I’d like to start this by saying I got home and spent 7 hours in my kitchen trying to calm down. I roasted sliced yellow and zucchini squash. I made a stock out of shrimp tails. I baked bacon. I made gumbo (because why else would I make shrimp stock). I listened to Pandora loudly. And when my husband got home from work (early because power went out at work), I still ended up crying on his shoulder.
I am about to say a lot of things. I’m trying to exorcise feelings that I’ve been bottling. You may not like what I have to say. You can disagree with me. You can call me whatever you like. You can blame it on pregnancy hormones or just being a chick or being a liberal snowflake or whatever. You can unfollow me. I don’t care. My chest hurts, I still feel like crying, and I am terrified that I have to bring up a child in this daily apocalypse. Stop reading whenever you like. See if I freaking care.
Hi. My name is Jo. I’m an Army combat veteran. I took an oath a while ago to protect and uphold the Constitution. I deployed to a war zone. I was indoctrinated into a cult of patriotism. When I was growing up, I was given a test on the Pledge of Allegiance to make sure I understood what I was saying when I faced the flag in the morning. I was also raised to stand for the Anthem with my hand over my heart. Well, in public anyways.
I do not like professional sports, football most of all. I find that athletes, like most celebrities, are overpaid and celebrated far more than they should be. I believe that a proper society would celebrate those who contribute positively to that society. Nurses, school teachers, soldiers, police, fire fighters, artists, and blue collar workers. The worship given to athletes is wholly disproportionate to their actual contribution. We shower them with scholarships for schools they aren’t learning from and drown them in sponsorships because they have good hand eye coordination and can hit people really hard, especially after drinking this electrolyte drink and wearing these $200 sneakers. Some of you may think you know where this is going. Some of you are wrong.
I have never in my life been proud of an NFL player. Until one of them started a protest.
Don’t stop reading yet.
You see, most professional athletes make headlines for beating their wives. Or abandoning their teams. Or getting arrested for dog fighting. Or rape. Or drug abuse. Or gangs violence. DUIs. Prostitutes. Steroids. And what’s funny is that those headlines are barely headlines. They’re expected to a degree. And fans will go out of their way to pardon these players, make up a million excuses for them and be ready to fight anyone who says anything against the character of the person whose name is on the back of their over-priced “authentic” jersey. Those players are heavily fined and suspended. They’re traded to other teams sometimes. However, in general, their behavior causes very little long-term damage to them. They may not be on a Wheaties box, but they won’t be shunned by society. Some of them won’t even lose their jobs, despite videos posted publicly of them punching fiancées in the face or actually jail time.
People lose jobs for being convicted of crimes. Some of them lose their whole futures because an ounce of marijuana makes them a felon for the rest of their lives. People even lose their jobs for posting things on social media. Yet some of the most infamous criminals in the limelight get it written off because, again, they can throw a ball or hit someone really hard.
And then there are politicians, who can get away with all of these offenses, put a flag pin on their lapel, get re-elected, and then get pulled into another “scandal.” It’s “scandal” because that’s what we call it when a person who has called for tougher illegal drug regulations gets caught with cocaine. Or when an outspoken opponent to same-sex marriage gets caught not only in an affair, but in a homosexual extramarital relationship.
Let’s talk about patriotism. I hear the phrase “that’s how I was raised” quite frequently. I was raised to respect the flag. I was raised speaking the Pledge every day in school. I was raised to stand for the anthem. However, I am not a blind patriot. I hate this country sometimes. I hate how broken it is. I hate how ashamed it makes me. If I say the Pledge, it’s because I am a citizen of this nation and I believe that we should pledge allegiance to the unity of a republic as a goal and a promise that I will be there for my neighbors. Because I choose to, not because my peers pressure me into it. I acknowledge that the pledge was altered in the 50s because jingoists were scared the Reds were infiltrating our Democracy and we know how much those Pinko Commie bastards, like Demons, can’t say the words “under God” without bursting into flames.
I hate that people call America a Christian nation. Maybe if we acted like it, even a little, sure. But there is a reason we separated church and state. The state corrupts the faith. Theocracy is not faith. If you want more Christian ideals enforced by the government, better not turn your nose up at welfare, public works, and “free” healthcare. We as Christians are called to help those who need us, the sick, the impoverished, the sinners. That is how we become Christ-like. There is no way mandated charity qualifies as Christianity.
