Friday, September 23, 2016

On Flags, Death, & Patriotism



[Captain's Note: You are probably as tired of reading about stuff like this as I am of writing about stuff like this. I will stop when it stops.]

 
A year ago in June, the Captain joined the First Mate and her family for a week-long cruise down the Rhine River, a peaceful respite following a hectic move to a new home port. On the first afternoon on the river, I decided to skip the tour of the Black Forest (cuckoo clocks and dry, sugarless cake – meh!) and stay on board to drink relax.

As I watched pleasure boaters pass by, I noticed one was flying a German flag. Another was flying a French flag.


Along that portion of the Rhine River, where Germany is on the north bank and France is on the south bank – two historic enemies, although currently at peace – the flag you fly might make a difference.

I had never thought much about flags before, having grown up in America, where we have long been at peace with our neighbors to the north and the south.

And in all probability it will remain that way unless Donald Trump (OMFG!) gets an opportunity to build his Wall!

"Mexico will not pay for Trump's f***ing wall!"
Frankly, it seems kind of pointless to get excited about flying a national flag in the heartland of America. In fact, even state flags have little bearing on daily life here, as we are free to travel from state to state without documentation or harassment.

Probably the only flag that would raise an eyebrow around here would be a University of Kentucky flag crossing over into University of Tennessee territory!


And here in the heartland of America, my patriotism has never been an issue.

Although I was called out once for driving a Volkswagen.

“Here in the Heartland, most folks drive a ‘Merican car!”

But that was from a shade-tree-mechanic who admittedly didn’t know how to work on a Volkswagen.

I am an American. My family has lived here for more than 10 generations. I don’t feel the need to fly a flag to prove anything.

Although sometimes the Captain does, on occasion, fly the Jolly Roger!


But I have never really been what some would call “patriotic”. I love living in America. I vote. I pay my taxes without complaint. I obey the laws… mostly. Yet every nation has its flaws – even the United States of America. I readily admit that.

Besides, as a teenager I “pledged’ my “allegiance” to the Kingdom of God. I will not divide that allegiance.

So when, in high school, we were asked to stand and pledge our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, I remained seated.

In those days, no one questioned my actions. No one called me names. No one offered to help me pack my bags and move to another country.

Captain’s Note: For what it’s worth, I now stand respectfully as others recite the Pledge and I stand with my hat in hand as our National Anthem is played. But then again, I stand respectfully as the nation anthem of other nations is played too, like at hockey games.

But I do not participate.

So it doesn’t disturb the Captain that Colin Kaepernick has chosen to not stand for the National Anthem prior to a football game. He has his reasons. And he has that right.


Not surprisingly, others who understand and appreciate his protest are joining him.

This week a local television station reported that an entire high school football team in Washington decided they would kneel together (rather than stand) during the National Anthem. They had discussed why Kaepernick was doing it and chose to join the protest.


A firestorm of controversy followed. The issue was brought to my attention when a friend argued on Facebook, “Founding fathers never mentioned 'take a knee on the SSB' in first amendment. This is a distorted view of that document. Is a disgrace to the country where they were fortunate enough to be born. Serves no purpose.” [sic]

What the Captain wanted to respond with was a brief history lesson for my friend: The “Star Spangled Banner” was written during the War of 1812 and not adopted as our national anthem until 1931. So, no, the Founding Fathers never mentioned it. At all.


But I didn’t go there. I went here instead.

Knowing my friend’s dislike for our President, I wrote: “This is no more disrespectful than all those who have vocally and repeatedly disrespected the duly elected (twice!) President of the United States these past eight years. The flag, the Constitution, the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, AND our elected officials ALL represent this great democracy. When you disrespect one, you disrespect them all and make our nation just a little less ‘great’.”

"That's 'President Obama' to you!"
The Captain completely gets Kaepernick’s protest. It’s not about a national anthem. It’s about a nation that has turned a blind eye while young black men are being gunned down in the streets by police officers, or pulled over for “DWB” [*Driving While Black]. It’s about eight years of unfounded lies and hatred directed toward our first dark-skinned President simply because of the shade of his skin. It’s about long-submerged racism breaking loose and bubbling to the surface of the septic tank that is the Trump (OMFG!) campaign. It is about “liberty and justice for all” – and actually for ALL – just like it says in the much-revered Pledge of Allegiance.



Captain's Note: The above image, by the way, is disrespectful. It is inappropriate to write on or superimpose images upon the American flag, not matter one's intent.
 
