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Taking a Knee

Our country’s flag is a symbol of the country itself. Our national anthem is a method of paying homage to the country through music and stirring words.

The United States of America is a society and culture  that has changed and will change over time. As citizens of the United States we may support or disagree with the policies, the laws and the behavior of our fellow citizens or the behavior of our country as a unit (e.g. it’s participation in a treaty or in a war). If we disagree enough, either with a particular policy or national behavior, or with a large number of them, we may choose to show our disagreement by indicating that we no longer respect what our country is doing. This can be shown by refusing to stand for the presentation of the flag or the singing of the national anthem.

During the Vietnam War, in which I opposed American participation, I remember watching flag burnings and thinking that this was a legitimate way of showing opposition to a policy of our country that was wrong, although I would not have burnt a flag myself, partly because such behaviors were too often interpreted as hating our country, which I did not. It never occurred to me not to stand or sing the national anthem, as I always felt that its words represented  an affection I felt for my country, despite my despair at the way it was conducting itself. However, if someone had suggested that I not stand for the anthem because the country was not living up to what the words stood for, I am sure I would have agreed and sat. I always believed that America, in its very heart, was better than what its policies at that time led it to do and sitting for the anthem would have been a way to express that belief.

For some reason people talk about “disrespecting the flag” as if the flag itself is something sacred, as opposed to it being a symbol.  The country that it symbolizes is a fluid entity, its identity based on how its people and government conduct themselves at any particular time. We salute our flag because of what it represents, not because the cloth itself is sacred. Some have said that the flag or the anthem represent respect for our men and women in the military, which has never been what either the flag or anthem stood for, as they symbolize something much broader—our freedoms and ethics and cultural beliefs—that goes well beyond our military actions or the behavior of our soldiers. Our status as a beacon of freedom rests on our constitution and our values. These are sometimes protected by our military, but they are not synonymous with our military. Current protests involving the flag or the anthem have nothing to do with our military or the men and women who serve in it.  In modern times, while the U.S. has many laudable features, it is failing to protect people of color from discrimination, economic inequality and assault by law enforcement. The guarantees of freedom and equality that our part of our country and are what our flag and anthem symbolize, are not available for a segment of our population. A legitimate way to, peacefully, show one’s despair and opposition to these failures of our country is to sit or kneel during the playing of our anthem or the presentation of our flag. Those who engage in such actions are demonstrating their belief in our country  and their faith that it can do better.

Casey Dorman, Editor Lost Coast Review

Author of the political novel, 2020, available on Amazon.

Reader Comments (4)

We're in agreement on this issue, Casey. I remember going to a movie theater in a reactionary little suburb of Detroit in the early seventies, after the murder of students at Kent and Jackson State. Whoever ran the theater thought it appropriate to play the national anthem and project a picture of the flag on the screen before the movie. Both Anthony and I sat through it. We were offended by the hypocrisy of the anthem being played in a movie theater and the idea that one should be forced to stand, at a time when Nixon and his policies were causing the toppling of a legitimate government in Laos and eventually a genocide in that country. I don't for a moment regret our protest, which earned us insults and dirty looks from a number of audience members.

September 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnca Vlasopolos

The problems as delineated here which are seemingly motivating people to protest the flag or anthem are basic leftist talking points with very little fact to back them. Economic inequality has much less to do with such incidentals as skin color, gender or sexual orientation and much more to do with basic life decisions and lifestyle preferences. As many learned people have noted, you will not be permanently poor in this country if you do three simple things: Finish high school, get a job and not have children before marriage. That's the best equation for anyone interested in breaking a cycle of poverty, regardless of the aforementioned incidentals over which we have little or no control.

Department of Justice statistics show that black and brown people are LESS likely to be killed in similar encounters with police when compared to their white counterparts. It's simply that the liberal media has a voracious appetite for portraying people of color as ongoing victims in a mythical war between they and the police. If you're willing to critically examine the federal crime statistics, any rational person will conclude that this portrayal of police as executioners of black people is the most insidious sort of propaganda. Basically, the statistics show that no matter who you are, if you aggressively resist arrest or threaten an officer's life in any way, you've got a good chance of being killed. I'm not sure why anybody has a problem with that dynamic. It's a pretty straightforward calculation.

There are certainly situations where officers make bad calls and a suspect is unjustly killed, but they are very, very rare. I've examined the video of at least five hundred officer-involved shootings and I've only seen three or four police shootings that are unquestionably unjustified. I think the police are oftentimes far too restrained in their use of force. i.e.- they are taking too great a risk at times trying to reason with people who have already shown themselves to be a serious risk to officer safety and officer's lives. So, the foundational concepts that many people are using to justify kneeling during the national anthem or ignoring the flag, are fabricated, unsupported contentions not backed-up by fact.

