[As recorded for the Final Straw Radio Show on the Channel Zero Network]
I can remember 15 years ago or so, before the invasion of Iraq, there was a young girl who played for her high school basketball team and during the playing of the national anthem, she turned her back. I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I think she took a lot of flak for her protest and maybe even faced suspension from school.
More recently, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has taken a knee during the national anthem– a protest not quite as radical as turning one’s back. The NFL hasn’t overtly sanctioned Kaepernick, but he’s no longer a starting quarterback even though his quarterback rating is higher than a few current starters. So, it is easy to think that Kaepernick’s marginalization is related to his protest.
Taking a knee during the anthem has now spread to other teams and other sports, and provoked the Twitter-in-Chief to attack the protests as unpatriotic. Of course, that only caused even more widespread protest during the national anthem.
In the debate since then, critics of the protests have said that the national anthem is not the proper forum for protest, that NFL players and others ought to take a knee before the anthem, or after the anthem, or choose some other forum. Others agree with the buffoon in the White House that protests during the anthem are unpatriotic.
So, let’s unpack some of this.
First, the idea that protesters should protest at some other time or forum: If Colin Kaepernick had taken a knee in the parking lot or had taken a knee after the anthem, do you think anyone would have noticed? Exactly. The point of public protest is to gain public attention, so expecting protestors to protest only in ways that do not gain public attention– and to forego protests that get massive amounts of public attention –makes about as much sense as expecting kids at a pizza party to opt for broccoli. Not gonna happen.
Second, the idea that protests are unpatriotic: I seem to recall some famous dead guy once said that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. What debt of patriotism do we owe to a nation or to a government that has so little regard for us?
On a regular basis, we see agents of this government system gunning down black people like it’s a video game. I think it’s more than a little bit irrational to expect these folks who are in the cross-hairs of this trigger-happy death-machine to continue pledging their unconditional allegiance. That just makes no sense.
This expectation of patriotism is really pathological. To me, this is like abusive parents who put out cigarettes on their kids’ arms expecting those same brutalized kids to unconditionally love those abusive parents. That seems to me to be an infantile sense of entitlement, this expectation that we should act like we love someone or something that doesn’t act like it loves us back. Somehow, an abusive parent or neglectful government is entitled to our allegiance, no matter how much either of them do not live up to their responsibilities to us? I don’t think so.
To maintain dedication to someone or something that is not dedicated to you is unhealthy. It’s more than dysfunctional– it’s self-hating. When we continue to sacrifice our happiness for the abusive parent or when we continue to seek the approval of a neglectful government, we are participating in pathological self-harm.
In the case of non-whites in the United States, patriotism is suicide. For non-whites, pledging unconditional allegiance to this nation and its governmental system is to give a personal stamp of approval to the systematic slaughter of their own loved-ones. Even symbolic consent like standing for the national anthem is participating in public ceremony for a system engaged in crimes against humanity– in crimes against one’s own family and friends and community.
A long time ago, Henry David Thoreau refused to pay his taxes in protest of slavery and the U.S. provoking the Mexican/American War. He went to jail. His good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson came to visit, smiled a rueful smile through the bars at his friend, and, being funny, asked, “What are you doing in there, Henry?”
But Henry David Thoreau, convinced as he was of the rightness of his cause, responded, “No, Ralph. The question is, what are you doing out there?”
So, to borrow from Thoreau, I think the question that confronts us is not how those taking a knee could be so unpatriotic; I think the question is, how can anyone, seeing what’s really going down, still remain standing? The question isn’t what’s wrong with those taking a knee; the question is, what’s wrong with those who are not?
All that evil needs in order to prevail is for good people to remain standing.
This is Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain from Warren Corruptional in Lebanon, Ohio. If you’re taking a knee during the national anthem, you ARE the resistance…
Categories: Sean Swain