But we know there’s always going to be a trickle-down effect [from his tweets about NFL players refusing to stand for the National Anthem] with Trump – and indeed, now students are paying the price. Within the last two weeks, a high school football coach in Tennessee told his players they have to stand for the national anthem, a Louisiana principal threatened to remove student athletes from their teams if they didn’t stand during the national anthem and the superintendent of the entire parish, who supervises almost three dozen schools, then said he supported this policy and suggested it would apply to all of his schools.
Before more students’ rights are threatened, this needs to stop. Not only does it go against basic American principles to threaten students about speaking up – it’s also blatantly unconstitutional for a public school to do this. The Supreme Court made this clear in 1943 when it decided the landmark case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. In that case, school children who were Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to salute the flag because it was against their religion to do so, and as a result they were expelled or threatened with expulsion.
The Supreme Court very forcefully declared that punishing students for not participating in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional. The decision had nothing to do with the students’ religion and everything to do with their constitutional right to freedom of speech. As the Court wrote, in language that has become one of the most important principles of modern free speech law:
“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”
Whether for students in homeroom being forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, or student athletes being forced to stand for the national anthem, the principle remains the same: Public schools cannot force them to participate. As is clear at the end of the above quote, there are no exceptions. (Private schools are different, as the Constitution doesn’t apply to them.)
Other parts of the opinion are worth noting as well. The Court did not ignore the fact that the pledge incites deep emotions, especially during wartime (when the case was decided). To the justices, that just meant that the students’ free speech rights mattered even more: “Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”
The Court also explained that true patriots welcome dissent and protest, even when it touches the flag. To the Court, true patriots recognize that the U.S. is strong enough to appeal to people on its own, without mandates from above: “To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.”
Often in the law, especially constitutional law, rules are unclear and there is a lot of wiggle room. That’s what makes my day job teaching these issues interesting. But here, the answer is stunningly simple. Public schools cannot force students to participate in the flag salute or national anthem. Schools doing so in the wake of the current national conversation about NFL players are inviting an expensive lawsuit, a lawsuit they will lose.
— David S. Cohen, Rolling Stone, What the Supreme Court Says About Sitting Out the National Anthem, October 6, 2017
Note: I realize this is a long post, but it was impossible for me to address the issue of racism in 1,200 words or less. I hope you will read to the end, and then share your thoughts in the comment section. I would also appreciate you sharing this post on social media.
Donald Trump. What more can be said about the orange-haired toddler currently inhabiting the White House. Fair-minded people see Trump as a narcissistic psychopath whose entire approach to policy and governing can be summed up in one word — winning. In recent weeks, mental health professionals have begun to question the president’s sanity and mental fitness. Could it be that the millions of people who voted for my dick-is-bigger-than-your-dick Trump were duped by a man who is mentally unfit for office? Or is Trump more like Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — a man who is artfully manipulating the system for his own good. Looking at the tax overhaul plan released today by Trump, I would suggest the latter. The president is asking Congress to reduce the number of tax rates, while also reducing the rate on the highest tax bracket from thirty-nine percent to thirty-five. Trump also wants Congress to do away with the estate tax, drastically reduce corporate tax rates, and fundamentally change how American corporate profits earned overseas are taxed. The big winners in the president’s plan are millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations. In other words, Trump wins big, to the tune of millions of dollars a year in reduced taxes. And when he dies his vast estate would be passed on to his heirs tax-free. Talk about winning. Trump wins on both sides of the grave.
None of the above surprises me in the least. Trump is the culmination of forty years of Republican attempts to gut the federal government, impoverish the states, and reward wealthy capitalists for their political support. Begun by Saint Ronald Reagan with what George H.W. Bush called voodoo economics, Republican economic policies are now such that there can be no doubt that their end game is the enslavement of the working class and poor and the enrichment of the corporate oligarchs who now rule (and own, bought and paid for with campaign donations) federal and state governments. And these haters of progressive values are not finished. We still have Paul Ryan and his Tea Party cohorts masturbating to a statute of Ayn Rand with Adam’s Smith invisible hand. These despisers of the poor will not rest until all the social progress gained since World War II is returned to the “hell” from whence it came. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Gun Control Act, Welfare, Food Stamps, Obamacare — gone, gone, gone! In its place is a resurgent wild west where corporations are free to misuse and abuse their employees, pollute waterways, foul the air, and donate millions to politicians who do the bidding of their business overlords (along with a military tasked to protect corporate interests across the globe).