Mandated is a good word, you know. Also indoctrination. Ever been indoctrinated? I have. In 9 weeks I went from a scared 18 yr old girl who hated guns and couldn’t stomach the idea of taking a single human life to being a “killer.” I was going to be in forever, this was going to be my career, and I was better than all those pansy civilians who stayed home. This lasted all of 2 hours after I got out of Basic. But some of it sticks. Like, I will stand to attention when the Army song comes on. I won’t sing the stupid words any more, but I won’t sit through it, either. That’s not because I like the song or am super proud of my service. The fact is, I earned the right to stand. You didn’t. I do not like seeing civilians in military attire of any sort, even spouses and kids. I do not like seeing the flag used in propaganda ads political campaigns or plastered all over clothing. I do not like seeing a flag flying that is ripped or one flying at night without a light on it. I do not like the Confederate Flag. I do not like when civilians get upset about someone “disrespecting the military” with a peaceful protest. I do not like when my military friends have the same reaction. Because free speech is part of the constitution I swore to protect. Disrespect is spitting on soldiers when they come back from Vietnam and calling them baby killers. Disrespect is allowing the VA to become so corrupt an ineffectual that veterans die befor they can get treatment. Disrespect is parading soldiers about like little puppets to show everyone how patriotic you are, you who have never served a day in your life.
And speaking of civilians, I despise the fact that the people who tell the military what to do and how to do it, the people who send my friends to die, are privileged civilians with absolutely zero military experience.
I don’t like that a draft-dodger is tweeting threats about the leader of a sovereign nation. How dare he? How dare call a POW a loser, congratulate a purple heart recipient, take two days to condemn violent protesters, call peaceful protesters “sons of bitches,” threaten the medical coverage of veterans and military families, and claim that he knows ISIS better than the Generals? And then he just nonchalantly tweets an act of war that could get my friends killed? Not my friends here, you understand. My friends stationed in South Korea. You know, the country that is DEFINITELY within rocket range of nuclear weapons. The soldiers who will be first if that runty little psycho decides to test America’s tough guy stance?
But hey, like I’ve been seeing on the Facebook, this isn’t about him. It’s about one player disrespecting the military and the flag and the anthem. Or it was. Up until that effing mook decided to make it about him by calling for a non-government entity to punish protesters. Way to make it worse, idiot.
You do not have to like what has been going on the last year with these protests. Or any protest, for that matter. I don’t recall any protest in history that had the goal of making everyone happy. Sit-ins and hunger strikes and effing Buddhists lighting themselves on fire, these are not supposed to be a delightful romp. You protest to draw attention, not to blend in. Again, Christians, let’s look to our model, shall we? Jesus broke the law. Repeatedly. Publicly. On purpose. And they nailed him to an effing tree. (Oh, please don’t go and say that I’m making these protesters “Christ-like.” That is not the point here.)
A lot of people seem to be upset by the manner of protest. Which is interesting because that would be the bloody point, wouldn’t it? It is supposed to upset you. Now, I’ll admit that it is slightly more blatant than, say, sitting at a lunch counter or trying to go to school. Imagine how bad sh*t was that it was so easy to piss people off. Sitting in the wrong seat got you arrested. Using the wrong water fountain got you beaten. Looking at the wrong woman got you lynched.
Oh, but thank goodness that’s all behind us, right? No one’s getting shot in the street for being unarmed. Or for reaching for their wallet. Or for being 12-years-old and brandishing a toy gun.
Oh, but they were criminals. Right? They deserved to be gunned down because they made the wrong choice.
NO. NOBODY DESERVES THAT. WTF, PEOPLE?
We have a legal system for a reason. It’s to lock up minorities by the millions. The system is broken. Our prisons are being run by private companies. Did you know that? That they get money the more people are jammed into their facilities and therefore like to lobby for laws that will pack their cells? That they could give 2 sh*ts about due process or rehabilitating prisoners into useful members of society so long as they get paid? There are more people in prison than there are people in the entire state of Nebraska. Which I will have you know has way more people than Montana.
Oh, but let’s focus on these over-paid, prissy athletes “disrespecting” the flag/anthem/military. Name three careers available to minorities that will make them rich. Athletics is one. Acting is another. Music is another. How many CEOs are minorities? Can you name 10 famous minority millionaires who aren’t athletes, actors, or musicians? 5? Anyone besides Ben Carson, Al Sharpton, and Obama? Do you realize that for a lot of minority kids, athletics is the only way they can afford college? Do you think all those rich whiney babies started out rich? Are you aware that at the end of the day, regardless of their paycheck, they are still minorities?
They are called privileged. Because they are rich. But they are rich because they are lucky. They had a specific skillset that got them out of their underprivileged schools, out of the cycle of violence and poverty faced by many people in their neighborhoods. But for the grace of God, they could have been murdered in the street just by living on that street. That’s why they care. That’s why they protest. Because we still have a big issue with race in this country. And they have to protest because people don’t listen to the poor. Remember? The 99% getting mocked for having iPhones and having the luxury to protest while everyone else had to go to work? All the while, the 1% worked tirelessly to turn the poor against each other so they could continue to be the 1%. The “thugs” leading protests in Ferguson and Cleveland and Chicago? Well, now the thugs are your former heroes, the guys on your fantasy football leagues whose names are hanging in your closet with your other sports paraphernalia. And they aren’t rioting. They’re kneeling. The nerve, right?
