I’m a little outraged by all the outrage.
One group of people is outraged because an NFL quarterback chose to remain seated during the U.S. national anthem before a game.
“It’s disrespectful!” “If he doesn’t like America, he should get the hell out!” “People died for that flag, man. Honor the troops!”
A separate group is outraged for the very reason San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has decided to protest the national anthem.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
49ers fans posted videos of them burning Kaepernick jerseys to let him know how they felt about his decision.
Some of my friends badmouthed him at my fantasy football draft yesterday.
I don’t know how many of the angry people can accurately explain Kaepernick’s reasoning. I think it’s fair to assume at least some of them jumped to conclusions, and that most if not all of them have never been targets of harassment, racial profiling, or discrimination in any fundamentally dehumanizing ways.
Similarly, I don’t know how many angry Black Lives Matter activists can accurately explain official police procedure for officer-involved shootings, or have ever been in the type of highly stressful, life-threatening situations most law enforcement officers volunteer for to protect innocent people and, by extension, our very way of life through the preservation of civil order.
I think maybe some people just like to scream about things.
‘What’s wrong with the world?’ This. All This Self-Righteous Certainty.
Men often say how exhausting it is for them to have “talks” with their wives or girlfriends. You know—the ones they didn’t initiate. The ones that force us to deal with things like criticism, or questions about certain behaviors, or listening to the women we love tell us how we make them sad and miserable.
We have all kinds of reactions:
Retorting with complaints of our own.
Haughty moral superiority.
“I don’t want to talk about this right now.”
Sometimes we fight because we think it might end the conversation. We often regret that once the anger subsides. We apologize and try to make peace. But nothing gets resolved because we never actually listened to her with focus and intention in any kind of effort to instill personal changes that would solve the problem.
If she decides to bring it up again (which she often won’t simply to avoid the fight, even though it hurts her a lot to do so) sometimes we just get angry all over again. Maybe we accuse her of “always trying to pick a fight!”, or “always finding something new to complain about!”
Having the conversation she wants to have is making us uncomfortable because it forces us to look inward for answers, and ask ourselves hard questions. It forces us to deal with our flaws, it exposes our weaknesses, and brings us face-to-face with our demons.
That’s when we squirm.
The hard truths make us squirm.
The prospect of needing to change makes us squirm.
This is why people are angry about Colin Kaepernick.
This is why people are angry about Black Lives Matter.
This is why people are angry about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson.
This is why people are angry about atheism.
This is why people are angry about God.
This is why people are angry about feminism.
This is why people are angry about Red Pill philosophy.
This is why people are angry about homosexuality.
This is why people are angry about abortion.
Talking about these things makes us uncomfortable. These are the things that make us squirm. It’s because we all have stories that we tell ourselves about each and every one of these things, and it hurts when these core (and sacred-feeling) beliefs are challenged.
EVERYONE has different points of view. And EVERYONE usually has some kernel of Truth—or at minimum, some real-world, first-person experience—at the core of whatever they believe.
We MUST Discuss Uncomfortable Things, Else Nothing Ever Changes
I love the American flag and the national anthem. Americans piss me off constantly. Our federal government is something of a dysfunctional, financially inefficient pool of incompetence. But I love my country, my flag, and our anthem. I have problems with many things in our country. But I will not protest the flag.
But I am WAY more outraged by the people who think Kaepernick exercising his Constitutional right to free expression warrants insulting him, harassing him, or suggesting he’s un-American and should leave the country.
That’s just my opinion. It might be unpopular. Let’s talk about it.
Let me ask you this, Outraged NFL Fan or Outraged American who thinks Kaepernick’s national anthem protest is disrespectful of the men and women who have died protecting the many freedoms we enjoy as American citizens.
Which is the greater crime against patriotism: Kaepernick’s sitting down during the national anthem (a PERSONAL decision he didn’t seek attention for—a media member approached him about it, not the other way around), or the NFL accepting millions in taxpayer dollars to promote “patriotic” displays before and during NFL games?
And here’s another: Which is the greater service to our brave military men and women—standing at attention for the national anthem, or actually getting off of our asses to donate time and money to the tragic problem of what happens to many of our veterans when they return home?
I’m raising my hand on this. I am one of you, and we are many. The people quick to criticize a man not doing the same thing we would do during the national anthem in the name of patriotism, only to turn and look the other way when we hear about the sad state of veterans affairs in the United States.
Because it makes us uncomfortable. It’s easy to scream at Kaepernick.
