Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Flags and Idols

I have seen enough vague posts on this Colin Kaepernick character that I had to look up what exactly this person did to get such a response of alternating outrage and support. What can I say I have a diverse set of friends who sit on either side of this and many other trending stories that we will forget about next week. I didn't give the whole thing much thought because it will pass in a weeks time when we have some other person and their actions dividing us, making us feel so strongly we pull back out our soap boxes and start screaming at each other again. It seems to me that we really like to pull out those boxes and climb upon them any chance we get. But then I saw this post shared by a good a friend (I am not tech savvy enough to screen shot it with out the comments) A Steven Michael posted, "I just want to point out I didn't see anyone setting football jerseys on fire when various football players were accused of rape/sexual assault, domestic violence and murder."

I had this thought, after reading that about ten times: well dam! Then all of a sudden I was having a thousand thoughts all at once about this situation that has nothing to do with me.

I want to share some of that with you fine readers:

1. DID YOU READ THAT STATEMENT? Why is it that people are taking to the streets with fire because of someone sitting when some people deemed it inappropriate. WHY doesn't this happen when actual crimes are committed? Most of which by the way have victims that are women. Look even if some guy you will never meet mortally offends you, it is NOT a crime. Please someone tell me you were outraged about rapes, assaults, violence, and murder too? Dam you crickets.

2. I notice that only the actions of black folks during the national anthem get national media coverage. President Obama, Gabby Douglass, and in a different way Colin Kaepernick. Now I need to make a confession, if you haven't noticed I am white, I am a quasi-public figure because of my job and the region I live in. My white self does not place her hand over her heart for the playing of the national anthem. I didn't even know this was a thing until I moved from where I grew up. Over the winter I googled the flag code because this hand over the heart thing blew my mind. The code does suggest hand over the heart but does NOT require it. I have stood with my attention focused on the flag hands at my side for a year and half here. No one has noticed or if they have they haven't said a word and it hasn't been in the newspaper or on the news.

Maybe you are thinking my parents were absolutely terrible people for not teaching me to put my hand over my heart or to stand at a parade when a flag goes by. They weren't actually my dad taught me to not be distracted during the national anthem, to focus on the flag and be respectful. But that was before he got busy dying from complications of a disease he had because of the chemicals he was exposed to in Vietnam as he did his civic duty as a person who was drafted. 

3. Mr. Kaepernick's right to sit during the playing of the national anthem is protected by the constitution. The constitution many of us are touting when we want to make it a point in our own favor. We can't have it both ways the same constitution that allows you to have a gun, free speech etc is the one that gives him the right to sit when you don't want him to.

4. I have noticed the very people who are up in arms about this whole thing, the ones who are most deeply offended by this person's actions are in fact the same people who loathe political correctness. They are the ones quick to say, we need to have thicker skins and buck up and not get offended so easily. I guess that doesn't apply when they are offended. I am telling you offended people what you are feeling right now in this moment when disgusted by this disrespect is exactly what other people feel when you are saying they need a thicker skin. Your being offended is not more important than someone else who is offended by something you do. Think about that, really really think about that.

5. I do not follow football much, but I have bought gifts for people who do. Football jerseys are not cheap last I check and that was at least 10 years ago they ran $80-$150, that is a considerable amount of money. Which makes me want to ask would you burn that cash in the street? I know anger inspires us to do things we might not do otherwise. Yet you have a choice, you could take that money and do good in the world. If you have the privilege of money to burn, you also have the privilege of being able to support the cause of your choice.  If you need inspiration, there isn't a place in this fine country you are quick to demand support for, where a child didn't go to bed hungry last night. One could choose to actually make this nation better, to feed children who can do nothing to get food. Maybe that isn't your thing, I can think of a hundred ways in which good can be done. PEOPLE WE NEED TO DO GOOD!

6. Chances are if it wasn't brought to our attention, none of us would have ever seen or noticed a guy sitting during the national anthem. We didn't happen upon this, our attention was brought to it. We need to think critically about who brought it to our attention and what their motive might be.

7. We are the ones who made athletes public figures and idols.

8. The United States of America is the name of our country, it isn't America. America actually encompass all of North and South America. What we express in the US isn't the only expression of being American. This matters more than we could ever know.

9. The theological implications of this situation are ripe for consideration. Let's explore a few, shall we? Jesus says love your neighbor and love your enemy... guess what that includes Colin Kaepernick. God comes first, always. It is in the Ten Commandments, it is in Jesus teaching in all the gospels. We get in trouble when we have idols (we all have them). The flag and patriotism are certainly idols for many. If the flag gets in the way of your ability to love your neighbor, it is likely an idol. When we do not love our neighbors, we fall short of the greatest commandment, which separates us from God. We all have to work on our idols.

10. Somewhere along the way loving Jesus has become synonymous with being patriotic. This is a problem because God doesn't play favorites. God doesn't love us more because we are the United States. God loves us, but God loves Mexico, Nigeria, Iran, China, Poland too. I am going to tell you something that won't make me popular. I love God and follow Jesus before I am a US citizen. I struggle with pledging allegiance to a flag, not because I believe it isn't worth of respect or that the USA is a bad place, but because my allegiance is to God. Frequently I am confronted with situations where it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that we are worshiping a flag, that it has crossed into idolatry, and that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. My mere naming that discomfort is enough to set people off and bring on the name calling. That's ok I am going to love them.

Today I am grateful for this space to share my thoughts freely. To confront my own discomfort and to have friends who provide a safe space for me.

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