Underneath the anti-human policies mentioned above is a subtle, and, at times, not so subtle, racism. There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that President Trump is a racist. And white supremacists, Steve Bannon of Breitbart fame, David Duke of the KKK, and the white marchers that took to the streets of Charlottesville think so too. White America — eighty-two percent of white Evangelicals vote for Trump — overwhelmingly voted for President Winner. While this in and of itself isn’t proof that Trump is a racist — after all, the overwhelming majority of blacks for voted Barack Obama — the president’s speeches, policies, executive orders, and Tweets — despite the token blacks at his Ain’t I Wonderful pep rallies — reveal that the man is indeed someone who is, at the very least, indifferent to matters of race. While some on the left want to give the president the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that he is a non-politician learning on the job, I am not one such person. Eight months of living in the swirling vortex of a Donald Trump presidency has shown me that the man is a racist.
If I had any doubts about Trump’s racism, events that have transpired over the last week have put an end to them. He is, without a doubt a racist. First, there’s the president’s verbal and Twitter attacks of black NFL and NBA players. My counselor and I were talking about this very matter today, and he asked me if I noticed how Trump artfully moved the reference point of discussion. When Colin Kaepernick took a knee, it was to protest racial injustice and police brutality against people of color. Over the weekend, hundreds of black (and white) NFL athletes refused to stand for the National Anthem. Their reasons for protesting range from racial injustice and police violence against blacks to Trump calling them sons of bitches and demanding team owners fire them. Trump moved the discussion goalpost by changing the point of reference from race to patriotism. The protests had nothing to do with race, according to the president, and everything to do with disrespecting the American flag. Trump did the same thing when he was sharply criticized for his atrocious tone-deaf comments after the white-supremacist-driven carnage in Charlottesville. The protest wasn’t about race. Oh no, the marching whites in Charlottesville were protesting the left’s attack on their Southern way of life, complete with Confederate flags and Civil War monuments. By turning these protests on their head, Trump hopes to avoid being labeled a racist. Sadly, many of his followers have followed right along with him, asserting that neither they nor President Make-America-Great-Again are racist.
Want to see how racist many people in America still are? Just turn to the comment sections on news sites and blogs, or slog through posts and comments by Herr Donald supporters on social media, and you will see George Wallace-worthy — I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever — racism. From support of Trump’s racist immigration policies and his callous indifference to the suffering of non-white Puerto Rico to their defense of his on attack black athletes and whites who oppose his policies, these dog-whistle-hearing sycophants show that we are generations away from living in a post-racial society.
If you doubt these issues are about race, let Steven Colbert of The Late Show fame,The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and Nick Wright from ESPN put your doubts to rest.
I am sixty-years old. I grew up in a flag-waving, John Birch Society-supporting, Evangelical home where racism was never far from the surface of day-to-day life. My parents moved to California in the 1960s. It was there that they were exposed to the virulent racism at the heart of American exceptionalism, Christian nationalism, and ideologies trumpeted by Richard Welch, Jr, the founder of the John Birch Society, 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and Democratic/Independent candidate George Wallace. I have no doubt that the preaching of their pastor, Tim LaHaye, from the pulpit of Scott Memorial Baptist Church helped to stoke my parents’ rage against blacks, Mexicans, Martin Luther King, Jr, the Black Panthers, the United Nations, Vietnam War protesters, and anyone and everyone who ran afoul of their white sensibilities.
None Dare Call It Treason, 2.2 million copies printed in 1964 alone
It should not be surprising, then, that their eldest son, picked up on and adopted their beliefs. As a first-grader in the San Diego public school system, I took several of my mother’s books to school, one of which was None Dare Call it Treason by John Stormer. One of the books had graphic photographs of violence perpetrated by Communist Russia. I primarily brought the book to school so I could show my fellow classmates the photos. My teacher quickly confiscated the books and sent them home with me at the end of the day with a note saying the books were to remain at home. I am sure my parents were proud of my preaching of right-wing gospel.