As far as discrimination goes, I see people discriminated much more on their quality of character than on their inherent physical attributes. I work with and for about ten thousand at-risk individuals at any given time. There is rarely a complaint about discrimination based on skin color, gender or sexual orientation. I will admit that bariatric people have it rough in terms of getting a fair shake in our current culture. That being said, there is a great deal of positive discrimination that I do encounter on a regular basis. If you're a decent person of good character, you will generally receive more benefit than an indecent person of low character. I think that's a form of discrimination that most people practice and accept.

September 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

Mark: I’m not sure where you are getting your data. The following data support and were used to support the assertions regarding inequality in the commentary above.

With regard to economic inequality:
Black families in America earn just $57.30 for every $100 in income earned by white families, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. For every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04. (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps.html ).
With regard to your assertion that “you will not be permanently poor in this country if you do three simple things: Finish high school, get a job and not have children before marriage,” the 2010 U.S. Census data and the 2015 supplement to it indicate that even when Blacks earn college degrees and become middle-class workers, they earn 20% less than their white work colleagues. (Americans Misperceive Racial Inequality. M. Kraus, J. Rucker and J. Richeson, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 26, 2017, vol. 114 no. 39. 10324–10331).

With regard to your assertion that “Department of Justice statistics show that black and brown people are LESS likely to be killed in similar encounters with police when compared to their white counterparts,” the data you are probably thinking of are those which indicate that, among arrest-related deaths, 42% are whites, 32% Blacks, and 20% Hispanic. However, as the Department of Justice has explained and population statistics from the U.S. Census demonstrate, non-Hispanic whites make up 61.3% of the U.S. population, Blacks make up 13.3% and Hispanics 17.8%. As numerous studies and media sources have pointed out, that means that whites are underrepresented in arrest related deaths by 19.7%; Blacks are overrepresented by 18.7% and Hispanics are overrepresented by 2.2%. (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2011 https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=2228). The most common reason for police encountering a citizen is a traffic stop and traffic stops account for a similar percentage of deaths for each race, however Blacks are more likely to be stopped in the first place, raising their likelhihood of arrest -related deaths for traffic stops. (BJS statistics: Traffic stops https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=702)

With regard to health issues, perhaps the most salient statistic is, for people in the US, the average life expectancy in 2013 was 79.1 years, while
the average life expectancy of black men and women in the United States was just 75.5 years (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf ).

These are all statistics provided by the government and scientific sources, not left-leaning publications, and they fully support the argument being made by Black athletes who kneel to protest discrimination against their race in the U.S.

September 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Dorman

With regard to earning less money when examining any person or group, you need to ask how is that person or group choosing to make money when compared to others. Do they go into high paying professions like law, economics, medicine or STEM or are they gravitating toward lower paying degrees/careers like elementary education, social services or social sciences? Again, it's about choices, not inherent inequity. A broad-based "add it all up and divide by the number of people" does very little to account for individual choices and how that affects income and thus the ensuing ability to pass on wealth. My brother and sister each make ten times more money per year than I do, not because they have some advantage over me in they way they look, but because they chose a different path than me. They went into business and finance, I chose social work. I fully accept and understand that my inclinations, my choices led me into a lesser paying field. So, if any person or group gravitates toward the lesser paying degrees/careers, lower income would be a natural consequence of those choices.

When assessing crime statistics, looking at a flat comparison by societal breakdown of race is interesting I suppose, but non-productive. You need to look at the likelihood a person will have an encounter with the police based on their actions, not simply on their population percentage as a whole. Just as men are imprisoned at nearly a 10:1 rate as compared to women, (not because there is a bias against men but because they commit more crime) black and Hispanic men are over-represented in crime statistics because they commit more crimes. I think the reasons behind this are eminently worthy to explore, but the core fact remains true. Bad choices and illegal behavior ultimately get people put in jail, irrespective of incidental factors, and in accurate proportion to the rate in which that person or group commits crimes. So if a person or group of people are getting stopped more frequently for speeding, it's because they're speeding more frequently. I get stopped for driving violations more often than my wife because I commit more driving infractions, not because I'm a man and she's a woman or not because she's ethnically Jewish and I'm of Western European ethnicity. Those factors are irrelevant. It's the driving habits, not the person's gender or skin color which causes the police interaction. In general, people who don't break laws have a very low interaction rate with police.

With regard to life expectancy, why are Asian-Americans and Hispanic Americans living longer than white or black Americans? As a matter of fact, why are Asian-Americans so successful in terms or education, earnings, low criminality, life expectancy, wealth accumulation, low divorce rate and just about every other measure of success we can come up with? It has nothing to do with skin color, eyes shape, hair texture or shoe size and everything to do with the choices and behaviors they are engaged in, as it does for any individual or group you care to look at.

October 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

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