Most atheists tend to skew to the left socially and politically. However, that doesn’t mean all atheists are liberals/progressives. Atheists are not a homogenous group. There’s a diversity of opinions on all sorts of things. Some atheists voted for Donald Trump and think his present legal troubles are a witch hunt. Other atheists are hardcore libertarians. Atheists as a demographic comprises all sorts of people with diverse beliefs.
In recent years, I have noticed a rise in conservatism among atheists. Just today I read a rant by an atheist who attacked “wokeism,” particularly transgender ideology and people who refuse to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. This particular atheist believes that there’s no such thing as transgender people. Another atheist was glad the U.S. women’s team lost their World Cup match. Why? Many of them refused to participate in singing the national anthem. Jesus, some of them didn’t put their hands over their hearts!
Many atheists have had to deal with Evangelicals who deny that they are atheists; that atheists don’t really exist. Want to piss an atheist off? Just tell her you deny and reject her self-identification. When someone tells me she is an atheist, agnostic, Christian, Buddhist, or some other self-identifying label, I believe her. If someone tells me he is gay, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, asexual, or transgender, I believe him. How someone identifies himself doesn’t materially affect me in any way.
Yet, some atheists refuse to live and let live. They revere Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and J.K. Rowling for their stands against “transgender ideology.” While it is certainly true that transgender people are more visible now in the United States, this does not mean this is something new. Transgender people have always lived among us. Much like the other letters in the LGBTQ acronym, transgender people have long had to live in the shadows. It seems some atheists don’t like the fact that transgender people are no longer willing to suffer in silence, locked in a prison not of their own making. I am sixty-six years old. Throughout my lifetime, various people groups have rebelled against being marginalized and being treated as less than or inferior. Once they gain some semblance of justice and equal protection under the law, these marginalized people have no intention of returning to their closets. And that’s exactly what some atheists advocate. They want icky transgender people to voluntarily return to their closets — out of sight, out of mind. And if transgenders refuse to do so? Conservative atheists support politicians, policies, and laws that will force them to do so.
It seems that these anti-trans atheists don’t care if their words and actions cause harm to transgender people (and their families). No longer interested in thoughtful discussions around the intersection of transgender people and sports/medicine, these atheists call names and post memes. One atheist said that anyone who thinks biological sex and gender are not one and the same is anti-science.
Other atheists view themselves as flag-waving patriots, not much different from the faux patriots found among Trump supporters. Some of these atheist patriots voted for Trump twice — an action I will never understand. These atheists demand all Americans stand and sing the Star Spangled Banner — that people who refuse to do so are unAmerican. Some of them even think everyone should put their right hands over their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance — maybe skipping the mention of God. Evidently, freedom of expression and free speech doesn’t apply when it comes to masturbating to American imperialism.
I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, nor do I sing the Star Spangled Banner. Often, I don’t stand for either. The reasons for this are many (and not the primary focus of this post), but to suggest that my refusal to mouth a Christian nationalist pledge and sing a War of 1812 song means I am unpatriotic is laughable.
One atheist suggested that the women’s soccer team “embarrassed” the United States on a world stage by refusing to fully participate in the national anthem ritual. I didn’t feel embarrassed one bit, and I suspect many other Americans didn’t either. How about we have serious discussions about a plethora of embarrassing American actions and inactions that should cause thoughtful people to hang their heads in shame? Quite frankly, there’s not a lot to cheer about these days. Maybe you disagree. Fine, but suggesting that I am not patriotic or that I am not a loyal American if I don’t support your political and social agenda is not only absurd, it is un-American.
I have lost readers over the years due to my politics. Not much I can do about that. I am not going to change what I believe. I am a committed liberal/progressive/socialist/pacifist. I’m convinced that these political views best fit with my humanist beliefs. I am sure some readers will disagree with me. That’s fine. What pisses me off is when these disagreements are turned into attacks on my character. The same goes for my support of transgender people. If I dare suggest that they have the same rights and freedoms as other Americans, I am somehow supporting an immoral agenda. That these attacks come from atheists is troubling, but not surprising. There’s a rightward drift among some atheists and that will bring me into increasing conflict with them. This is unavoidable. Atheists are growing into a diverse cohort, and that will bring disagreement and conflict. What matters is how we interact and engage with people with whom we have political and social disagreements. Unfortunately, we live in the era of memes, and not friendly, thoughtful discussion.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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.
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.
Warning! I know some readers love my atheism, but hate my politics. If you are a supporter of President Trump, you might not want to read this post. I certainly wouldn’t want you to have a stroke. Thus warned, read at your own risk!