As a young adult, I frequently told racist jokes. While I often had to hide my racist views of blacks in public, in private conversations with fellow white restaurant managers I would lament the laziness of black employees. Even in our foster care provider days when we had a black teen girl living with us, I saw myself as a benevolent white out to help a helpless black girl. I was, without a doubt, the son of Robert and Barbara Gerencser, warriors for all things Christian and white.
My views on race began to change while this black girl lived in our home. In 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. Needing local housing, we arranged to rent a farm-house from a retired teacher. The day we called to pick up the keys for the house, this virtuous pillar of all things Christian told us that she was going to rent the house to a family member instead. This, I later learned, was a lie. The truth was that she discovered we had a black foster child living with us, and according to someone who knew her well, she “wasn’t going to have a nigger living in her house.” We moved, instead, to New Lexington, thirteen miles south of Somerset. There we enrolled our foster daughter in the local public school. She was the only student of color in the school. Needless to say, this made her a target of racist rednecks who made her short stay there a living hell. Eventually, our foster daughter was returned to the system in hopes of her being placed in a home located in a more racially diverse area.
During the almost twelve years I pastored Somerset Baptist Church, my understanding of the complexities of race and the systemic problems faced by people of color began to change. I wish I could say that I had a Damascus road experience and the racist blinders over my eyes immediately fell off, but alas I can’t. It took years and years for my racist tendencies to fade into the fabric of racial equality and inclusion. And even to this day, I am not certain that I am blind to skin color. Several weeks ago, I participated in forum discussion on the subject, Does Racism Exist in Northwest Ohio? (You can listen to the podcast here. The podcast is also available on iTunes.) My answer was, yes, and I gave several examples to bolster my point; that underneath the white Christian veneer of rural Ohioans is a latent Obama-hating, affirmative action-hating, racism waiting to be unleashed. Last November, seven out of ten voting locals voted for Donald Trump. Confederate flags were unfurled for all to see. Racism, once buried safely below rural respectability, was legitimized and encouraged to rise to the occasion. The result is there for all to see on social media and on the editorial page of the Defiance Crescent-News.
During the aforementioned forum discussion, I mentioned an example of how Mr. Progressive, Mr. Color Blind Bruce Gerencser still had deeply buried racist tendencies. Several months back, while driving by Galilee Baptist Church on Ottawa Street in Defiance, I remarked, that’s where blacks go to church. True, Galilee is primarily attended by blacks, but when I drove by the next dozen or so churches, why didn’t I say, that’s where whites go to church? This illustration might seem quaint or not worthy of mention in a discussion on racism, but to me, it revealed that I still, to some degree, saw things from a racist perspective. I suspect that I will spend the remaining days of my life continuing to root out deep-seated prejudices towards people of color.
My wife, Polly, grew up in a family where racism was multi-generational, especially on one side of her family. I don’t remember Polly’s parents making strong racist statements, but their view of blacks revealed itself when they negatively talked about “colored” people. Why was skin color germane to the stories? Does it matter whether the wino, homeless man, thief, or murderer was black? Shouldn’t the crime or behavior be the focus of discussion? Yes, that’s how it should have been, but a racial designation was always attached when the perpetrator was a person of color.
Over the years, Polly and I heard family members tell countless jokes and stories about blacks. Sometimes, the stories were about how their white churches, in a paternalistic way, helped out this or that black family or how the white colonialist missionaries they supported were helping poor, ignorant blacks see the truth of the white Jesus gospel. Several discussions revolved around whether missionaries should require new black converts to dress and behave like Western whites. The answer, of course, was yes. Western Christianity was viewed as superior to African and Caribbean norms. Women were expected to wear bras, men ties, and everyone was to sing hymns the way they were sung at First Baptist Church. Black culture was a problem to be eradicated, not embraced, and missionaries were tasked with westernizing — in Jesus’ name, of course — their target groups.
