Thoughts on Kaepernick, Patriotism, Law Enforcement, and Race in the US

I don’t generally post things of a polarizing or contraversay-esque nature on my boards. I tend to focus more on internal development, progress and stay away from opinion editorials; especially on subjects that may ellicit a lot of negative push-back. But something that has come up a lot lately is Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49er’s, and he has certainly caused a ruckus.

If, for some reason, you’ve been under a rock and haven’t seen the plethora of reports lately on the subject, Kaepernick refused to stand during the regulatory playing of our nation’s Anthem during the team’s pre-season games. I don’t watch football, and even I have heard about, followed and read into this particular news nugget.

His reasoning is “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.” (source: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem)

His comments referenced the shooting and subsequent killing of various African-American individuals by law enforcement – something which some feel is murder and others view as law enforcement either protecting themselves, others or following approved levels of protocol for actual/potentially violent situations. My opinion on which it is for the sake of this discussion is irrelevant.  His action, or lack of as the case may be, is his form of protest.

Now, there has been plenty of discussion surrounding this, as well as recently his choice to wear socks depicting cartoon styled pig wearing police hats during practices. (source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/49ers/2016/09/01/police-reaction-colin-kaepernick-pig-socks-san-francisco/89715672/) The socks, he’s explained on his personal Instagram, are something he’s been doing for a while and are worn during practice – not during the playing of the game itself – though it’s called into question the NFL’s stance over all on law enforcement when the Dallas Cowboys were denied the ability to wear decals on their helmets in honor of fallen officers and their support of Beyoncé’s Half-Time Performance during last year’s Super Bowl which appeared to be a sort of homage to the Black Panther Movement. Honestly however, if it’s practice than the NFL doesn’t truly have any legs to stand on, as they can wear what they like for practice rounds be it on or off the field. If he tries to wear them during a game, where uniforms are regulated – then it would be comparing apples to apples with the Dallas Cowboys (which, in my opinion, should have been allowed to do what they wished – though I also see the NFL’s stance of being consistent with their requirements for game day rules.)

There have been numerous posts on social media of prior fans, or rival teams fans, burning his jersey in counter-protest to his comments and actions. His patriotism as an American has been called into question. Comments akin to him leaving the country have been rampant in reply.

Which, I understand. But will also rather bother people I think is that I also understand where he is coming from as well. To clarify – I don’t agree with his beliefs or opinions and there are some aspects of things that make me stop and think for a moment about his comments and their similarities to things that all of this racial tension is stirring up – but I understand WHY he’s doing it and in all honestly, more power to him for doing so. He is, though many would hate to agree with this, exercising his right and privilege as a citizen of this country to voice his opinion, protest an injustice he feels is taking place and while using his celebrity and position – do it PEACEFULLY on a national scale to illicit conversation, debate and hopefully POSITIVE change for this country.

There were those that were claiming he was being disrespectful of our country, our flag and those that serve. Sure, I understand and see that point. But I myself never state the words “under God” when I recite our Pledge of Allegiance because I don’t agree with it; it wasn’t how the pledge was originally written and I whole heartedly feel there needs to be separation of church and state as the original Founding Fathers intended. (That is obviously a whole other discussion for another time) but that’s in itself a sort of silent protest – and one that many would claim was disrespectful of our country, and those that serve.

Kaepernick has clarified his stance – in particular surrounding those that serve in our military – during this past weekends game where instead of sitting, he took a knee. (source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/01/sport/nfl-preseason-49ers-chargers-colin-kaepernick-national-anthem/index.html) He means no disrespect to those that have fought and died for his very right to do exactly what he’s doing – and I commend him for that as much as I do his realization that needed to be clarified. Now, the comments I think are interesting are the ones where he states he has two uncles and various friends that are in law enforcement – which to me somewhat harkens to those that get riled up when someone states that they have family/friends who are black. To me, it simply shows how EVERYONE attempts to justify their actions against those that disagree with them and we ALL need to learn something through that.

