Your Anthem as it Relates to Colin

There was this backup quarterback who decided to kneel during the anthem, and I think I might have an opinion on it after all. I decided this while standing awkwardly in a parking garage, probably more awkwardly than anyone has ever stood in that particular spot.

Due to self-diagnosed poor posture and excessive tension over mundane things, my neck often feels stiff. To alleviate discomfort, I bought a pack of colorful exercise bands at Marshall’s and brought a blue one to work. I wrap the band at various angles around my head and then flex my neck against the resistance for three sets of 10. Sometimes the band slips over my eyes and face, but I keep going, and probably resemble an alien trying to break through the skin of Sigourney Weaver’s stomach.

It’s not pretty. I don’t always muster enough self-confidence to do these exercises around my colleagues. On this particular day, I meandered outside to find a private spot and ended up in a quiet parking garage.

It was windy and slightly cold, so I stood in the only area catching slanted sunlight. This, of course, happened to be in an awkward spot. Highly visible, no cars around. Just me loitering there between sets, holding an unidentifiable object at my side.

Someone in a uniform with a badge walked by me without a second look. I don’t know if he was police or private security. Maybe he was a civilian A/B testing a Halloween costume, which would doom the point I’m making.

The point taken in my mind was that an officer paid no apparent attention to a weird, if not suspicious-looking person. Had I been wearing a turban or darker tan, perhaps I would have been asked a question at least.

What struck me at that moment, on that slab of concrete in one of the more affluent zip codes in the world, is the possibility that I got a free pass for looking the way I do. (I have somewhat of an innocent Asian face, which comes in handy when transcending all proprieties while blacked-out drunk.)

I felt a pang of empathy, rare for me. I don’t know what it feels like to be black. I don’t care either. I would be a better person if I did, but the reality that aligns with my actions is that I don’t care enough. Like most people, I’m just kind of thinking about myself and my little bubble on Earth. I don’t really care to go out of my way.

But I do have an opinion, as controversial as this may sound: I don’t like it when people die when they don’t have to. Black lives matter. Obviously. Unfortunately, this needs to be said because it’s not being treated as an obvious truth.

The “All Lives Matter” retort is absolutely asinine. The purpose of saying “Black Lives Matter” is to call attention to a specific problem affecting a specific segment. If I go to the doctor because my hand hurts, I don’t need her to shout at me that my entire body matters. If I go to the mechanic because my brakes don’t work, I don’t need to be reminded the whole car is important. It’s not productive.

Let’s look at the problem in question here. Before we do that, I propose a sort of entrance requirement. Like an ante to play, or minimum SAT score to enroll. If you want to weigh in on any discussion about politics and morality, you should definitively understand the difference between your possessive and you’re contraction.

I don’t mean to inject too much levity here. Actually I think I’m being almost completely serious. I can understand spelling phonetically and slipping up occasionally. Grammar and intellect probably aren’t correlated much. But let’s play the odds. How many people exist out there who can offer a sensible solution to complex problems of the human condition AND have no better than a 50-50 chance of spelling the word your correctly? Am I being unreasonable here?

I can’t even comprehend these outrageous comments on social media from conservatives and liberals alike because their grammar is so distracting. People need to chill out and read a book first. Face-book doesn’t count. Learn and listen and think more. Here is one logical way to process these police shootings:

1. Black people died.
2. Resisting arrest, not resisting arrest, maybe-kind of resisting arrest. PCP-induced paranoia or socioeconomic-based mistrust. Owning a gun or book. Having a criminal record or children or both. Being high or scared. None of these are capital offenses.

If these two statements are true, then something is wrong. Regardless of black-on-black crime statistics, idiot protesters, proper protocol… something is wrong. So we wait for the investigation. But when one investigation can’t even get going before another one needs to be opened, a broader discussion is needed. Pressure has to be applied. This is how humans get things done. We need force to overcome inertia.

Imagine a scale or spectrum, with 1 being the stance that nothing is wrong, that race and police shootings are categorically independent. On the other end, 10, there is a fundamental flaw in our policing system — inextricably tied to race — that is killing people.

No reasonable person can dispute that we are in a range on this scale, let’s say 5 to 10, that demands immediate attention. It’s just common sense. A relatively and terrifyingly short amount of time ago, one race in this country was enslaved. Think about the core values that would enable an entire nation, from sea to shining sea, to classify human beings as property. All that disappears with one war and an amendment? Every vestige of that mindset? No way. It took another 100 years for everybody to drink at the same water fountain. And somehow none of this affected the institution of law enforcement?