A recent social media dust-up I had with the sixteen-year-old son of Polly’s Fundamentalist preacher cousin made me realize that the racism in her family is multi-generational. In a post titled Christmas, 1957-2014, I talked about the 2010 Christmas gathering for her immediate family. I wrote:
Christmas of 2010 was two years after President Obama was elected to his first term. Polly’s family didn’t vote for him, and through the night they made known their hatred for the man, Democrats and liberals in general. Polly and I, along with many of our children, voted for Obama, so the anti-Obama talk and the subtle racism made for an uncomfortable evening.
Most years, a gag gift is given to someone. This particular year, the gag gift, given to Polly’s uncle, was an Obama commemorative plate one of our nephews had bought on the cheap at Odd Lots. The grandchild of one of Polly’s uncles asked him what the plate was for. He replied, to go poo-poo on, poo-poo being the fundamentalist word for shit. This was the last straw for us
Fast forward to 2017, the grandchild mentioned above is a Fundamentalist Christian teenager, a staunch supporter, as were the three generations before him, of right-wing extremism. Recently, the boy raged against those (blacks) who refuse to stand for the National Anthem during pre-game ceremonies at professional sporting events. The latest protests, which he perceived was dishonoring of the military, the American flag, and the Christian way of life, resulted in him attacking those who refused to stand.
Here’s what the boy posted several weeks back:
Several days ago, he posted a similar screed.
Generally, I treat Facebook as a place to hang out with like-minded family and friends. I avoid political and religious discussions, preferring to look at shared photographs and cat videos. If I happen to inadvertently befriend someone outside of our extended family who is a Trump supporter or a right-wing Christian extremist, I quickly unfriend them. Life is too short for me to spend time wading through rivers of Trumptastic bullshit. Things are, however, a bit more dicey with family members. Polly and I, by far, are more progressive and liberal than many of the people we call family. When it comes to religion, we are the only out-and-out unbelievers in the bunch. While a handful of family members voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, most of them vote Republican, and having had enough of the Kenyan-born socialist Obama, voted for Donald Trump over Clinton in 2016 (a few voted for Gary Johnson).
Knowing this about our extended family, I avoid political discussions with them, choosing to alternately laugh and cry over the lies and distortions they post on their Facebook walls. For whatever reason, yesterday I decided to respond to the aforementioned comments. Here’s what I said:
My response, predictably, brought out lit Tiki torches, resulting in this reply:
Let me summarize the boy’s argument:
There is no such thing as racism
There is no such thing as white privilege
Whites are the ones being discriminated against
I, foolishly thinking I could make a saint out of Malcom X at a KKK rally, replied:
Needless to say, the shit hit the proverbial fan and it is still, today, spraying across the social media. The boy told me I was ignorant, and the boy’s mother, with whom I have had several skirmishes over her ignorant posts about atheists, sent me a red-hot message, letting me know that my comments were out of line, that I was a bitter old man, and that their family was NOT racist — we know black people! I attempted to respond to her, but, by then, she had blocked me.
I would have asked her, if your family is not racist, where did your son get his abhorrent racist beliefs? Dad? Mom? Grandpa? Church? (I featured the racist comments of one woman who attends the church this boy’s father pastors in a post titled, Christian Fundamentalist Shares the Sweet, Sweet Love of Jesus on Facebook. This boy did not come up with these beliefs in a vacuüm. He was taught these things in word and deed.
Needless to say, this Facebook altercation destroyed what little relationship Polly or I had with this particular family. And that’s fine. Perhaps, one day this boy will have an epiphany about his views on patriotism and race, along with his views on LGBTQ people, same-sex marriage, liberalism, and socialism, and vaguely remember his curmudgeonly old “bitter” atheist cousin once removed and his attempts to show him a better way. For now, he remain a textbook example of how racism and bigotry can affect multiple generations of people — even those who, with infectious smiles, say, Jesus loves you, and he has a wonderful plan for your life.
