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Don’t Equate Protest With Disrespect

President Donald Trump catapulted the issue of growing numbers of athletes opting to “take a knee” during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner before their contests further into the limelight this past weekend, jumping in on the side of the hyper-patriotic conservative reactionaries who have been, predictably, popping gaskets over this form of protest since former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick first decided to sit out the anthem around this time last year. Trump spewed a typically vindictive, smirking and self-satisfied incitement, urging NFL owners to respond to protests by terminating any player who dares to take a knee.

“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump said. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

The president doubled down on Twitter Saturday afternoon.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect. … our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

I wanted to write about this, but where to start? A sitting President who, already widely accused of white nationalist proclivities, profanely demands the revocation of fundamental rights for a prominent group of predominantly black young men who dare to speak up for a righteous cause? The now-customary Trump tactic of purposefully throwing a polarizing, divisive tantrum on the heels a a particularly bad news week? The pride-inspiring response of the NFL which, from top to bottom, demonstrated an admirable front of solidarity?

No, what gets me is the cheap rhetorical trick of equating the flag with veterans, and common protest with disrespect for veterans–a false equivalency that trivializes both the symbol of our nation and the men and women who have stood up to defend it or, too often, project its ideological will.

If one insists on waxing symbolic over the stars and stripes, it is compulsory to understand that the flag stands for so much more than military service, representing the core values–the unrealized ideals–upon which this nation was founded. Not just what we are, but what we purport to be, what we must aspire to be. Chief among these is free speech, particularly free speech in dissent.

The glory of the flag is that even the most disrespectful act against it as a symbol and, by extension, the institutions it represents, is turned into a sign of the strength. A protester burning a flag is at once showing her anger and disappointment while simultaneously demonstrating the freedoms the flag represents. In burning the flag, one proves its inviolability. You can’t really destroy the flag–burning its fibers only proves what it is supposed to stand for.

The flag does not need defense against committed young men who kneel before it to express their legitimate frustration and discontent in an inherently gentle act. Indeed, the flag protects them like a shield. In the same way, our veterans do not need to be protected from peaceful citizens who clasp hands, take a knee, and bow their heads quietly. Those veterans fought to preserve the right for these men to do so and, what’s more, both flag and fighting men and women are stronger than an imagined insult.

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Sunday Sermon: The Revered Rev. George Carlin

Hallelujah!

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Sunday Morning Sermon

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Olympics Volume 2–Meryl Takes Down Downton

It was Sunday night, the sofa was soft, the down comforter warm, and the sun was shining on Downton Abbey–it’s always shining on the glacially slow BBC soap opera, you might have noticed, despite what I’ve heard about England, yet it was brighter still inside the ice arena in Sochi, Russia where the world’s finest ice dancers were doing their thing in the short program–see how I’m talking in cool skater jargon?–and lighting things up.  We tuned out of England and headed for the East.

I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at, of course–I know basketball and football (American Football, the best kind 😉 )–but all I know about skating is that skaters have to fit “swizzles” into their programs.  Otherwise, I’m judging what looks good, what looks fluid and graceful and, well, (sorry, gentlemen) what looks pretty.  Last night, they all looked pretty, and it doesn’t help that I’m a guy who, despite feminist leanings, can’t help noticing how beautiful some of these women are–muscles, smiles, short skirts–it’s better than art on a wall.  I’m generally too beguiled by the beauty and the unfamiliar sport to be any kind of judge, unless one of them teeters visibly or falls down.

moir, virtueThe top couples last night all stayed upright.  We caught Canadians Scott Moir and  Tessa Virtue early on and decided they were unbeatable, even if the young lady didn’t have the most perfect figure skater name ever.  Tessa Virtue.  A name like that doesn’t even need a publicist–at least not in theory.

Elena Ilinykh, Nikita KatsalapovA short while later, we enjoyed watching a young Russian pair, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, and you know what? Yep, they looked unbeatable, though I thought–or, more appropriately, felt something that made me wonder if the Canadians were not just a little bit better.  At it turned out, it was close, but I was right.

Fabian Bourzat Nathalie PechalatThe next skaters were noticed were a French pair, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who I think I liked best of all, up to that point, and guess what: I thought they looked unbeatable. It doesn’t hurt that Ms. Pechalat wore the most beautiful, most exuberant smile on her already beautiful face throughout their program–I wanted them to do well on spirit alone, and they did, landing briefly in third place behind Ilinykh/Katsalapov and Virtue/Moir.

Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew PojeThey had to know it would be short-lived.  Even though another young Canadian pair–Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje--came out and gave a great showing–not quite unbeatable, but fluid and spirited, and Ms. Weaver’s brilliant blue dress was the hands-down scene stealer of the evening, the night belonged to the last couple to skate.

It seemed like NBC packed an especically dense set of commercials into the space before Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the ice, and why shouldn’t they?  This all-American couple of student-athletes has been anointed as the face of the American Olympic team this year, and for all intents and purposes they were a very good choice: smart, upbeat, and wholesome–some of my favorite images of this Olympics have been of White and Davis off the ice, cheering for their team-mates and consoling them when things haven’t turned for the best.  You have to like that.

c55885bce17cdc211e64e00fb26901b6dc406cd5Of course, they’re also the best skaters in the world right now, and while I can’t quantify why, it was clear the moment they hit the ice–even to a neophyte like myself.  I could not see, so much as I felt the difference–the skill and the surety of their performance, the confidence in every movement.  It is their moment, they knew it, and their world record finish pretty much cemented the fact–while simultaneously burying all but the most emphatic–and nationalistic–rumors of score fixing that had been swirling around. Meanwhile, back and Downton Abbey, absolutely nothing had happened.

More Olympics:

https://oldroadapples.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/the-olympics-volume-1/

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A Snowy Sunday Morning

Before you read further and get all indignant, let me remind you I’m a big fan of Jesus–my upbringing in the bosom of the Methodist Church formed the framework for much of my morality–and, of course, my cynicism, my expectations of inevitable hypocracy and, ironically enough, my deeply sentimental conviction that there is good in the world (maybe not a lot, maybe not enough, but enough to be foolishly hopeful.)  The thing I would have liked to hear more about in church was Badass Jesus, Defiant Jesus, Superhero Jesus, Jesus tearing up the temple and putting the crooks on their asses, Jesus the Original Left-Wing Troublemaker,balage_jesus_and_the_money_changers-t1 Jesus sticking it to The Man, Jesus fighting the system like Robin Hood, like the Dukes of Hazard and, ultimately, Jesus taking a metaphorical bullet for talking too much and shaking up the power class, like Bobby Kennedy, MLK, Malcolm X. I’m pretty sure Jesus would have been a cool guy to sit down with, have a beer, and talk about those crazy Occupy kids and our favorite episode of My Name Is Earl–I mean, Jesus was a tradesman, at the end of the day, a carpenter. And a guy like that, you can bet he had a sense of humor.