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Why can we not show each other mutual respect? : While We’re Waiting

I wish I was able to use this space to write solely about the Cleveland Browns game and offer some thoughts about what I had seen during the game, which had been a fun exercise the first two weeks despite the outcome of those contests not being favorable. Instead, the broken world with which we all live within has pushed its way to the forefront and needs some attention.

My views on both kneeling during the National Anthem and many of those who oppose it is rather neutral as my support of the First Amendment1 of the United States Constitution is firm. I believe it extends beyond the reach of Congress creating laws as it is a keystone principle of the American philosophy without which we have failed as a country and society.

The rhetoric and actions of this past weekend have reminded me of the words of David Cole, legal director of the ACLU, in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville with calls wide-ranging for the organization to halt their defense of groups- and other more radical suggestions that suppression of speech can be beneficial to our society. Please read the entire article as there is important nuance throughout, but the kicker sums up the viewpoint with which I heartily stand and applaud.

In a fundamental sense, the First Amendment safeguards not only the American experiment in democratic pluralism, but everything the ACLU does. In the pursuit of liberty and justice, we associate, advocate, and petition the government. We protect the First Amendment not only because it is the lifeblood of democracy and an indispensable element of freedom, but because it is the guarantor of civil society itself. It protects the press, the academy, religion, political parties, and nonprofit associations like ours. In the era of Donald Trump, the importance of preserving these avenues for advancing justice and preserving democracy should be more evident than ever.

My support of this freedom means to support those who peaceably assemble regardless of agreement or disagreement with their methods or even cause. The idea behind a protest is to gain attention to an issue the participants feel is neglected. To do so peacefully should be welcome.

In the case of kneeling during the National Anthem, there can be no doubt the assemblies have both been peaceful and have garnered attention. As a result, there has been far more discussion on a local and national level around the tensions between the African American community and police. Having the attention create a difference through actions and discussions is still in the infancy with an unknown long-term outlook.

Less players would have knelt during this past weekend without the vile words coming from President Donald Trump. His usage of twitter to attack those who protested and call for them to be fired, while using the terminology S.O.Bs (but spelt out) is unbecoming for the President of the United States of America. Some have used his delayed and neutered response towards Charlottesville Nazis paired with these statements to connect the dots to what Jemele Hill had stated.2

The strong responses from the NFL, NFLPA, and others alongside the actions of escalation both in kneeling and in opposition of it were entirely predictable. Either President Trump is an idiot, wanted the escalation, or did not care. His narcissistic attitude towards all things has created an atmosphere were even items that should be easy are difficult. It has served as a wedge in our national conversation.

One reason for the divisiveness on this particular topic is there is a flashpoint in the protest around the National Anthem. There are even tangents of these debates to remove the National Anthem from sporting events entirely. Nationalism is becoming a dirty word in some circles despite the important element of human nature it holds.

People are tribal by nature. If a Clevelander is in Texas or California or Florida and sees someone wearing a something from a Northeast Ohio sport team, a quick nod or conversation will likely follow. There are many who have a similar association with the National Anthem before sporting events. A way to remind us that before we oppose each other in this entertainment venture, let us remember that we are united in a far more serious and important manner. Despite all of the flaws within our country, we are still one community under that flag.

The National Anthem itself began making regular appearances at MLB games almost 100 years ago. ESPN the Magazine ran an article that demonstrated the importance of it through the years from the first World War through the aftermath of 9-11. Here is the passage of how the Star Spangled Banner became tied to sports in America.

Upon hearing the opening notes of Key’s song from the military band, Thomas immediately faced the flag and snapped to attention with a military salute. The other players on the field followed suit, in “civilian” fashion, meaning they stood and put their right hands over their hearts. The crowd, already standing, showed its first real signs of life all day, joining in a spontaneous sing-along, haltingly at first, then finishing with flair. The scene made such an impression that The New York Times opened its recap of the game not with a description of the action on the field but with an account of the impromptu singing: “First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day’s enthusiasm.”

