Right Opinion

So, Should We Kneel or Stand?

Guest Commentary · Aug. 12, 2020

By Larry Craig

Now that the major professional sports are starting up again, we need to answer the question: Should players kneel, or should they stand? If you think everyone should stand, you will not like watching your favorite sport when they all kneel. If they should kneel, then what do you think when a few of them stand? It seems that those who are standing are standing for different issues than those who are kneeling.

If you are not a sports enthusiast, I think the question is still relevant, because you will not be able to escape the sounds, the sights, and the talk about what people are doing.

Imagine that you and your spouse had an argument. The issue was an important one. You both got angry, and the issue was not fully resolved. Maybe you like to spend a lot of money on your hobby, and your spouse thinks you spend too much, and you don’t have enough money for other things that your spouse thinks are important. You know that you both still disagree and that the issue will come up again at some point in the future.

A few days later, you get a call from your spouse’s attorney, asking you to come in to give your side of the story. The lawyer is a divorce lawyer. Oh, no, your spouse isn’t asking for a divorce. They just want to document the incident. Why? Well, you never know if at some point they might need it.

I would say this has just put a big crack in their marriage. One spouse will always feel on edge, afraid to be fully honest, afraid to talk about anything of importance.

I worked in a business for much of my life that would often write up employees for certain infractions. The reasoning is that if they ever wanted to fire an employee, they would need to have several write-ups before they could do that.

I was the recipient of some of those write-ups, and I resented them. Why? To me, it conveyed the message: Yes, I want to fire you, but I can’t, so I’m doing this instead.

Now I was a manager myself for a while, and I chose not to write up my employees. I thought write-ups were counterproductive. I wanted my employees to be happy on the job and eager to do their best, not just content to do the bare minimum.

Now let’s look at these protests.

They say that the issues are injustice, police brutality, social justice, and racism.

We are told that these problems have gone on too long.

If this were a marriage, this is a spouse going to the divorce lawyer. The marriage is not working. Or at least that’s the message. Or is it? When you express your grievances through the flag or the national anthem, you are saying more than that we have some unresolved issues, some disagreements.

The flag stands for the whole thing. The whole country, the American experiment, as some call it, the whole idea of freedom and liberty for which our Founders went to war to establish.

Kneeling for the anthem means that the whole thing is broken. The marriage is broken.

The person kneeling may not see it that way. He or she may see it as simply protesting that one thing, albeit a big thing. But the message that act conveys is something far different. Imagine you asked your spouse or your kids to do something and they gave you the middle finger. Are they just saying no, or are they saying a lot more than that?

True communication in the world requires that both parties understand the same words in the same way.

I have learned that if I’m discussing, say, democracy, we need first to agree on what we mean by the word democracy before we can discuss it, otherwise we can be talking about two different things. Are we talking about a system where the majority rules on everything? Or do we mean simply that we are a country that is supposed to have free and fair elections?

In the protests going on today in our country, the things they are trying to say are being said in ways that are conveying something else.

When a person kneels for the flag or the national anthem, in their heart they may say they are protesting a particular social cause, but the message they are conveying is that they despise the whole country. The whole idea of America. What it stands for. That may not be their intention, but that’s the message that a lot of people are hearing.

You want to protest social injustice? Don’t express disdain for the whole country and all it stands for. It’s like telling your spouse you are sorry you married them whenever you have a disagreement.

The Bible says that a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). Kneeling for the flag and the anthem are harsh words that stir up anger. You’re offending and angering the very people you will need to solve your problems. You may achieve some changes that are superficial at best, but you’re not going to win the hearts and minds of those whose hearts and minds you disrespect.

But there is a bigger issue here beyond just conveying mixed messages.

At the same time that people are protesting certain problems in our country, there are others who actually do want to get rid of the whole thing. And they are using these protests over particular grievances in their cause. They want to get as many people as possible to focus on everything that is wrong in the country such that they will no longer think there is anything good about it or worth defending.

The protests started over one incident of a police interaction that went bad. Then it went to all police, and now it’s gone into things that happened hundreds of years ago.

You may have grievances about a lot of things in our country. But the bigger question is whether you think the country is still basically a good one or if deep down it’s a bad country.

There are two overlapping narratives here, and we don’t know in individual cases what the message is. When you kneel for the flag or the national anthem, a lot of people are understanding the message that justice isn’t really the problem. America is. We don’t have justice; we have racism. Not because we have problems in our country; the problem is the country.

Until we answer that question — is the United States a good country with problems or a bad country that must be replaced? — these protests will only lead to more unrest and conflict and won’t solve anything.

Please visit my blog at poligion1.blogspot.com for articles I have written on politics, culture, and public life.

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