Freedom means something different to just about everyone. For some, it might be not having a nagging wife. Others prioritize financial independence or not being incarcerated. Many folks nowadays seem to equate freedom with owning fully automatic assault rifles with unlimited ammunition or not buying health insurance.
To me, the freedoms guaranteed in the first amendment* of the United States Constitution are the most important. In my opinion, without the freedom to say your government is wrong you have no freedom.
If you couldn’t tell where I was going with this, I fully support the right of NFL players to take a knee in protest. I wouldn’t want to live in a country where I had to stand every time the national anthem was played, or I saw a flag. And I certainly wouldn’t want to have to hang a picture of the leader in my home.**
Unfortunately, this means I also support the rights of neo-Nazis and klansmen to march around with tiki torches and shout about how they hate Jews. If freedom of speech doesn’t protect speech I don’t agree with it isn’t really freedom. (Of course, it shouldn’t protect hate speech. You shouldn’t be able to tell an autidorium full of your supporters to rough up protesters, but that’s a whole other discussion.)
But while I fully support the rights of players to protest their government and sypathize with their cause, I’m not sure I agree with the method.
I hate to say that. I’d really like to see the US have an open and honest discussion about the systematic racism and oppression going on every day. But that’s not what’s happening. Kneeling hasn’t started the conversation it needed to. It’s just driven a wedge into an already divided nation.
While I find it difficult to hear the stories of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice without feeling a sense of outrage at what appears to be injustice, others dig in their heels and say these people were thugs who got what they deserved.
While I worry about the world my daughter will grow up in when I see a video of a black teenage girl pulled out of her desk at school and slammed to the floor by an adult police officer, others say, ‘well you don’t know the whole story. She must have done something to provoke that.’^
Yes, I see many problems with policing in this country. And I see many problems with racism in this country. While I have eyes I intend to use them. Even Stevie Wonder can see what’s happening.
But while I salute those players taking a stand (or knee) I don’t feel optimistic that it will change anything. Just like Sinead O’Conner ripping up the picture of Pope John Pall II didn’t make a damn bit of difference, I don’t see the current protests doing much good. We’re all aware of the problem, but a surprising number of people just don’t care.
I sure hope I’m wrong. I hope we can start that discussion. If there’s any way I can help I hope someone will let me know. I’d like for this to be a country worth standing up for, but at the moment; I’ll take a knee.
*”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
**Unless it was Bill Clinton. And he was nude.
^By the way, if you can give me a reason that convinces me it’s OK for a grown man to strike, slap, slam or otherwise beat on a teenage girl I will pay you all of the money and property I own. You may find it somewher near ‘reasons it’s OK to beat your wife’ or ‘good reasons to hate someone based on skin color’ or in the drawer titled ‘Things That Don’t Exist.’