For those of you who are still talking to your uber-patriotic, flag-waving Republican/Evangelical/Conservative/Right-Wing/Tea-Party friends and family, how have they responded to Donald Trump’s racist comments and protests by black NFL players? Please share your pithy thoughts in the comment section. If you are a supporter of dotard Donald Trump, don’t bother. I’m all Trumped out.
I am someone who is committed to social and economic progress for all Americans. I oppose racism, bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia wherever they are found, including in the groups and political parties I support. Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia have left me increasingly feeling as if I am a stranger in this blessed land of ours. Nazis, KKK members, and white supremacists — some of whom were armed with assault rifles — marched in the streets as if we still lived in the 1950s. Counter-protesters pushed back at this vile and ugly display of Donald Trump/Steve Bannon-inspired white nationalism, but I was dismayed to see photographs of people who supposedly have much in common Martin Luther King, Jr. carrying firearms and resorting to violence to get their message across. During President Obama’s eight years in office, great strides were made in areas such as gays serving in the military and same-sex marriage. As a liberal, I thought, better days lie ahead. Thanks to Bernie Sanders and others who hold Democratic Socialist values, the plight of American workers will be improved, health care will be reformed and expanded, and the economic stranglehold the rich and corporations have on the working class will be broken. I naïvely thought that the influence of lobbyists and corporate donations on our political process would finally be ended. Instead, white and Evangelical America rose up and voted Donald Trump into office — the most inept, unqualified man to ever be elected president. Overnight, President Trump has rolled back decades of social progress, dumped billions of dollars of new money into the military-industrial complex, attacked minorities, and used the power of the Federal government to persecute and deport people who are in the United States illegally. Worse yet, President Trump has increased troop levels in the Middle East, threatened to attack Iran and Venezuela, and has us on the cusp of nuclear war with North Korea. And now it is increasingly likely that the President and/or people closely associated with him colluded with Russia to subvert our democratic process.
I find the current state of affairs to be quite depressing, so I try to do things that distract my mind from Trumpmania. Last Saturday, Polly and I, along with our oldest daughter, drove to Napoleon, Ohio to attend the Henry County Fair. We met our two oldest sons and their families at the fair. My sons love tractor pulls, and since Polly and I had never attended such an event, I thought attending the NTPA — (National Tractor Pullers Association) sanctioned tractor pull would be a delightful distraction. Little did I know that Christian nationalism would be front and center at the pull.
It comes as no surprise that the crowd was white. During the four-plus hours I sat in the stands, I saw all of one black person. An Asian family sat in back of us for a short while, but after having their fill of high-horsepowered machines, they got up and left. Prior to the start of the event, I expected the announcer would ask everyone to stand, remove their hats, place their right hands over their hearts, and face the flag as someone screeched out the Star Spangled Banner. While I personally despise the singing of the National Anthem (and God Bless America) at sporting events — a tradition dating back to the World Wars — I acquiesce, removing my hat and placing it over my heart. Unfortunately, minutes — long, painful minutes — before the singing of the National Anthem, the announcer launched into a diatribe better suited for the brown shirts In Charlottesville who were, at the same time, showing their support for nationalism, militarism, and Christianity.
First, the announcer had everyone stand, remove their hats, and place their right hands over their hearts, not for the singing of the National Anthem, but for the saying of a sectarian prayer to the Christian God. He demanded everyone conform, and then launched into a full-blown — are we at an Evangelical church? — masturbatory prayer to Jesus. The prayer was completed with the announcer saying, and all God’s people said AMEN. The stands reverberated with an orgasmic AMEN! with virtually everyone around me lending their vocal approval. No shock here. This is rural Northwest Ohio, the land of Christian God, guns, American militarism, and overt displays of nationalism.
Having attended countless sporting events over the years, I have had to listen to innumerable inane, stupid — and at times hilarious — Christian prayers. I was not, however, ready for what happened next. Once the prayer was finished, the announcer asked everyone to remain standing for the next ritual, the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance. Before leading the crowd in a profession of fealty to the United States and to the Christian God, the announcer went on a several minute-long harangue about how great America was, how awesome our military was, and how parents need to teach their children the importance of blind, nationalistic patriotism.