But, this whole controversy does bring up some excellent and thought provoking points. In addition, I believe more and more of those that agree with Kaepernick will start to do the same as he has – and you can agree or not with their reasons. That is the glory that IS our country.

He can, and should, do exactly what he’s doing. More to the point, he’s literally doing it in a way that is beneficial – it’s peaceful, it’s obviously bringing attention nationally to the issues he wants to shed more light on, and he’s also doing it in part to protect the same said friends and family of his that are in law enforcement from those that would ultimately tarnish and disrespect the profession while hopefully fostering more equal and civil race relations in a country which OBVIOUSLY hasn’t disintegrated racial boundaries are well as it thought it may have through previous generations. There is far too much finger-pointing and lack of responsiblity on BOTH sides of the coin for it to be any one issue or reason – but again, that’s a conversation best left for another topic.

Those yelling for him to be fired – well, you have every right to that opinion, but you certainly don’t have the place to call for it nor should you. In all honesty, by his very action, he’s honoring the ideals that our men and women over the years have fought for – and indeed is doing it in a far greater way then any riots or violent protests would. He shouldn’t lose his job for his beliefs, as he’s not in a position which warrants being impartial. Sure, he may be a role model – but honestly I would FAR rather a children look up to someone willing to do something like this instead of the alternatives we’ve witnessed.

My thoughts are this – there are LEO’s who make mistakes and, given the nature of their profession, the outcomes of those mistakes can be deadly – lest I remind you that can go in EITHER direction. They know this. They accept this. They still go out there and do what we civilians expect of them. There are, as with any profession, a miniscule percentage of officers that are ‘bad’, ‘crooked’, ‘power hungry’. But of the roughly 700,000 officers in this country, we’re talking literally about a handful numerically and again, in this profession the unfortunate side of that is that the other 99.5% of officers, like Kaepernick’s uncles, who ARE doing this job for the right reasons, get painted with a broad and disastrous brush. One that they (the 99.5%) as well would like to eradicate.

We all, regardless race, gender, orientation or religion, have the right to voice our displeasure with the system and we all have the ability and resources to affect change – in either a positive or negative direction. We all can agree that there are aspects within both law enforcement, our racial issues and within certain subcultures that need to be addressed and corrected in a way that will be BENEFICIAL to everyone in question – not one person or group over another. We can also all agree that no one person or group has all the answers. If we did than we wouldn’t continue to be here. But we all need to LISTEN to BOTH sides of the equation before any resolution can be had. Until we do that, no progress can be made in EITHER direction.

I certainly don’t have all the answers either. But what I can say for certain is that the next few years, or even decades, will be a roller coaster and that in many ways, we’re going through a sort of renaissance in this country. One that I can only hope will bring about a more empathetic, positive and genuinely even country – both for those in law enforcement and how they are able to properly do their required jobs with all of its ugliness, trauma and stress, and for race relations so that we can be the nation we espouse ourselves to be. The USA is still the greatest nation in the world, I truly believe that. We have the resources available to make it better – if we take the time to listen.

 

Gaga over Bowie

This internet this morning is in a small tizzy over Duncan Jone’s rather cryptic tweet that seems to be in response to Lady Gaga’s tribute to his late father, David Bowie on the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.

The message, which is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word “gaga” has been speculating that Duncan wasn’t a fan of Gaga’s rather frenetic and heartfelt homage to an artist who she has stated was a huge influence on her own career. Indeed, a few days before the event itself Gaga’s Snapchat showed the artist getting a portrait tattoo of Bowie from the Aladdin Sane era of his music.

 

No one can really argue the impact that David Bowie had on a huge plethora of artists during the span of his 4 decade career. I know I myself truly noted Bowie during his performance of Jareth, the Goblin King in the movie Labyrinth when I was in the third grade.  That movie alone I think changed my childhood in ways I couldn’t quite understand until I was older. Then I was introduced to his music and the appreciation of all that was Bowie was born. So much so that, in 2003 when Avril Lavigne mispronounced his name, I screamed at her naive, child-centered .

