This particular post was under construction long ago, but was delayed due to honeymooning! Anyway, it means that the hotly contested and delightfully divisive topic of taking a knee during our national anthem has become a little saturated, but not any less relevant. There are some new articles that are in my proverbial swim-lane on the topic that I think are also incredible – but ultimately, I simply want to inspire a little more thought and consideration around the idea that this too has a middle.
Please! Don’t click away simply because you have already justified the reasoning as to which corner you’ve cozied into – because I’m NOT going to tell you you’re wrong! All I ask is that you consider opening your mind to a few ideas – because righteous indignation is ugly no matter the topic nor which side wears it.
Personally, I stand, with my hand held over my heart for the anthem – and I’m not sure that there is anything that could convince me to take a knee. I love the tradition; hearing it gives me chills every single time. I love the way a crowd of tens of thousands goes completely quiet with respect. I love the way it reminds me that I have something important in common with each of them. I love that it gives me an opportunity to have a moment to show appreciation for the first men to fly our flag and the millions of people who have defended it since. And most of all, I love all the beautiful words and ideals it represents and conjures. Liberty, freedom, justice, equality, and indivisibility – to name a few.
For many who feel that same tug that I do, it is maddening to see a professional athlete take a knee. Maybe it’s a question of whether it is the right place, time, or platform. Maybe it’s that athletes are seen as paid actors who are obligated to a certain decorum. Maybe you think the privilege that these athletes enjoy outweighs any grievance in question. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of this and more.
For those in support of taking a knee, maybe you feel that no one is listening and that some important issues have been ignored for a long time. Maybe your worry for where we are heading outweighs your concern for upsetting the apple cart. Maybe you are angry that a symbolic gesture at a football game seems to carry more weight than the souls of those facing oppression, or worse.
It has been a very peaceful demonstration in every instance – and that’s something I praise no matter who or what is being protested or where my agreement lies. When it began, I wondered what it was that required such a demand of my attention? And why was interrupting my beloved anthem the way to do it? Why risk ostracization, hatred, the loss of career, and millions in pay? Watching people take risks of this magnitude didn’t make me angry, they made me pause. Perhaps there was something for me to learn.
My point is that maybe, just maybe, it is ok to ask us to pause. Arguably, it was asked of us on one of the only platforms that would get our attention, by some of the only people that could get such collective attention, from many of us that may not otherwise pay attention. Is it remotely possible that the concerns being brought to the spotlight, at great personal risk, are worth a moment of our time? Maybe that answer for you is no, and maybe it is yes – that is for a different (maybe the next) conversation. The beautiful thing is that one doesn’t have to agree with the grievance itself to appreciate the weight of it to those who take a knee and to those they represent. They didn’t burn or spit on our flag, they didn’t turn away. They didn’t scream, yell, riot, or loot. They took a careful, and reverent approach in a plea for our consideration. You can choose to see it as divisive, or you can choose to see it as a request for our unity. Interestingly, neither choice requires your agreement with the issue!
For me, and I hope for more of us as time goes on, I will always be eager to know the whys. I now understand the whys around taking a knee because I saw someone asking me to pause, and I did. My subsequent opinion about racial injustice, oppression, and inequality aren’t why I’m writing – my only message is that I think that the peaceful request for your attention could be met with less hostility. Once I understand any issue, I may or may not support it – but I will not demonize you or your cause. This incessant need to label, dehumanize, and toss one another aside is such a mean, petty, monumental waste of time. It makes me sick to my stomach to see how gleefully eager some people are to hate. You used to ask why! What changed? Did you find a platform of angry people online to relate to and then give yourself permission to stop listening to your family, friends, and neighbors? Those who ask for your respect in standing are not deplorable, crazy, wingnut, nazi, nationalists. Those who take a knee or sympathize with those who do are not stupid, elitist, libtard, tree-huggers. Please. I beg you. Stop this.
I will continue to stand while others take a knee. I will pause to contemplate the gravity and complexity of the issues we face as citizens today while they do the same. I will appreciate with every fiber of my being that I have a choice in my posture as I do so, because that choice is precisely what makes our country great.