Once the Pledge of Allegiance was duly uttered, it was time for the singing of the National Anthem. I thought, finally escape looms near. Unfortunately, everyone in attendance was forced to listen to part three of the announcer’s Ain’t ‘merica Great sermon first, and then the appointed singer sang the National Anthem. Thinking my hell on earth was finally over, I started to sit down, only to find out that the announcer wasn’t done. Since there were Canadians in attendance at the tractor pull, it was deemed appropriate to play the Canadian National Anthem. Thankfully, no one was called on to sing O Canada.
As I always do when attending sporting events, I refused to remove my hat for the praying of the prayer to the Christian God. This God is not my God, and I find such displays of sectarianism at events open to the public offensive. As far as I could see in front of me and to the left and right, I was the only man who refused to uncover his head. The saying of the Pledge of Allegiance elicited the same response from me. I refuse to pledge my allegiance to America, its flag, or the Christian God. I know the saying of the Pledge has its roots in the anti-communist McCarthyism of the 1950s. As a Christian, I refused to say the pledge because my only allegiance was to Jesus. These days, I refuse because of the connection of the Pledge to nationalism and militarism.
I am sure some readers might wonder how, constitutionally, the announcer could get by with the sectarian prayer and sermonizing. Ohio county fairs are actually private events. Agricultural boards rent the fairgrounds from their respective counties and are free to do whatever they want. I learned this years ago when I got into a skirmish in Southeast Ohio with the Perry County sheriff and county fair officials. I had gone, along with a group of people from the church I pastored at the time, to the fairgrounds to hand out tracts and preach. The local sheriff, with whom I had a running battle, threatened to arrest me if I didn’t immediately stop what I was doing and leave the fairgrounds. I refused, threatening both him and the fair board with a lawsuit for violating my first amendment rights. They backed down, but a few weeks later I received a letter from the Ohio Attorney General informing me the Ohio fairs were private events and as such I could be arrested for trespassing if I continued to hand out tracts and preach. Ironically, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) was permitted to have on fair property a train caboose-like vehicle they used to trap children into watching movies or other forms of entertainment so they then could be evangelized. (At the Henry County Fair, there was a man preaching and handing out tracts. He was allowed to do so unmolested.)
The tractor pull itself was quite entertaining, and both Polly and I enjoyed watching the loud, thunderous machines pull a weighted sled down the track. My sons informed me that this Saturday’s NTPA national event at the Wood County fairgrounds in Bowling Green, Ohio will even be worse when it comes to worship of the Christian God and the promotion of American exceptionalism and nationalism. Not only will there be a prayer and a pledge, there will also be the playing of numerous patriotic country songs. The songs of flag-wavers such as Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood will blare across the pull grounds, as men and women who proudly wear the redneck label thank God for horsepower and the smell of racing fuel. I’ll pass, thank you.
Allen Joyner is the pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in McKenzie, Alabama. Joyner is also the football game announcer for McKenzie High School. Prior to the start of yesterday’s game, Joyner told the crowd:
“If you don’t want to stand for the National Anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots AT you since they’re taking shots FOR you.”
Evidently, Joyner thought that he was preaching to his church. You know, typical red meat Fundamentalist bullshit that countless Baptist preachers routinely utter on Sundays. Now, thanks to someone posting his words to Facebook, Joyner is facing widespread ridicule and condemnation. And rightly so. Here’s what was posted on Facebook by Denise Crowley-Whitfield:
The crowd wildly cheered. So sad that the people cheering Joyner’s ignorance seem to have no understanding of the First Amendment, nor do they understand that there is a time and place for everything. By all means, Pastor Joyner, unzip your pants and show your congregation your “patriotic” manliness. Let them cheer your prowess and “conviction.” But, on fall Fridays your job is to announce McKenzie High football games. Save the patriotic junk-waving for Sunday.
Sweet Home Baptist Church posted the following statement:
Joyner’s words were taken out of context? Sure, they were. Pray tell, in what other way could Joyner’s words be understood? No, Joyner meant what he said, and now he is upset because he has been accused of indecent exposure.
