem) and not be compliant just because it is easier that thinking for yourself.  Now, if you understand what you are doing and you feel that it is worthy of you to comply, then rock on, follow along with the rest.

However, when I ask my students why they are sitting during the pledge, they don’t know.  Mostly, I’ve heard, “cuz of that NFL guy.” or some sort of permutation of that response.  Yes, it has been 2 years, and yes they are unaware of his name, but can they figure out why he was kneeling.  Their remaining seated is just lazy.  It’s not protesting anything, they don’t even know the “NFL guy” who started it or what he was protesting.  If they, like Colin Kaepernick remained seated, or even knelt stoically and when asked they expressed with vigor and eloquence, “the continued abuse of power and the deaths of many minorities in the country” or some other cause for which they want to create change I would not suggest these students to be lazy.  These students exhibit laziness in their action: remaining seated, not bothering to listen to the announcements and remaining on their phones (keep an eye open for a blog entry I have in mind called “Retarded”).  These students show laziness in their thoughts: “cuz of that NFL guy” is not a processing of the unjust events, taking a stand against things that are unfair, or even knowing who is is; it’s lazy for someone to think they are permitted to do an action, which isn’t even a parallel action to someone else’s action, because someone else started something that was “sort of” similar 2 years ago.

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