But it’s HARD to solve real problems.
I love the police. I assume the reason my house isn’t regularly broken into by gunmen who might hurt my son, or why my car isn’t stolen, or why there aren’t more high-speed fatalities in neighborhoods where kids play and people walk dogs is because of the police.
You know what else I love?
People NOT getting shot and killed (especially children) who do not present a deadly threat to police or other people.
Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t we strongly support the police AND respect and honor the feelings of those participating in Black Lives Matter?
White people in suburban neighborhoods around the country never experience or even think about what racial discrimination or oppression looks like. I get it. I’m a white person in a suburban neighborhood who almost never experiences those things either. But how are WE the Arbiters of Truth on issues affecting black communities? We couldn’t be more ignorant about it if we tried.
Millions of black Americans believe police officers have unjustly killed children or their friends or their neighbors or just someone with the same amount of melanin in their bodies.
Worse yet, many believe that the people doing the killing are unfairly enjoying paid leave instead of being scrutinized the same way they or other people they know have been scrutinized by police.
Maybe all of the officer-involved shootings were justified.
Maybe none of them were.
I’m not focused on that (even though they obviously merit our concern). I’m focused on what a shitty job everyone is doing at dealing with it.
Thought Exercise: The Goat-Sex Conundrum
I hope you’ll take this seriously.
Would you prefer to:
- Have sex with a goat, with assurances that no one will ever find out. Or,
- NOT have sex with a goat, but everyone will believe you did, no matter how much you protest or try to convince them otherwise?
Normally, this mental exercise is designed to help you figure out whether you place more value on what you think and feel about yourself, or on what others think and feel about you.
I intend it a slightly different way.
Maybe the Police are a bunch of racist murderers. Or maybe they’re not.
Maybe the Black Lives Matter movement is totally out of line and wrong in their beliefs.
And to either side, I’d say: Does the truth even matter if no one believes it?
Maybe Exchanging Stories and Ideas with People Who DON’T Share our Life Experiences Can Help
We avoid conversations and experiences that make us uncomfortable.
It’s just easier that way.
But I wonder what might happen if every police department in the United States invited community leaders, Black Lives Matter representatives, and everyday citizens to a friendly and public conversation about these issues.
What if law enforcement officials collectively spent more time investing in understanding the day-to-day lives of those who mistrust them? What if BLM officials invested more time in police ride-along programs to get a closer look at what our bravest first responders face?
People (mostly men, I think) scoff at the call for empathy.
They’d rather bitch and moan about whatever new controversy is on TV before getting back to the routine of not paying attention.
The most powerful and healing move we can make in ANY conflict—from international disputes and wars, down to our most personal relationships, is simply to pour energy into understanding what daily life or a specific situation looks like through the prism of another person with sometimes intensely different lenses and filters.
It’s easy to dismiss our relationship partners. They’re being crazy.
It’s easy to dismiss our political opponents. They’re obviously stupid morons.
It’s easy to dismiss people of different faiths. I just want what’s best for them!
It’s easy to dismiss people who make different lifestyle choices. Those people are freaks, and nothing like me!
It’s easy to dismiss people from different cultures. We’re already doing things the best way!
Because NOT dismissing them makes us squirm.
NOT dismissing them makes us explore questions we’d rather not have to answer.
NOT dismissing them forces us to have the uncomfortable conversations we’re all constantly avoiding.
But maybe those are the only ones that actually change things.
I’m With Kaep
It’s easy to criticize Kaepernick. My initial reaction was to do just that.
No matter what your beef is, you should honor the flag! But that’s my personal opinion.
But after hearing what the man had to say?
What do you want from him? To shut up and do things your way?
Is that what you want your wife, and people of different faiths and different lifestyles and different political opinions to do?
We have TWO choices:
- Have a group take over by force, overpowering or enslaving the opposition, and then imposing new laws which everyone must follow. That’s one option.
- The second option is freedom. The second option is acknowledging that everyone gets to be and do and think and feel whatever they want so long as doing so doesn’t restrict those same freedoms of others.
Please let people be themselves. It is the best way I know to be less of an asshole.
And please accept this truth about ANY disagreement discussed with kindness and empathy:
In the end, you’ve either proven how smart you are and helped another person understand your point of view, OR you’ve been properly convinced of a better idea and evolve into a smarter, higher-functioning human being.
It’s the Everybody Wins Strategy.
And it would save the world if we would just let it.