Frail grasp of the big picture
Sunday is the national day of worship in America. The faithful gather at noon, genuflect before 72 inch flat screens and settle into favorite pews to receive communion (nachos) before kickoff in the National Football League.
Of late, some of us congregants get right to heaping scorn on the man who dares disrupt the solemnity of the occasion by gratuitously “disrespecting” the national anthem. “Get outa here, jerk! Love it or leave it,” is the common meme.
Because we live on the privileged side of town, Black Lives Matter is just something we hear about on the evening news. It doesn’t affect us. I have never had to tell my teenage sons, “No matter what happens, DO NOT run!” I’m sure my kids ran plenty when they were up to no good. I sure as hell did.
Black Lives Matter to black people, but we privileged white people have a passel of pat answers as to how black people bring a hellish, scary life down on themselves, while failing to be grateful for the many benefits of living in this country.
We blithely downplay the severity of the issue. Last week, Dabo Swinney, head coach of the Clemson University football team addressed the matter in his weekly press conference. Here’s what I heard: “Niggah, where you get off, dissing America? You livin’ large on all that money you make. You outta be grateful. We got you a niggah president, what else you want? Shut the fuck up, or leave the country!” You can google the press conference on YouTube. You will not hear Dabo say these exact words, but they goddamn sure conveyed the same sentiment.
If nothing changes, nothing changes. Robert Pirsig posited that all systems evolve to a point of static values and, over time, static values denigrate. The disruption to this entropy comes in the form of a dynamic value, which is violently resisted at first, but eventually points the way to important change. Colin Kaepernick may be a dynamic value for this moment.
Almost everybody I know hates what Kaepernick is doing. That was certainly the case when I raised the issue in bible class yesterday. But, after class, a friend came up and said, “I really was mad when he sat. But I’ve been thinking about it since…” Maybe the player has ignited a conversation.
I have not been asked what I think about the matter. If asked, my response is that I’m an advocate of peaceful protest, and it’s no good doing it unless it’s done where it disturbs those who need disturbing.
Years ago I was ranting about something to my boss. I don’t recall the issue, but I went on for quite a while, and was not very civil about it. My boss listened patiently. Then he said, “That’s OK, Rod, I flew 52 missions as a tail gunner over Germany during WWII in order for you to have the right to say those things.”
Some of you may know Norris Olson, my old boss. Great guy. I think he’d say the same about Kaepernick’s statement.