Both Sweet Home Baptist and Crowley-Whitfield have deactivated their Facebook accounts. While the folks at Sweet Home are standing by Pastor Joyner’s words, I hope that the powers that be at McKenzie High School will make sure that Joyner had announced his last football game.
“Patriotism should be a part of school events but threats of shooting people who aren’t patriotic, even in jest, have no place at a school. Threats of violence are a violation of school policy and certainly not condoned by the school board.”
I suspect that Joyner’s words and his continued employment will be subjects of discussion at the next school board meeting.
In the coming days, countless right-wingers will defend Joyner, even going so far as to say that Joyner has the right to say whatever he wants while announcing McKenzie High football games. While this may or may not be true, one thing is for sure: words have consequences. What Pastor Joyner SHOULD do is apologize for what he said, but he won’t. His pants and underwear are now down around his knees. No turning back now.
By now, I am sure that virtually every reader of this blog knows about and has an opinion concerning San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick has been praised and brutalized in the press. I have been hesitant to give my opinion on the matter, fearing how some people might respond to my position. When it comes to the US military, law enforcement, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and political/social movements such as Black Lives Matter, most Americans have strong positive or negative feelings. I too have strong feelings.
First, I fully support Colin Kaepernick. He has a First Amendment right to protest, speak his mind, and refuse to swear allegiance to the flag of a country that he believes directly and indirectly supports the oppression of people of color. All Americans have the right to voice their dissent, and I applaud Kaepernick for his willingness to voice his on a national stage.
Second, while there is some debate about the legality of Kaepernick’s unwillingness to honor the American flag, whatever laws might be on the books, the US Supreme Court has made it clear in its ruling on the constitutionality of burning the American flag that acts of dissent and civil disobedience are protected First Amendment behaviors. I’m astounded by the fact that many supposedly educated people think Kaepernick should be publicly and privately punished for his dissent. The moment we stifle or outlaw dissent is the moment when we cease to be a nation that values freedom and liberty.
Now let me state very clearly how I personally view these matters. I realize that some readers will be incensed by some of the things I say in this post. That’s fine. People are free to voice disagreement or even be angry or hateful towards my viewpoint. All I can do is live according to the dictates of my conscience.
While I understand the need for a military, it troubles me deeply that the US military has been used to promote colonialism, imperialism, and American exceptionalism across the globe. I find it beyond offensive that American troops (along with the CIA and NSA) have been used to overthrow democratically elected governments, wage wars against political enemies, and expand the iron grip of American capitalism. American soldiers since 9/11 are directly responsible for the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. This coming year I will be 60 years old. The United States has been at war somewhere in the world my entire life. We now rain unholy hell from the skies through a drone program that supposedly kills only the bad guys. We now know drone strikes do indeed kill terrorists, but they also cause what our political and military leaders like to call “collateral damage.” I wonder what we would think of the term “collateral damage” if it were our children, our wives, our parents, our grandparents, and our siblings that were being slaughtered with bombs shot from machines that are controlled by soldiers thousands of miles away?
Yesterday, President Obama authorized spending of $90 million for the use of eliminating 40-year-old bombs that were dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War. Thousands of Laotian people have been killed because they accidentally stumbled upon American bombs. These bombs are a perfect reminder of the senselessness of war and our inability to find ways to settle differences without the use of violence. The United States remains the only nation on the face of the earth to have used nuclear weapons against civilian populations. Instead of realizing the danger of nuclear weapons and working towards total disarmament, the American government is now working on improving its nuclear arsenal. Is there no end in sight to such madness? Fifty years ago a Trappist monk by the name of Thomas Merton said the world was on the precipice of a nuclear holocaust. Nothing has happened in the intervening years that has changed this fact. The doomsday clock continues to tick. Which nation will it be that pushes the red button and obliterates the human race off the face of the earth? Naïve Americans like to think it will never be the United States, but history tells us that our leaders have been quite willing to slaughter vast numbers of people for political and economic gain. It’s time we stop living the lie, the one that we were taught in school, that Americans are basically good people. We’re not, and quite frankly we never have been. Only by ignoring our history can Americans look in the mirror and see themselves as a good people. Maybe there was a time when we had good intentions, but those days are long gone. Naked ambition and a thirst for political power and economic supremacy is now the engine that drives our political class. Unwilling to die themselves, our overlords use US military power to advance their agenda.
