Taking a Knee

“Taking a Knee”


I’m in a quandary again.  Those of you who know me well understand this is not anything new or unique in my life.  In fact, I have been in a 1943 model Quandary for much of my life but today is special… I’m having to examine some long-held beliefs and tenets in a new light and that is never a comfortable thing.

A week or so ago, an NFL quarterback whose career is waning found a new way to thrust his name back into the headlines when he chose sit out the playing of our National Anthem… something I would have never believed any thinking person would do.  Initially, I was with most Americans and was outraged (or at least shocked) by this action.  After all, is that not a privilege and an honor to be allowed to be in front of the world and HONOR all that has gone before by this tradition?

When the contest is between teams representing countries… or even when there is a large number of participants from another nation, the anthems of both nations are played to pay respect to all that is dear… Where I live, in Kennewick, WA, we have a minor league hockey team… it is not anything that the world will note, but NHL greats like Stu Barnes and Olaf Kohlzig (Ole the Goalie) played here.  Opponents come from Brandon, Ontario… Kelowna, BC… Winnipeg, Manitoba… all in Canada… Before any contest here, you will hear the anthem of both Nations and it sets things at an even level and tells our guests we respect them as well!

This disrespectful action seems to be spreading in the NFL as more and more individuals… and now some teams are planning to join Kaepernick in some manner as they too show their support for his stance.  I am not now concerned with the truth of his allegations… they seem specious to me.  Further, it seems somehow ironic that someone with a $114 MILLION contract is espousing the lack of opportunity for one race or another in this nation… somewhat like worrying about spilling a cup on water on oneself while falling out of the boat!  But that aside…  Does the REASON matter?

My initial reaction was one of revulsion… thinking of the demeaning of those who have given their all for this nation… then I thought deeper about it… I believe those men and women would be at the front of the parade declaring the right to do this as being protected by the very Constitution they gave it all to support… I think they would understand the 1st Amendment and why it is so important… I do… I don’t like it sometimes, but I do understand it.

More thought followed.  I talked to my German rock-star friend yesterday and we discussed life behind the Iron Curtain prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall a few years ago.  In this discussion, he made the statement, while decrying the tyranny and total lack of freedom there in that era… the detention and beatings by police and the absolute absence of even the basest of pleasures that there was a level of comfort in knowing you were not allowed to do anything on your own.  That every thing you had in life was going to be provided to you by the government without any effort on your part.  He even told me of months of interrogation and abuse he suffered because, when he was in a city in Italy for a swim meet in which he had a major part, he wandered from the team’s hotel because he wanted to see what a western city looked like… It seems the regime did not want him do know that stores in the west had things IN THEM to sell… unlike those behind the Iron Curtain.

Till made a statement that somewhat defined this dilemma… “Yes, it is wonderful to know I have the choice of fifty different kinds of pasta, but does it really make a difference in my life?”

I have thought about this deeply.  For me, choosing pasta involves deciding whether I want angel hair or regular spaghetti… I understand what the Rammstein front man means, but it goes deeper than that.  It is more than what we USE to enjoy life but more about what is AVAILABLE to use… it’s about choice and about the freedom to make that choice.  It’s more about what has gone before to allow us the opportunity to have that choice than it is about the choice itself.

Which brings us back to this protest… The statement is about the demeaning of a race of people… about the “brutality” of law enforcement and suggests that there is a movement afoot to deny this race equality in society.  Is this the truth?  I am not sure… perhaps there are facets I don’t see, but I do know that no person has been shot by the police while standing and answering their questions.  I do know that in every case I have seen chronicled, the individual who became a “victim” was in defiance of legitimate orders and was either armed or appeared to be armed AND was in a threat mode to the officers involved.

Does there seem to be a preponderance of these events within a particular community?  The answer to this is simple, yes there is!  But… why is this?  Could it be that this imbalance is due to the fact that this community is socio-economically challenged and NOT because of any race issue?  Could this be the result of CHOICES made by the “victims”?

As a nation, I know of no other that offers more opportunity to its citizens, regardless of race or faith.  One has only to look at the position enjoyed by those espousing this protest.  I have alluded to the huge contract enjoyed by the leader of this movement and the others proposing the same action enjoy the same situation.  Do the people in these socio-economic conditions have access to these opportunities?  Probably not… few of us do.  Are people willing to do the things and take the chances to gain success in our system?  I am less than optimistic about this aspect of the situation.

It would seem to me that if these uber-wealthy professional athletes wanted to really make a difference to this deprived community they would not exhibit the heights of disrespect they are now doing and would come together to find ways to solve the root problem and not add flame to the manifestations of the problem.  What is needed is OPPORTUNITY, not sympathy… education is mandatory and greater chances to live the potentials that the rest of society enjoys.

I have a business opportunity in mind that I developed over the years and finalized after I was able to perform in it myself.  It has a potential for great rewards but it has a major problem… it requires WORK!  There are no free passes when one it operating one’s own business… there are no holidays and weekends off disappear when you sign your paychecks on the bottom instead of the back.  There seems to be few who are willing pay this price no matter what the reward.  It also takes some cash to get any such enterprise underway and THAT is a major stumbling block for these urban, inner core residents.

Now… since these financially endowed individuals seem to want to HELP their ghetto bound brothers and sisters, why don’t they unite to establish a financial fund that could be managed to provide economic opportunity to these disadvantaged, inner city denizens?  One hundred and fourteen MILLON dollars… if I had one percent of this sum, I could set up eight of these businesses and gainfully employ about fifty people.  This would be just ONE such effort.  How many others have similar concepts and could do this or more?  This would have to be a private enterprise.  Any government involvement would introduce so much red tape as to never allow anything to actually eventuate.

I can think of any number of manufacturing concepts that could be implemented within the core of any affected inner city.  Look at the situation as it exists in cities such as Detroit, Pittsburgh or Oakland.  There are facilities lying idle that could be utilized as manufacturing sites that would employ thousands of people.  Somehow I think this would help a helluva lot more than any enforced government giveaway problem. Oh… I forgot… we sent all of our manufacturing jobs to China because it is beneath our dignity of some such thing to do this work.

Alas, it will not be… no money will be forthcoming and the world will witness a display of disrespect such as has never been seen before.  My Teacher told me… “I do not understand you people… you have no respect.  You don’t respect your home… you do not respect one another and, worst of all, you do not even respect yourselves…” and that is tragic!