Take a deep breath…

Take a deep breath…

…now take another, and another. Try to slow your heartbeat a bit and bring your blood pressure down. Have you done that? Good. The added oxygen and relaxing of your emotions may allow you to think more clearly for a minute.

I love watching illusionists. They have the uncanny ability to make us suspend our own reality for a moment and believe in magic again, like when we were kids. Unfortunately, the role of illusionist is mostly played by our government and our media.
Racism is an issue, there is no denying that. But instead of having the conversation about racism and determining a path forward that leads to liberty and justice for all, our political leaders and the media pull a rabbit out of their collective hats.

The debate about confederate flags and monuments was not really about the flags and the monuments. The issue is racism, but we debate about whether or not to keep the flags flying or to take them down. And then race, or gun control, or whatever the real issue is, gets all of the oxygen sucked away from it and we forget about it because something else has taken our attention and abracadabra we have forgotten the true issues that plague us and weigh us down because we have focused on the wrong thing.
NFL athletes who #takeaknee are doing so for a reason, but not the reason that we are being led to believe.

The issue is police brutality and how many unarmed black people are being shot by police. Colin Kaepernick took a knee in protest of this issue and others have followed his example.
But police brutality and the murder of black bodies is only mentioned in passing (if it is mentioned at all). Instead, the narrative being told by the media and the powers that be is that players who “take a knee” are somehow disrespecting our troops and that is simply untrue.
I am learning that the flag of the United States of America means different things to different people. To some it is a symbol of the military, to others, it is a symbol of the government, and to some, it is a symbol of us, collectively, as a nation.

Of all the things that we have been done to the flag in the past, it begins burned, or smeared with feces, or spit upon these athletes choose to take a knee. They are not flipping the flag the bird, they are not shouting loudly or making a dramatic display. They are simply, quietly, and peacefully making a protest. Not against the military but against the reality that this country, represented by our flag, is not living up to its pledge.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, (under God), indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Now we can talk about the whole “allegiance to the flag and the republic thing” at another time. But the one nation stuff, the indivisible stuff, and the liberty and justice stuff, is what we need to focus on. That, I think, is what is at the heart of the protest.

The flag and the republic make the claim that as long as we are under that flag we are one nation, that cannot be divided, and that liberty and justice are for everyone. Those are some ideas I can get behind.
As a white man, I am privileged. My liberty is not under attack and if I needed justice of some type or another I am pretty sure I would get it. But there are whole sections of the population who are less free than I am and who are longing for justice.

But Black Americans, Islamic Americans, Hispanic Americans, and others are constantly getting the short end of the stick. Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, Colin Kaepernick and other NFL athletes make more money in a year than I will ever see in my lifetime. But the money isn’t the point, justice is the point, equality is the point, freedom is the point.

If the flag is supposed to stand for those things and there are American citizens who are being overlooked or kept from experiencing that same freedom and justice then the flag isn’t doing its job. And it can’t-do its job because we are too busy talking about how disrespectful taking a knee is or trying to tell the oppressed around us how they should protest more appropriately. You know, like at night time, in the middle of a field, preferably with that field being in the middle of nowhere so that those of us with the power and the privilege don’t have to see it. Or you know hold a press conference and talk about it because then I can change the channel like I do when Sarah McLachlan starts singing for the abused animals.

Friends. Can I call you friends if you have somehow stumbled onto my ramblings? Sure, I think that will work. Friends (especially the white ones), we do not get to dictate the terms of protest when it is largely ourselves that are being protested against. We perpetuate the system because the injustice doesn’t touch most of us.

This post is getting rather long and I have a sermon to write so this is my point. Don’t believe the political and media magicians who are trying to convince us that it is about disrespecting the flag or the troops, it’s not. It is about injustice and police brutality and the systems refusal to acknowledge its own faults no matter how glaring they may be.
I have a feeling that if old glory had legs, and saw the state of our country, the flag would take a knee as well. Because the ideals for which it stands are not available to all. And as Emma Lazarus said, “until we are all of us free, we are none of us free.”

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