29 September 2016

Secondhand patriotism

Ambassador John Tefft and the "town hall" meeting for U.S. citizens.
Spaso House, Moscow, September 19.

Professional USA football player Colin Kaepernick has been sitting or kneeling during the national anthem ritual at preseason games, explaining that "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color." The management of his football team has defended his free speech rights, but many other Americans have criticized him for his lack of patriotism. Among those who piled on was presidential candidate Trump, who suggested that "maybe he should find a country that works better for him."

Kaepernick responded to Trump a couple of days ago: "He always says make America great again. Well, America has never been great for people of color. And that's something that needs to be addressed. Let’s make America great for the first time."

At first I ignored this whole controversy, since the behavior of well-paid athletes at sporting events has less than zero interest for me. But finally this most recent exchange, including Kaepernick's apt rephrasing of the campaign slogan "Make America great again," drew my attention.

I'm surely not the only one whose memories went back to the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign -- specifically to the controversies around Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright, and Michelle Obama's observation that, because of the political revival her husband's campaign had inspired, "... For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country...."

Each time a prominent black American has compared the country's actual performance with its ideals, based on the actual experience of real people, they face fierce criticism. Have their harshest white critics actually bothered to engage with that comparison of ideals and performance? Are these critics suggesting that Kaepernick, Wright, and Michelle Obama did not actually remember American history correctly? Or did it just not matter?

Maybe some of those critics privately understand the incongruity and nevertheless pretend to be outraged because that outrage has a political payoff. The exception that maybe proves the rule: I remember that Mike Huckabee actually defended Wright ("and I’m gonna be probably the only conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this"), based on a recognition of the racism that Wright endured growing up.

I would hate the blatant cynicism behind such fake outrage, but it's equally galling to put up with militant ignorance. When angry white people sincerely require literally everyone to shut up and join the ritual praise of the country and its flag, what are they afraid of, and why on earth would we pander to that fear? That kind of idolatrous secondhand patriotism betrays the actual values which make the USA (as John Gunther put it) "... a country deliberately founded on a good idea."

A Quaker perspective on Colin Kaepernick ... and Obama to Kaepernick: "Listen to the pain...."

Natalia Antonova's life advice for when the mind is full of scorpions.
I hadn't stabbed a sleeping guest to death in cold blood, nor executed a potential political rival's family and servants, but those were details.
One of Sean Guillory's most interesting interviews: The American mission to save Russia.

A branch library in Chicago becomes a neighborhood lifeline.

Josh Daffern on Albert Mohler, Andy Stanley, and the Bible ... "The heavyweights are at it again." ("Fights like this might only interest denominational geeks like me, but believe me this is a heavyweight fight.")

Gospel/blues from the Kobe-Osaka area where my mom grew up:


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