Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Kaepernick--What goes around

There are three basic questions that surround the Colin Kaepernick et al's decision to kneel, instead of stand, for the national anthem before athletic contests.  It is interesting to me, someone who was in college during the height of the student activism of the late 60s and early 70s, that this precise issue--for related causes--was prominent then.

The questions:

Does he have a right to do this?

Does the action promote Kaepernick's cause?

Is there a legitimate cause that is worthy of this protest?

Does he have a right to do this?  Yes, of course. In this country one has a right to exercise free speech as long as the activity does not directly jeopardize others.  There is an irony of course in protesting a government that allows you to protest when such allowances are not granted in other countries that manufacture reasons to protest that are far more compelling. Nevertheless, the answer to the question is a strong yes.

Does the action promote the cause?  This is not as easy to answer.  There is already an awareness of injustice among many and for this population the action is more complementary than inherently persuasive.  However, protests like Kaepernick's may ignite embers that are relatively dormant. If this occurs the protests do promote the cause.  The protests may even sway some who have been made aware of the alleged injustices because of how the spotlight shines on the protestors.

However, the actions can also have a polarizing and counterproductive effect.  Instead of making all aware of injustices it may create or highlight tensions that exist between ethnic groups. The result is less kumbaya and more animosity.  The American flag is important to many so to not honor it is to inflame emotions of some people. They will become less likely to support those who have been victimized because of prejudices.

Is there a legitimate cause that is worthy of this protest?  Strong yes and strong no which is, admittedly equivocal.  Yet the answer makes sense.

Yes, there are government representatives who are prejudiced to the extent that they take actions against some populations when they would cut slack to others.  Absolutely, positively.  This is against every principle of an allegedly egalitarian society. It is reprehensible so shouting loud and clear about the offense is called for. So, the answer is a strong yes.

But the strong no is equally loud.  It is tough to be a cop.  And by gesturing as they have the protestors implicitly criticize all police officers who have an extremely difficult job. It is an insult to the hard workers who are working to protect us all.  When I grew up a guy on the first floor was a police officer.  His son was a good friend of mine.  The idea that Eddie, the dad, was anything other than a hard working person trying to do his job was absurd.  So, when I personalize the protests it does not sit well with me. I imagine Eddie watching Kaepernick kneeling and how this would anger him.  And how justified he would be to become angry.  It is absolutely wrong to stain the entire police force for the actions of some.  The next time you are burglarized or beaten, you are going to want a cop to track down the perpetrator.  How would you expect her or him to address your concerns if you had been sending the message that all cops were nogoodniks?

In the 60s it was common to hear the revolutionaries refer to police as pigs.  I remember my dad being furious at this.  Always telling me how unfair it must be to a guy like Eddie--a hardworking cop, a black cop in a white 1950s police force, in a city that was not Mayberry, who walked a beat daily-- to have to hear that nonsense.  Is it that much different now.  How would you feel if you were a hardworking cop?

In sum,

Does Kaepernick have the right. Absolutely positively.
Do I think he should have done it in the first place? you could make a good case. There have been prejudicial police behaviors.
Do I think he should continue to do this? I think at this point the negatives outweigh the positives as it has become a polarizing issue.
 Is his cause legitimate? Strong yes and strong no.

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