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Posts Tagged ‘protest’

The proverbial “We” or “Us” (i.e. people who share our values/worldview) have a tendency to put our hate in a different category than the hate spread by the proverbial “Them” (i.e. people who don’t share our values/worldview). We see “Them” as haters, and view their hate as toxic. While we consider our brand of hate as being justified, and maybe even virtuous. Whether it is a hatred of Donald Trump, or Nancy Pelosi, of religion, or godlessness, of Socialism, or Capitalism, of Conservatives or Liberals or any one of the million other things we choose to hate, it all mixes together to create the same poisonous atmosphere. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. We won’t get better as a society by continuing to berate, mock, taunt, protest, boycott, slander, threaten and attack each other. As Dr. King rightly concluded, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”   

 

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The United States is a country that was arguably birthed in protest; as English settlers in the colonies challenged the King’s right to tax them without proper representation.  As such, the founding fathers ensured that our right to protest was guaranteed by the constitution, and throughout our history there have been many notable periods of protest; some of which have ultimately spurred on social change.  But I believe that there are limits to what a protest can achieve.  While it can provide a voice to a group who isn’t being heard, or shed light on a situation that people aren’t aware of, or change the tone of the dialogue around an issue; in and of itself, it doesn’t solve problems.  At best, it creates an impetus to address an issue.  But simply pointing out problems is a lot easier than fixing them, and at some point we need to transition from the simplicity of protesting to the complexity of problem solving.

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As I’ve listened to the uproar surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Collin Kaepernick’s decision to sit out the national anthem, in protest of the “country’s” treatment of people of color, I’ve found it hard to relate to much of the dialogue.  While I wholeheartedly agree that he is within his rights as an American to make such a stand, I’m utterly baffled by the notion that he’s “shedding light on an important topic”.  The issues of race relations, the use of force by police, the “Black Lives Matter” movement… were already at the forefront of our national consciousness.  His protest hasn’t shed light on some new aspect of this issue, and it certainly has no potential for bringing us closer to a resolution.  Truthfully, it has simply inflamed and re-polarized the factions involved.  Haven’t we already resolved the fact that gunning down cops in retaliation for illegal police shootings isn’t the answer.  If so, then how is the disrespect that Kaepernick feels the “country” shows toward black people going to be changed by disrespecting the symbol of our country’s freedom.  As my parents always said, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Some rationalize that at least he’s got people talking, but I would submit that instead of talking about the issue he purportedly cares so deeply about, they’re talking about him, and the appropriate bounds of protest.  If anything, it has detracted from the dialogue surrounding race relations.

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Another problem with his stand lies in the target of his protest.  He says he’s protesting this “country’s” treatment of African Americans, but who is he really referring to.  When he says “country” is he talking about the government of this country, the police in this country, the white police in this country, the white people in this country, the white racist people in this country…  If the aim of a protest is to affect change, then who are we actually talking about, and what has to happen for the protest to result in some sort of worthwhile action?

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I agree with Collin Kaepernick that black lives do matter, and that there is a very real problem that needs to be addressed.  I believe that there are a multitude of people who are genuinely trying to move from the protest phase to the problem solving phase; which is a longer and more difficult process.  From my perspective, re-stoking the flames of rhetoric only sets us back.  The time for antagonistic gestures is past, it’s time to work on viable alternatives.

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As for Kaepernick, if he doesn’t start playing better, he may have to move to Canada or Europe to continue his football career.  Unfortunately, he’ll find that they have racism there too, but at least he won’t have to worry about them playing our national anthem.

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