Our country has overcome far worse moments in its history. There is a great opportunity in our country for a leader to emerge. Someone who can help remind us our first step in a conversation can be to listen rather than disparage. Someone who can help heal and unite- from which we can bring true change. Until then, we would all do well to heed the words of wisdom from Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin and Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona.3

  1. WFNY’s Kyle Welch wrote an excellent article explaining in-depth the importance of the First Amendment and the relevant historical cases. Please do give it a read. []
  2. Quick aside: as noted by the ACLU legal director, employers have the one area where free speech can be tricky and allowable to have stricter rules. The important thing is for an employer to ensure the rules are applied fairly and evenly to all. In Hill’s case, she clearly violated the protocol her employer had sent out. She was not suspended while others who had a view on the other side of the political spectrum were suspended on first offenses (in Schilling’s case, fired on his second reported offense). It is a bad look for ESPN as it gives the appearance of specific speech suppression. []
  3. Luke 6:33 is a fantastic representation of the same. “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” []

  • humboldt

    Wait, is this a joke? I thought it was a joke. It’s a joke, right?

  • scripty

    Hillary was an awful candidate, with an unpopular past, a female, and had a poor machine. Not even getting to interference. She didnt even campaign in WISC.

    She blew it in 08 when she had a $460 million advantage over Obama but chose to sit on funds for the general election, and got worked by Barry.

    The democrats have own issues but that is a different topic for a different day.

  • scripty

    Curious what this neoliberal consensus was… Obama droning people to death is hardly neoliberalism.

  • scripty

    The right is doing quite well, some (note not all) due to gerrymandering. That has allowed the more outlandish far right candidates to appear. If there were more diversified and non-gerrymandered districts the right right wing would dissipate.

  • scripty

    The DNC was in the bag for HRC. I am not a Bernie Boy, but they really worked him over (now, he wasn’t a lifelong Dem so but they did some illicit things). Debbie Wasserman Schultz isnt’ fit to run a Burger King, she’s probably the lead idiot in the entire last election. And that’s saying something.

  • scripty

    The African American vote, that did not turn out for HRC, probably would have done better for Bernie, but we don’t know that.

    We also can’t pretend to know what Bernie’s national election campaign looks like. I don’t think we know either way.

  • scripty

    Sanders will be too ancient in 2020. Just on actuarial evidence alone, he’d probably die in office. Reagan was a disaster his 2nd term, he needed naps and had early dementia. I respect Sanders, but they need a new voice.

  • scripty

    Trump has no integrity. NONE.

    Side note the “who would you rather have a beer with?” has worked pretty much in almost every election for almost 3 generations. I think that will always be the litmus test of the general electin battlegrounds.

  • scripty

    well stated

  • scripty

    Respectfully, the systemic abuse by police is very real. I’ve been on the receiving end. Not a good time.

  • scripty
  • scripty

    25 years ago, an ad company asked to make this commercial says no. This is b.s.

  • Garry_Owen

    Was talking about the flag/anthem controversy. Not a real thing.

  • Garry_Owen

    What do you think the job of the military is?

  • humboldt

    I don’t know that I accept the premise that there’s a singular “job” for something as large, complex, and variegated as the military

  • Garry_Owen

    You don’t think the military has a singular purpose?

  • humboldt

    As with any complex entity, an attempt to reduce the military to ‘one thing’ is inherently problematic. The Wikipedia entry on “Military” both provides a simple, singular definition that I think would satisfy you but then proceeds to unpack the array of multitudinous functions of a military (including disaster relief) in a manner that supports my argument: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military

    Give it a quick scan when you get a chance, and let me know if you come away from it thinking it’s still tenable to endorse a singular purpose for the military.

  • Garry_Owen

    Okay. Read it. Interesting academic exercise. But I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with your challenge. Is it still tenable? I mean, it’s the truth. Nations have militaries for a singular purpose. I’m not sure how any opposite opinion is actually tenable. The fact that we have improperly morphed the mission of a warfighting military does not remove the simple fact that they only exist, as a matter of historical and cultural fact, for the singular purpose of warfighting. If war did not exist, no nation would ever raise a military. No nation would raise and equip a force designed for destruction just so that there would be a disaster relief expedition. The fact that our military also engages in other functions when needed is more a function of will and availability than it is purpose. (And there are obvious distinctions between the Title 10 (active duty) mission and the Title 32 (national guard) missions, but the fact remains that neither component would ever exist if not for the singular purpose of warfighting.)

    We’re clearly just approaching this from a different angle. That’s obviously great. But to your original question, I wasn’t joking (even though the phrase I used was a droll colloquial military phrase used in the profession). It is, and remains, my belief.

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  • mgbode

    Understood and that is why I labeled it as such. I have seen the polling bUT wonder greatly how Sanders being tied deeply into the banks, establishment, and socialist-turned-dictatorship governments due to him under the spotlight.

    Anyway, yes all conjecture and we’ll likely never know. One thing I think both parties might have learned is to attempt to find more youthful candidates for this next turn. But hey, maybe not. Long ways away.

