Sunday, August 28, 2016

Missing the point after...

What Colin Kaepernick did is not about him being an admittedly privileged, seemingly ungrateful, and assumedly petulant athlete, who is once again misbehaving by acting badly in public. 

Nope. This is not about him. 

Moreover, I’ll bet you that he doesn't believe this is about him, either, and for folks to suggest otherwise (via their words or their memes), is probably proof of either denial or ignorance of what he has so clearly told us is the underlying issue. In saying this, however, I’m not criticizing anyone for going after him via word or meme or for being in denial or ignorant, two things with which I'm all too familiar. They are simply states of mind and everyone has a right to visit them on occasion. Go ahead. Have at him. I understand that on its surface, what he did could be seen as rude and puerile, yet even as he would probably tell folks he has nothing about which to complain because he has a great life, and that this imbroglio is about something larger than just him, he would probably also tell them they have the right to think he’s a douche-nozzle. 

But this is not about him and to make it about him is to completely miss his point. 

Of course, I could be wrong, and I so often am, but what this is about is an American who's acting within his constitutionally protected right to free speech (as irritating as that speech might seem to some), by standing up (irony intended) for what he believes are injustices to others who are marginalized and less fortunate than he is. If we’re being honest, we’ll admit that if Joe Schmoe sat through the anthem, no one would have cared aside from maybe Joe’s family or those adjacent to him, and if Joe had been caught on camera, it would have led to yet another GIF going viral. Poor Joe.

But that the “someone” who did do this is one who routinely has a microscope focused on him due to his chronically well-aimed, self-inflicted foot wounds, this might make it seem like he was not thinking and was just being thick. But this is wrong-headed, because if you don’t think he knew that the same microscope would probably serve to focus attention on what he believes (and what he actually said) is the real issue, and that doing what he did might keep a discussion going, then it’s probably questionable exactly who is being wrong-headed here. 

I’m a white guy, so WTF do I know about being anything else, but please allow me to suggest that to many people of color, our national anthem's phrase, "land of the free," just might ring more than a bit hollow and that, for them, this reality is objectively true. So why would they want to say “land of the free” if they don’t believe the words to be true for everyone, even though these same words are absolutely true for Colin (a point he freely admits)? But allow me to also suggest that "home of the brave" might simultaneously (and perhaps, to some, ironically) ring just as true in Colin's case as well. But before I get there, please know that for a long time I’ve been trying my hardest to empathize as best I can, trying to see the points of view that spawned things as simple as his recent action and as complex as Black Lives Matter, and I'll continue to try. Yup. OK. All lives matter. Got it. Thanks, but one perspective does not preclude the other; one perspective is just a different one than the other, and they can both exist simultaneously. And here's why: for a much longer time, and obviously to many people of many backgrounds, some lives seem not to matter much at all (also objectively true), so is it really that surprising, then, to see frustration boiling over? 

By way of an answer, try this simple thought experiment: ask yourself honestly if, after watching what he did, you A) saw his action as the problem/issue, or B) at least tried to understand the reasons behind his action (his inaction, as it were) as the possible genesis of why he felt he needed to take the action? If the former, this could be saying more loudly than anything else ever could exactly what the real problem is

As with so much else, so much of this tempest in a jock strap seems to be about perspective. Case in point. If this event can be viewed as a matter of patriotism--- as in, you're unpatriotic for having done this thing, as seems to be the case here --- then this event can also be viewed as the act of a brave, patriotic person who loves his country. So much so, in fact, that he feels he has to tell that country when he thinks it's wrong about something, even as he has to also know that doing this could quite possibly be viewed as career-limiting petulance at least, and as personally dangerous behavior at worst. And it's exactly this essential, seemingly mutually exclusive dilemma, this dichotomy, that makes America one of the best fucking ideas ever, even as some of its ideas are the most fucked-up ideas ever, and this, too, is objectively true. 

Just like the next guy, I love the idea of a place like the USA. This is easy to say and I know it; it’s like saying, “I’m against violence” or “I’m for goodwill toward all.” Easy, right? Who isn't and who doesn't, aside from assholes? The point is, though, that I’m daily delighted that I live here, and I appreciate the happy accident of birth that put me here as I am, and make no mistake: "happy accident" is how I came to be born in the USA and not somewhere else, and "happy accident" is how Colin came to be found by those who adopted him. We’d be singing a different tune if we had been born in 1930's Germany, in 1980's South Africa, or in 1400's Spain. We'd definitely be speaking a different language, if we were still alive to be speaking at all. Q.E.D.

But as I continue to try to grow and listen and read and learn, and as great of an idea as I see America to be, I'm not always proud of some of the ideas America comes up with, with some of the things some Americans do, or with some of the ways some Americans think. I admit this freely, but folks are entitled to do and say what they wish, within the bounds of law and ethics, and regardless of what I might perceive to be good taste and decorum; therefore, truly being "the land of the free," truly living this as a reality, just has to mean that we should be free to simultaneously hold seemingly diametrical thoughts, or at least to respect that some among us do hold them. Lambaste if you must; it’s your right to do so. But one position doesn't negate the other; one position shouldn’t threaten the other; one position needn’t preclude the other. An action taken by one is not an action taken against all. Two conflicting positions can exist within the same mind and, most importantly, among the same people, as in this case, but do agreeably disagree as needed, by all means. Just maybe, though, you could try to work to respect and presume the possibility of an honorable, ulterior motive rather than immediately suspect and assume the presence of a dishonorable, hidden agenda. As trite as this might be, judging a book by its cover does little to discover what’s inside that book. Put in another, equally timeworn way, metaphorically walk a mile in some other shoes, and if, when you’re finished, you and those shoes are still in the place you were when you started, then so be it: but at least you tried.

I hope some of this makes sense, and I offer all of it with respect.