Kneeling, standing, hand over heart...or not...all of this hullabaloo over NFL players deciding to kneel in protest during the playing of the National Anthem, as well as President Trump's bellicose rhetoric has dominated the news this past couple of weeks.
What does it all mean? Why is everyone all fired up? Where does one draw a line?
It seems to me that there is more here than meets the eye. We 21st century humans live complex lives in simplified form. We like our sound bites and news snippets in an ever changing world, but we don't want to push ourselves too much to analyze what lies beneath the surface. If it can't be stated in a pithy phrase or a short meme, then we can't grab hold of a concept. "You're fired!", "Stand for the flag, kneel at the cross", "Black Lives Matter"...all are catch phrases which do nothing to help us better understand an issue.
Social media is lit up with angry posts, volatile statements, and FB photo frames on both sides of this contentious issue. But you know what cracks me up? We all seem to have forgotten the Bill of Rights! (And no, it is NOT the Constitution that grants freedom of speech and assembly, for those who never studied US government but continue in this argument to point toward the Constitution as granting them rights. The very need to outline these rights was why the Bill of Rights was created, but I digress...)
In other words, to simplify it, we all have the right to our own opinion and to express it. What is wrong is trying to stifle the rights of other countrymen and women from sharing their opinion. Period.
All of it is allowed!! There is nothing that can or should be done to stop it, regardless of the perspective expressed. This is what makes America what it is. You can have any opinion you choose AND you get to share it with all who care to listen. You can act on it as long as no harm comes to others. In fact, many would add that it is literally our duty to stand up...or kneel, as the case may be...when we feel a need to bring about change in our nation or bring attention to an issue we find important.
But you know what it all stems from? Love.
Now wait a minute, all of this is about love?!?! Aren't these hateful things being said? Isn't there a loathing being expressed? Sure, on the surface in a 30 second sound bite, but again look beneath the surface and you will find love, devotion, and great passion...and those strongly felt emotions can give rise to expressions of anger and actions that we would not normally associate with acts of love.
But what it really is, is love for something that another doesn't hold quite as dear. That's all. It comes out all wrong, and we tend to get riled up when others disagree, largely because demonize others for having differing opinions.
We don't seem to be able to see it that way, but perhaps if we did our hearts would soften, and we could more easily approach one another and bridge our differences.
It is love of country that brings about such potent responses. It is love of justice that causes people to risk lives in protest. It is love of freedom that leads men and women into battle.
And what our country is going through right now, is the hard, hard work of active love. Oh, you may say otherwise, but it just might be true. Real love, committed love, often requires sacrifice. It requires attention and care, it requires standing up for the people or ideals you love.
So, see? It IS love that rouses such passion in us all, flag wavers and kneelers alike!
What is missing though, in all of this love?
Love of our fellow humankind, differing opinions and all.
We look at the angry vet who says we are desecrating the very thing he or she fought for, and we fail to see their humanity. We don't want to see their years of sacrifice, their naked fear in battle, their struggle to regain normalcy when they come home. Instead, we see an "angry flag waver" and dismiss them.
We look at the angry African American man, or Hispanic man who says we are not hearing their pleas around inexcusable police brutality and killings, we close our eyes to the unwarranted "stop and frisk" solely because of the color of their skin, and we fail to see their humanity. We don't want to see their fear at being shot when pulled over for a simple traffic violation, or the fear for the very lives of their daughters and sons as they leave their homes each day. Thank goodness many of us don't have that fear!
We look at angry conservatives who feel their country has been taken from them, that the very foundation of what it stands for has been eroded, and we laugh at them and mock them. We fail to feel their genuine grief over roots being stripped, over Christ being denigrated and shelved, at their fear of the right to protect their family and go hunting being threatened. Sort of reminds me of how the Natives must have felt when they had their religions mocked, their homes taken, and much more.
We look at loudly proclaiming liberals who desperately seek solutions to climate change for love of their planet. They worry about access to healthcare for their families, are in distress over other rights and safety being denied for LGBT folks, and women who want control over their own bodies. They have anxiety that is often overlooked about Christianity being used to exclude those of different faiths and understandings, and they fear we will forget the importance of the separation of ANY religious doctrine from governmental action. (As if our Forefathers hadn't already figured how terrible combining religion and politics was from the Church of England and prior to that, the Catholic Church's political control for hundreds of years.) We mock them as well, as we forget how polluted some of our largest cities once were, and how rights being eroded scares EVERYONE.
But each group focuses on different rights, the loss of which concerns them deeply. And therein lies the problem, the difference in what we love and hold dear.
Why do we find it so hard to develop compassion and exhibit love for those with whom we disagree? Why does having a differing perspective cause hate to flare, emotions to run rampant, and inflammatory rhetoric to spew? Why is it so hard to allow fellow citizens to believe what they want to believe, to express what they want to express, and not resort to name calling? Those "sons of bitches" have the exact same government protected rights as the President who called them names had, both have very right to speak openly. Have we all forgotten that? It doesn't matter whether we consider one or the other side reprehensible. The truth is, I guess every American also has the "right" to be offended! Each side also has to suffer the consequences of exercising that right to freedom of speech, be it being fired, or being voted out of office. We ALL ought to be willing to fight for that freedom, even when ideas and opinions differ from our own.
So, in many ways, love does figure into the equation of where we Americans sit this week. Oh, sure, we don't want to see it, and our true struggle comes from the fact that it isn't OUR special love, but someone else's, and we choose to devalue that.
I wonder what might happen if we all put as much passion into loving our fellow Americans...all of them, not just certain ones...as we do into arguing whether it is "right or wrong" to stand or kneel during the Star Spangled Banner? What if all that energy, all that media attention, all that love of ideals was expended on acts of love and justice...for all, not just certain ones. What might that much passion be able to accomplish?
American couldn't be stopped.
But maybe, if we just take a moment to look through eyes of love, we might temper our responses, we might be try harder to work toward understanding, and we might treat one another more kindly. That alone would be quite an accomplishment.