Kaepernick’s growing protest gained traction last week when Terence Crutcher was shot by police in Tulsa. Earlier this week, Keith Lamont Scott was shot by police in Charlotte. I don’t pretend to know all the details of these shootings – news reports of both incidents have been intentionally conflicting and murky.

But the Captain grows suspicious when the police immediately release the victim’s previous history of run-ins with the police.

It doesn’t matter to me if the suspect had drugs in his vehicle.

There is no death penalty punishment anywhere in the United States for simple drug possession.

It doesn’t matter to me if the suspect had a past history of arrests.

Our laws state that we are all innocent until proven guilty.


By a jury of our peers.

Despite the arguments of some, even failure to comply with a police officer’s commands is not a capital offense!

And it doesn’t matter to me if it was a white cop or a black cop involved in the shooting. We have got to find better ways to de-escalate a tense situation, non-lethal ways.  

Unfortunately, there is a misperception in our society that black men are naturally dangerous. We are afraid of them, both citizens and police alike.

Just listen to the officer in the helicopter describe Crutcher from his vantage point high above the scene:

“That looks like a bad dude too. Probably on something.”

Really? You can tell that from a helicopter?

Or did you make that judgment based on the fact that he was a black man?

As Crutcher’s twin sister pointed out, that “big bad dude” was a father of four, was studying music appreciation at a local community college, and sang in his church choir.

Maybe he was high on something. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Toxicology reports will answer that question shortly.

But I do know that being a black man does not automatically make a person a “bad guy”.

And wearing a badge does not give a police officer the right to become “judge, jury, and executioner”. Quite the opposite, it gives her/him the responsibility to “protect and defend” ...even the “bad dudes”.

So when people say Kaepernick et al. should stop these protests or should find some other way of protesting (other than during the National Anthem), what the Captain hears is, “We don’t want to acknowledge the reality of nor responsibility for the racism that is so pervasive in our lives and in our nation today.”

They say, “Go protest somewhere that we won’t be bothered by it.”


But then, that’s not really a protest, is it?


Of course, the Captain wonders: Is all the noise really about our National Anthem? The Flag? Patriotism? Not that I can tell.


Anecdotal Evidence #1: While living in Memphis, we discovered the local Boy Scouts were erecting full-sized flags on people’s lawns on patriotic holiday weekends, for a set price.

Nothing says “God Bless America” like making a buck off our national emblem!

Unfortunately, contrary to modern flag etiquette, they left the flags up overnight without illumination. Flag etiquette dictates that flags flown overnight must be illuminated.

And while modern etiquette says it’s okay to fly a nylon “all-weather” flag in the rain, the Captain still thinks it’s disrespectful.


Anecdotal Evidence #2: In two communities in which I have lived, local realtors have places small plastic flags around neighborhoods on “patriotic” occasions. It doesn’t seem to matter that the stick/poles are not long enough to keep the flags from touching the ground, which is considered disrespectful.

Furthermore, with total disregard to modern flag etiquette, they staple their calling cards to the poles. Totally disrespectful.

And lastly, when the holiday is over, they do not retrieve the flags they stuck in yards unsolicited, leaving the homeowner to pick up and properly (or not) discard the “made in China” symbols of our nation.

The Captain will not be buying a house from you, Mrs. Unpatriotic Realtor!

Captain’s Note: Did you know that a large percent of our American flags are made by forced labor in sweatshops in China? God bless America Capitalism!

Anecdotal Evidence #3: I came across a sports show the other day on which the broadcaster was discussing the Kaepernick controversy. To demonstrate his point, he played a video clip of a recent game, scanning the sidelines: showing several black athletes kneeling instead of standing, others standing but without their hands over their hearts. The camera then focused in on one athlete with his clenched fist raised “defiantly” in the air.

After a moment, the clip stopped and the broadcaster continued.

But wait. Two things here. 1) As the National Anthem played, the white guy broadcaster in the studio did not stand or place hand over heart. Disrespectful. 2) The video clip stopped mid-anthem. According to modern etiquette, once the National Anthem has begun, it must be played to completion. Disrespectful.

Or just ignorant…

Yes, the Captain has read the rules!

But again, I don’t believe this has anything to do with flags or national anthems. The Captain suspects that if Kaepernick was taking a knee for any issues that white folks support, there would be no argument. But because he is a black man pointing out the personal and systemic racism in our nation, we are offended.

It's time to be honest with ourselves, America. This is not really about the National Anthem or the flag, is it?

This is disrespectful, but no one complains.
This is disrespectful too.

This is disrespectful.

So is this, but no one complains...
Of course it's not.

Now let’s stop all the posturing and deal with the issue of racism... the real problem.