 

 

But Bowie’s longevity hinged not just on his impeccable talent, but also on his ability to morph, and change, and challenge ideas of the norm. His gender-neutral phases with Ziggy and Alladin gave way to the Thin White Duke and then simply Bowie – the icon we now all know, love and respect.

Which is why the hullabaloo over Duncan’s tweet has so many speculating I believe. Certainly to hold a tribute to such an enigmatic figure, one that has influenced and paved the way for the careers of so many at this years Grammy’s made sense. To have an artist like Lady Gaga, who not only would respect the offering given to her but also basically embodies some of the things that Bowie created seemed rather apropos. But to have Bowie’s son speak in such a way, when more than a few would argue that if ANY opinion of her performance matters it would be those of Duncan, Iman (Bowie’s widow) and Alexandria (Iman and Bowie’s teenage daughter).

Now, most are alluding that Duncan’s tweet is negative in nature and I don’t necessarily believe that this is true. Here’s why: Gaga’s performance was overexcited and a result of infatuation and excessive enthusiasm. It was not one of her most powerful tributes to date – no. It certainly wasn’t “The Sound of Music” tribute at the Oscars last year.

I stayed up just to see this performance in a Grammy presentation that was, to me, very lackluster. Sure, the talent this year was amazing. Adele’s performance in spite of her sound tech issues was expectedly powerhouse driven. The performance by James Bay and Tori Kelley was a great showcase of the songwriters abilities. Pentatonix accompanying Stevie Wonder was spot on and the most energetic performances were honestly the tribute to Lionel Ritchie (in which, Demi Lovato…O….M….G….woman!) and the spotlight on Broadways newest phenomena – Hamilton which brought down the house (and good luck getting tickets until you’re kindergartner is out of high school!). So, knowing Gaga was coming up and knowing her ability to put on a show (something Bowie was also known for) was something worth waiting for.

Gaga’s performance to me felt rushed and crammed. With 40+ years of music to fit into it, it would have been nice to have seen some of the newer pieces included but the focal point was in Bowie’s gender-bending hay day. Nothing wrong with that, certainly as the songs chosen were classic Bowie. I also realize that Intel was a huge sponsor of this portion of the programming and their use of digital media to showcase classic Bowie looks (accompanied by the Haus of Gaga for costuming and her over all aesthetic) was superb. Gaga’s vocal talent to me wasn’t lacking – and the whole time slot was entertaining and something that I truly do believe was absolutely heartfelt (if not as moving as her recent furlough into mainstream American sports with the National Anthem at this years Super Bowl). I get where she was going and what she was trying to do and I can whole-heartedly appreciate the sentiment and energy placed into this, to me, fitting tribute.

The parts that I think Duncan is hitting on with his opinion are that it was very, very frenetic and chaotic. It felt, quite a bit, like a super fan trying to get it right and not wanting to disappoint which is something we’re not accustomed to seeing from the Mother Monster, but that actually made me even more appreciative of what she was doing.

 

She said it was going to be an experimental performance. Gaga had already been booked to perform at this years Grammy’s prior to our loss. For those that are stating that Intel and Gaga are using his death to promote their brands, I would have state that it’s likely that Intel was also involved in the idea stage prior to Bowie’s death and in all honesty their incorporation of imagery into the whole shebang seems rather fitting since Bowie himself was always pushing the boundaries of what music was and could be – especially visually. Now, granted, the commercial for the Gaga/Intel partnership right before the performance was bad planning, but they don’t necessarily have control over that – the television production does.

Kevin Fallon wrote an article this morning about the whole thing, and honestly I can’t agree with him more. Who else could have encompassed what Bowie did and do it without totally making it camp or satire? Mother Monster slayed and Duncan Jones I don’t think was being shady – just a son mourning the loss of this father and trying to make sense of a performance that was heartfelt, homage and dizzying in it’s scope; something that was basically gaga by it’s definition – which is neither positive or negative. I’ll leave you with this article from Natalie Finn with E!Online. THere is no way to fill Bowie’s shoes. No way to encompass all his work without it being a lengthy brocade of colors, senses and sounds. But what was given was well done, technically solid and more importantly, truly given out of love of the man and his legacy.