It sickens me every time I hear someone say — usually before the playing of the national anthem — that American soldiers are dying overseas so we can enjoy the freedoms we have here. Let me be blunt. This is bullshit. Our invasions of Iraq (both times) and Afghanistan, along with our military interventions in numerous countries across the globe have become the fuel that fires the hatred terrorists have for America. While I think the teachings of the Quran play a significant part in the bloodthirsty actions of Islamic terrorists, I refuse to turn a blind eye to the fact that the country of my birth is somewhat culpable for the rise of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations. The US military has killed countless civilians and used torture against combatants and noncombatants alike. Almost 8 years after President Barack Obama said he would close Guantánamo Bay, it remains open, an ever-present reminder of America’s use of torture and violence to advance its agenda.
I refuse to be cowed by demands that I blindly and without reservation support the US military. I do not support military interventionism, expansionism, or offensive wars. The US military should be used for defensive purposes only. So when someone tells me that US soldiers are fighting on my behalf, I say, not in my name! Not in my name! I have never asked soldiers to shed their blood or remain in some foreign land just so I can have the freedom to pursue the delusional American dream. I do not want one more person to die a meaningless, senseless death in wars that cannot be won. This does not mean that I am anti-military. It does mean, however, that I am anti-violence. When the Huns are at the gate, it’s time to fight. When Muslims are fighting against each other in the Middle East over whose religious beliefs are the right ones, the fight is theirs not ours.
I attend numerous sporting events each year, and I can’t remember the last time when the playing and singing the Star-Spangled Banner was not directly connected to American militarism. Wounded American soldiers are displayed for all to see as the national anthem is sung — supposedly as reminders of why we are singing the song. Sporting venues roll out huge flags that are manned by military personnel. Sometimes military jets fly overhead, reminding attendees that the United States is the meanest, baddest, and most powerful nation on the face of the earth. While the crowd claps and chants USA! USA! USA!, I quietly hang my head, waiting for the nationalistic masturbation to end. While I still stand, remove my hat, and even sing the Star-Spangled Banner, I do so not out of loyalty or respect, but because I am still grateful that I live in a land that affords me great liberty, freedom, and economic security.
I draw the line, however, on the Pledge of Allegiance. I refuse to pledge my allegiance to a country that plays an instrumental part in much that is wrong in the world. I am in no way saying that I want to live in some other country, but I’m also not willing to say that the United States is the single best country on the face of the earth. I refuse to pledge my allegiance to a God that does not exist or to a political and economic structure that now causes great harm not only to its citizens, but the world. As I do with public prayers and the singing of God Bless America, I refuse to participate when called on to swear my allegiance to the government bought and paid for by Wall Street. While I certainly plan to vote in November, I do so because I fear what a Donald Trump presidency might do to America. That a narcissistic psychopath could even be on the ballot tells me that our political system is broken. Bernie Sanders is right. We need a political revolution. Hillary Clinton is not the answer. She is a centrist corporate Democrat, who will have no problem continuing to use the military to advance America’s worldwide agenda and dominance. She is, sadly, more of the same.
On my more pessimistic days (this is not one of them) I think that our Republic is too far gone to be saved. We no longer have a representative form of government. An oligarchy controls the political process and the economy. Corporate influence and money has destroyed Congress’ ability to act in the best interest of the American people. Our political leaders are little more than whores and shills for whoever shoves the most money in their g-strings. Until lobbyists are run out of Washington DC, “he who has the most money” will win, thereby controlling the government. This is not a Republican/Democrat problem. It is systemic, and until we are willing to destroy the system, things will continue as they now are. What is needed most today is for tens of millions of Colin Kaepernicks to use their spheres of influence to effect lasting political change. I am willing to be one such person and I hope you are too.