I actually didn't need to write a column for Monday. A vacation day, in theory. But my column on the Ivan Albright show came together quickly and I realized I could write another and say something about the flag and the protest without cutting into my holiday weekend.
I'm glad I did. Lots of reaction to my Memorial Day column, from people who loved it, to those who cancelled their subscription. So much reaction that I began to categorize it. Three types: praise, insult and argument. Of the three, the argument is the smallest group—takes effort—and the most interesting, because a few readers people made various points I hadn't thought of or had under-appreciated. The email I found most persuasive are those who said, in essence: We watch sports to relax. We don't want our societal problems shoved under our noses. We want a beer instead.
That was summed up best by this, from a Chicago firefighter. I've added paragraph breaks for readability.
I enjoyed your article. This entire situation is controversial and divisive. One thing I’ve asked and never gotten a satisfactory answer on is regarding the timing of the protests. I’m a firefighter in Englewood so I’ve seen my share of society’s problems and injustices up close.
What if, while in uniform, I decided that instead of doing what my job required I would take a knee in protest. What would happen? Would I be considered a person exercising their 1st amendment rights or a person not adhering to requirements of my employment?
I don’t have to be a firefighter. If I don’t like the rules the fire department imposes while I’m in uniform, or out of uniform for that matter, I can resign and pursue a different employment.
As for my question above, my opinion is that while I’m in uniform, being paid for my performance in that uniform I am required to adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the fire department. If I want to advance any agenda or set of beliefs on my days off, or my own time I am afforded that opportunity and it should not be infringed on. I believe the same is true in the NFL. I applaud the players wanting to use there social status as a means to improve society as a whole. Just do it on their own time. Not when 55,000 people paid to see them perform in that uniform.
It’s no different to me than a music artist preaching during their performance. I don’t want to hear it, I paid to hear you sing, dance, act. People go to sporting events, concerts, etc. to escape life’s difficulties if just for a few hours not to be reminded of how bad things really are! If I wanted that, I’d watch the news. So I ask again, does the timing of these protests really help social injustice or is it just self centered performers with a look at me complex? I don’t think we’ll ever truly know. I do know one thing however. If I went through with my scenario above about not doing my job and protesting instead I would be disciplined. Severely. And rightly so. When you put on a uniform to go to work whether you’re a UPS driver, police officer, flight attendant, or even a football player you are agreeing to act in a manner that is decided upon by your employer. Perhaps the most important uniform is that of Military members.
On this Memorial Day, as we honor those that gave their life for our freedoms, people who wore that uniform until the end, maybe we should re-examine whether one day a year is enough for their sacrifice. Maybe, we as a society need to reminded before sporting events and other venues where people gather to forget about life’s realities for a while about the sacrifices that were made to allow us to live as we do. Maybe standing in a respectful manner for a two minute patriotic song is exactly what this country needs. Being told to rise, kindly remove all caps, and pay attention as we honor America with the singing of our National Anthem is not forced patriotism, it’s respect that has been bought and paid for by every single person who has worked to make this country the place it is today. The fact that so many don’t see that is the real problem.
I could poke a few holes in this—sports events are to have fun and forget life's harsh realities, when it comes to protest, but also a time to honor the courageous fallen. Which is it? My understanding is that these patriotic displays originated during wartime, as an attempt by professional franchises to deflect the question, "Why aren't these strapping young men fighting?" Seems the public bought the hype all too well, as it often does.
But I don't want to re-argue the point. I suppose I would add that going to a knee during the national anthem is a very quiet and under-stated kind of protest, and it seems the protesters are being blamed for the over-reaction of the people doing the blaming, for the way their protest was seized and twisted and made into a political football by the president and his ilk. But we can have this discussion another day, and no doubt will. Thanks everybody for writing in. Well, almost everybody...