  • mgbode

    Hillary was not a centrist either in almost any non-financial sense of government. She drove out Dem-centrists on social issues.

  • humboldt

    I think the definition that best accommodates both of our perspectives is that the military is an entity that serves the interest of the state. I might concede to you that its *primary* purpose is being authorized to use lethal force in advancing the state’s interest (although that is not beyond debate), but this is a far different claim than saying that’s the *only* purpose of the military. Clearly, it is also in the interest of the state to keep the peace, to carry out humanitarian missions, to protect civil infrastructure, to provide emergency relief, etc.

    To go back to our original point of divergence, I suggested that some of our troops stationed abroad at one of our 800 military installations might be redeployed as domestic disaster relief units, particularly during an era when we are witnessing more severe and catastrophic weather events. You seem resistant to the notion that troops could be trained to do anything other than kill or smash, but I think this is a reductionist view that you don’t truly believe since its rather disparaging of the military and cynical about its capacity to serve the interest of the public in more humane ways. We might agree that humanitarian actions may not be the “core competency” of the military, but they certainly should not be summarily rejected as part of the purview of a modern military force.

  • WFNY_DP

    “If we keep looking for the next Obama — an engaging centrist offering the status quo — we will keep losing”

    This is hindsight, pure and simple. Obama ran in 2008 as ANYTHING but the status quo. Like, his entire campaign slogan was CHANGE in huge letters. No one thought he was ready in the primaries, and he blew everyone else out of the water–including Clinton–because he was new, different, refreshing, and offering change.

    That that wasn’t an actionable strategy once he was in office s due to the fact that the problem, as I see it, is that there is so much money entrenched in government now that idealism usually gets into a head-on collision with pragmatism once one actually gets into the office.

  • Garry_Owen

    With respect, my belief is my belief, based in large measure on a good portion of life lived in that profession. It is not reductionist, but principled. It may not be universally shared, even within the profession, but it is my principled belief.
    Troops may be, and are, trained to do many things beyond “kill and smash,” but my experience informs me that those functions reduce in no small measure the effectiveness of those troops’ primary purpose. It might not be a comfortable notion in a civilized world, but it remains true that the military is formed and designed to destroy.
    Where I believe we differ is here: I believe that the military’s primary purpose should be its limit, whereas you believe that because the military also happens to do other things those other things should be considered part of its purpose. I think it creates unintended consequences and problems, not the least of which is the projection and propagation of military power where it should not exist.
    Re the redeployment of overseas military units, I believe that they should be returned home for the sole purpose of being ready for the next (and hopefully only unavoidable) need for future destructive power.
    It’s a radical position, that may be unpalatable, but I believe it’s correct as a matter of principle.
    Now, because our military is comprised of Americans with American values, I believe it will always stand ready to help with humanitarian aims. But whether it should be considered to be available as part of its role and purpose is the question. We just disagree on this. It can be okay, without being reductionist to disagree.

  • woofersus

    I disagree slightly. There was already a conversation happening, but there sort of always has been. It’s just a background issue most of the time. Highly visible things like this can bring it to the forefront and put it into the minds of folks who otherwise prefer to avoid thinking about it. That’s one reason the backlash is so strong. Plus, the response he/they received and continue to receive was illuminating. Not that every person who dislikes what he did is automatically a KKK-certified racist, but some of the rhetoric that emerged was straight out of the 1950’s. It’s incredibly revealing of the prevalence of certain attitudes. It may not be directly what he was protesting, but it’s ultimately at the heart of the matter. That’s the real conversation that is easily ignored when there is no flashpoint.

  • WFNY_DP

    Garry, I think I get you. I was hired to do a specific job at an academic institution. When my bandwidth was greater and our staff was depleted due to departures, I was willing to take on additional work outside of the official job description into which I was hired. There was a learning curve, and while I was successful I wasn’t as successful as someone who had been hired to do that specifically because of their experience and skills-set would have been.

    Further, once my actual “job” picked up in work load, I no longer had the bandwidth to do all of the things I had been doing. So, the choice was, leave people in a lurch, or be less effective overall because I was spread too thin and not focusing on my primary responsibilities.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good morning … man , this page blew-up yesterday. there will never be real meaningful change until they blow the whole thing up & start over … and until you can get huge corporations to quit throwing boatloads of money at candidates , it will never change … this includes Obama & every other President in the 20th & 21st century. DC is more about the almighty dollar than it is about serving the people.