Now, let’s make this perfectly clear. In 2009, the DOD paid the NFL to do more patriotic displays. Remember that word mandated? Before 2009, you didn’t see the players until they ran onto the field, after some clown butchered the anthem. Then it became mandatory for them to show their patriotism. You know what mandatory means, right? That’s when you are forced to do something even if you don’t want to. In the Army, we have stuff that is required by regulation, but we voluntarily gave up a lot of our civil rights. So, you know, we accept that mandatory is part of the job. Ever hear the phrase mandatory fun? That’s when there’s a “fun” event that the commander has decided is mandatory because otherwise no one would show up. There’s also the word “voluntold.” That’s when they ask for volunteers by making a list of who’s going to volunteer. Get it? It’s like making people swear allegiance to the current ruler or swear fealty to the state religion. With the prospect of being burnt alive if you refuse. But, you know, probably not so extreme.
Mandating patriotism is sick. End of storyMandated patriotism is a lot like mandated religion. It isn’t real. And it is anti-American. Imagine sending your kid to a school that requires them to pray to Mecca 5 times a day. Or they have to have a bar mitzvah before they graduate 6th grade. Or they have to write a paper on how glorious the beloved leader is. Every day. Or else they get shot. In the head.
If you aren’t frightened by the images of blank-eyed children swearing by rote to something they don’t understand, you aren’t paying attention. That’s what mandated patriotism is.
But there has to be a better way/time. Actually, no. The protest is working, to a degree. We are effing talking about it. Even more so since some moron made them martyrs and therefore multiplied the participants exponentially in one day. Instead of a few kneeling, entire teams either knelt or locked arms to state plainly that they will not be threatened into silence. Some people are still blindly sharing memes and dismissing this as a publicity stunt. “They don’t know what they’re protesting. They just want attention. They are disrespectful.” Well, they do know what they’re protesting (police brutality and systemized racism), they already have attention (duh, millionaires on TV every week), and disrespectful? Kneeling?
Okay, lighting the flag on fire. Yes. Blatantly using the anthem to show off your mediocre voice. Yes. Claiming that 26,000 unreported military rapes are just what happens when you put men and women together. Yes. Kneeling? No.
Are they protesting the flag? No. Are they protesting the anthem? No (but you do know why we don’t sing the other verses, right?). Are they protesting the military. No. They are protesting police brutality and systemized racism. And they are doing it in a public way to draw attention to the cause. Does that make sense? You don’t like when they kneel? “Can’t they kneel some other time, some other place?” Why? So you don’t have to see it? The Anthem is the best time to do it because it draws the most attention. Again, that’s the fracking point. Do I like that? No. Do I have to? No.
And they aren’t just kneeling, you know. Some of them are putting their (considerable) money where their mouths are. Many players participate in community projects working with underprivileged kids and donate to charitable causes related to these issues. But are they supposed to enforce internal police investigations? Change legislation to increase funding to schools and conflict management training for officers? Are they supposed to show up to every traffic stop to make sure that no one gets shot for smelling like pot? Or protect nurses from being arrested for doing their jobs? Or investigate every instance of police brutality and ensure that the officers are reprimanded accordingly?
They’re effing football players. You know? Modern day gladiators who get paid to get brain damage. But isn’t it amazing what buffoons in helmets can do when they act together for a cause.
You want to stand, do it. You want to kneel, fine. There isn’t a law to enforce either because then it wouldn’t be patriotism. It’d be fascism. I swore to protect your rights and that includes your right to sit.
When the leader of the free world demands that free speech should be punished, we have a much bigger problem.
As a last note, the following people can STFU about this issue (especially as it concerns “respecting the military”):
Anyone who has ever worn the flag as an article of clothing (see the flag code)
Anyone who has ever flown the Confederate Flag (cuz that’s called treason)
Anyone who refers to POWs as losers, soldiers as rapists, or in any way uses the military as some kind of pawn in their campaign
Anyone who believes that people who don’t prove their patriotism through meaningless acts should be shot (see fascism)
People who don’t stand with their hand over their heart every time they hear the Anthem, even when they are home alone or when it plays at 8:00 every morning on the base loud speaker or when they are getting their concessions before the game starts because the line was so freaking long and you don’t want to miss the kick o
Remember kids, we aren’t North Korea. We don’t have a gulag for political dissenters. We don’t have death camps for those who look different from us (anymore). We don’t mandate patriotism. If you have a problem with the protest, do something about it. Either close your eyes to the whole thing (boycott or whatever) or look for ways you can make a change so that they don’t need to protest any more.