I am just trying to use common sense here, being a pragmatist at heart. Of course I would rather pull over in Beverly Hills than South Central to change a flat. I don’t fault police officers for being more tense approaching a black man than they would an old white lady. How about a white man? Depends what he looks like. I would certainly rather go after an old black lady. And I would be terrified pulling over an Asian woman until her engine was turned off, lest she get rattled and make an even crazier left turn than genetically predisposed to do.

No one should ever die trying to be politically correct. If it comes down to a cop’s life or a felon’s, I am fairly confident I could pull the trigger myself. This undoubtedly violates moral code, but again, I choose practicality. I would have failed The Dark Knight test.

I cannot stand artsy movie elitists, who have never played a sport in their lives, praising the cinematography of a “classic” like Taxi Driver while refusing to acknowledge that The Dark Knight is one of the top five films of all time. Try to stop watching it on TBS once you start. Taxi Driver was so bad that I don’t respect anyone who legitimately enjoyed it.

So in The Dark Knight, Joker rigs two ships with bombs. One ship carries everyday commuters, and the other is transporting criminals. Each ship has a detonation device that will blow up the other. The passengers have until midnight to decide whether to kill the other ship first and survive; otherwise both ships will explode.

That sounds like a pretty straightforward zero-sum game to me. I would have supported blasting the criminals (sucks to be you, prison guard). And I would have failed. Because it wasn’t zero sum. No one would press the button on either ship. A criminal actually took the detonator by force and threw it in the water. Meanwhile, Batman put his life on the line and stopped Joker from blowing up both.

Humanity wins here for two very human reasons: respect for life and bravery. Those two things are what’s missing in these shootings. The first is obvious. These people were shot like they were dangerous animals in the wilderness.

The second, courage, is more complex. Cops don’t know if someone has a gun or bomb or Skittles, and life or death happens in a second. This is where we, as a society, have to find agreement. My perspective is that if you want to carry the badge and gun, you have to be braver than everyone else.

Being brave doesn’t always mean shootouts with robbers. Sometimes it means approaching an uncertain situation and ignoring your very natural impulse to panic. Sometimes it means using your head instead of your trigger finger. Sometimes it means protecting troubled people from themselves. No part of these shootings screams “protect and serve” in my mind.

It’s not a job for everyone. Personally I don’t plan on even buying a gun in my lifetime, unless Trump wins and we all need to learn to hunt after the apocalypse.

I shouldn’t say that. It undermines my opinion because I sound like a liberal. I’m not. At least I don’t think I am. What’s the difference again? I am from Texas and prefer smaller government. But not on all things. I don’t know. This is what people should do more. They should think and get more information and question their own beliefs and don’t be afraid to let opinions evolve.

When I first heard Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem in protest of racial injustices, I thought it was cheesy. Dude, you’re a football player. Who isn’t even a starter. On the 49ers. Shut up, respect the flag, and do something real if you care.

Mind you, I didn’t go off shouting in all caps about it. Because I didn’t really have much of an opinion. I didn’t want to join this fake angry conversation everybody and his mother was having.

Let me explain what I mean by fake. Think about all the people screaming in support or hatred of Kaepernick. Put them in a big room while they argue. Anyone who can name your state’s two U.S. senators, keep talking. That will bring the discussion to library-level volume. Now anyone who can name one state senator, or even knows the difference between a U.S. senator and state senator, keep talking.

It would be quiet. Yet impactful change happens at the local and state level. We don’t really care to dig into the nitty-gritty because it’s boring. We prefer to shout about things that touch a nerve.

I hold the national anthem in esteem. My 11th-grade public speaking teacher Miss Potts told the class a personal anecdote that I forget, but the end result was that she always feels compelled to sing along during it. I do the same as long as no one can hear me too well. I stand solemnly facing the flag, hand over chest. Even when I’m watching on TV, I feel an urge to do it.

Of course some people talk and horse around during the anthem. I don’t agree with it, but I’m not going to flip out either. I’m not going to send death threats to someone who has a mother, a father, because he wants to stand up (kneel down) for something he feels. If you are willing to actually end someone’s life for expressing himself, you should think about who is really disrespecting the flag and what it stands for. Maybe the North Korean flag would be a better fit for you.

So I wasn’t rabid about it, but I thought Kaepernick was being corny. If he played for the Cowboys, I would probably like him. Not a strong opinion obviously. Now I’m thinking…

Good job, man. It worked. It really did. Because if Colin Kaepernick donates to a charity or pickets at the state legislature, it barely gets a headline on page 9D of a newspaper that no one reads. He drops one knee, and the whole country pays attention.

There is no way any remotely suspicious police shooting these days won’t be nationally scrutinized. That’s the way it should be. That’s what we need. That’s how we improve. Kaepernick helped. Just because many people including me won’t kneel next to him doesn’t mean we can look down on that.

 

 

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