  • WFNY_DP

    On this we agree. Even the most idealistic of candidates (Sanders?) has to know somewhere deep down in the dark parts of the soul that NOTHING gets done in DC without a lot of quid pro quo.

    I loved Sanders’ message, but one of the things that gave me pause was the complete blind spot in many of his core supporters as to the likelihood that he’d be able to do ANY of what he wanted (which, is somewhat surprisingly manifesting itself with Trump’s administration as well, quasi-thankfully). Sanders could campaign and get elected on the promise of single-payer healthcare. Awesome!

    Now, tell me: how in the hell are you getting that through Congress?

  • humboldt

    I was referring to the centrist manner in which Obama governed, not campaigned. Aside from differences in personality/delivery, there is little ideological space between Obama and someone like Tim Kaine; they are the same breed of neoliberal political figure offering the status quo and making occasional gestures at half-hearted incrementalism

  • Garry_Owen

    Thanks. I think you do. Thanks for putting it in practical terms, away from the harshness of my initial comment.

    I also get the counter point. Just disagree.

  • humboldt

    well said TG

  • humboldt

    I can appreciate the conceptual argument you’re laying out here.

    But I’m still confounded by the practical implications. Are you saying that, if you were president and facing domestic catastrophes like the situation in Puerto Rico or like Katrina, you would choose *not* to deploy troops for disaster relief because it “projects military power where it should not exist”? Practically speaking, I think a president who acted in this way in the face of mass suffering would be considered mentally ill and immediately impeached!

    (Not saying you are mentally ill obviously, just that the practical application of your principle takes us onto much different ground than an “academic” argument)

  • mgbode

    He could take portions of what some could consider an over abundant supply of workforce in the military (as you suggest) and give a permanent reassignment to the Department of the Interior for such humanitarian projects.

  • Garry_Owen

    Rest assured, my friend, I have no intent to run for President. Unless you do. Then IT’S ON!!!
    To that end, this is still very much an academic discussion.

    If I WAS president . . . First, Taco Tuesday would be a national mandate. Second, I would otherwise be a phantom, visible only one Saturday each year in December, changing sides at halftime. Third, I said that the military would likely be available, I just wouldn’t make it their purpose, but I would defer to the individual states and their Title 32 authority. If they absolutely need active duty personnel, I would stand ready to help. But I would not restructure the active military in any way to make disaster relief part of its stated mission or purpose. Fourth, I would do a whole lot of other things with the military that are even more radical (but PLEASE let’s not go there!)
    Also, my reference to the projection of power does not include the territory of the U.S. Obviously. I’m thinking more about the image of aircraft carriers and Marines in Haiti, Africa, during Japanese nuke plant meltdowns, and the like. I do believe that these humanitarian expeditions, however altruistic, send the improper signal that “the U.S. military belongs here – indeed, wherever people are suffering.” To that end, then, I absolutely disagree that the military exists to generally advance the interests of the state.

  • humboldt

    It seems we agree on:

    -the self-destructive folly of American imperialism;
    -the need to reduce our military presence abroad and take better care of our troops;
    -a role for keeping disaster relief within the purview of the military;
    -the need for a constitutional amendment to federally mandate Taco Tuesday (or ‘Taco Thursday’, alliteration still works and closer to the weekend!).

    I’m happy to have found that common ground with you 🙂

  • Garry_Owen

    That’ll teach you to call me out on my crazy radical views!! I hope we have both learned a lesson.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yeah. That’s a possibility. I like it. When I’m not President, you will be my Interior secretary.

    Also, FEMA has learned a ton about disaster response from . . . Home Depot and Lowe’s. No joke. If we’re going to spend the cash, why not spend it on an industry with a profit motive to excel in the required task and ability to create jobs?

  • Garry_Owen

    I know this is really late on an old discussion, but I’ve been sitting in a hearing all week in which the COE has come up, and I don’t think I gave you good response, or at least not well thought out.

    The COE is an interesting organization, and I do think that to the extent we want “military” involvement, the COE is a great option, but primarily because it is significantly civilian (if not mostly, which I think, without evidence, is the case). That dual nature of civilian/military has been extremely effective. To that end, the COE certainly also has an express purpose of supporting national civilian infrastructure. At first that was expressly for national defense purposes, but it morphed over time to be much more expansive.

    If we continue to rely on the “military” for disaster response, I would love to see that restricted to the COE, keeping all warfighters (everyone else) out of the role.

  • humboldt