Unless you have been hiding in a nuclear fallout shelter out of fear of a Donald Trump-fueled war with North Korea, you know that numerous National Football League (NFL) players refused to stand for the playing of our national anthem — The Star Spangled Banner. Overwhelmingly black, these men of conscience are protesting not only Donald Trump’s racist Twitter attack and offensive campaign speech that targeted protesting players, but also issues such as Trump’s support of white supremacy and the continued use by police of deadly force against innocent or unarmed black Americans. Following in the steps of Colin Kaepernick, (please read Why I Stand With Colin Kaepernick) these players are using their place in the public spotlight to call attention to racial discrimination, inequality, and hostile government actions against people of color.
Many Republicans believe that racism no longer exists in post-Obama America. Americans elected and re-elected a black president in 2008 and 2012. A black man being elected president serves as proof to a culture steeped in white privilege that racism either no longer exists or is not that big of a deal. Yet, as events in Charlottesville showed, racism is alive and well. Thanks to the election of racist dog-whistler-in-chief, Donald Trump, white supremacist groups, the KKK, Nazis, and bigoted Evangelical Christian nationalists have, without fear, preached the old-time gospel of white superiority.
Donald Trump revealed how tone-deaf and blind he is on matters of race when he used Twitter and a campaign speech over the weekend to attack protesting black players, both in the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Here’s what President Trump had to say at a political rally for U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange:
Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.
When the NFL ratings are down massively, massively. The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening… with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard—15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.
But you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.
Trump also took to Twitter, his favorite tool for sending his words of genius out to the American public:
“…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!’
“Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!”
Supporters of Trump were quick to defend his words. What follows is a compendium of pro-Trump statements.
First up is hypocrite Rex Ryan, former coach of the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. Ryan had this to say over the weekend about Trump’s statements:
“I’m reading these comments and it’s appalling to me, and I’m sure it’s appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be. Calling our players SOBs and all that stuff. That’s not the men that I know. Men that I know in the locker room, I’m proud to be associated with those people. I apologize for being pissed off, but guess what, that’s it. Because right away, I’m associated with what Donald Trump stands for and all that because I introduced him. I never signed up for that. I never wanted that. That doesn’t mean I support 100-percent of the things he says, and clearly this is a case.”
Just last year at a Trump campaign rally, Ryan had this to say about the future president:
“There’s so many things I admire about Mr. Trump, but one thing I really admire about him is, you know what, he’ll say what’s on his mind. But so many times, you’ll see people, a lot of people want to say the same thing. But there’s a big difference. They don’t have the courage to say it. They all think it, but they don’t have the courage to say it.
“And Donald Trump certainly has the courage to say it, and that’s why I respect him. And you know what? So do the people of New York. This man, he’s one of the greatest businessmen, obviously, that we can ever remember. There’s no question about that.”
Some Trump officials came out in support of his attack on black NFL players:
“The owners should have a rule that players should have to stand and have respect for the national anthem.This isn’t about Democrats, this isn’t about Republicans, it’s not about race, it’s not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin
“Look, I think the NFL is an issue where the president has made a case that, as we’ve talked about, there are coaches across this country, at high-school level, who are penalized and disciplined for leading their players in prayer. And yet, you see an issue in the NFL where the media champions those who are taking a knee to disrespect the American flag. That is a dichotomy that most Americans can’t understand and for good reason. And the president’s raising attention to that. Well, he’s making the case that, in many cases, there are generations of Americans who have fought and died to protect our freedoms and fought and died for the red on that flag that represents the blood that’s been sacrificed by so many Americans. And what the president is doing is saying, “This is not the appropriate place to raise your social activism.” And I think he’s made the case that you have a First-Amendment right, if you wish, to protest the flag. But owners have a First-Amendment right, as well. They have the First-Amendment right to fire those players, if they so choose.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short
“I think if the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag,”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Nor wanting to be left out of the limelight, some Evangelicals unapologetically supported the pussy-grabber-in-chief:
“There’s a whole lot of talk going on about taking a knee during our national anthem. Yesterday even Stevie Wonder said he was taking not one knee, but two “for America.” I can tell you how getting on our knees could make a real difference—not in protest or in pride, but in PRAYER. Praying for each other, praying for unity, and praying for this great nation and our leaders. “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore” (Psalm 105:4).”
God bless Richard Petty, Richard Childress, and NASCAR owners for doing the right thing. They told their employees that if they disrespected the flag or the national anthem, they would get them a ride on a Greyhound bus! I think NFL owners should take a lesson from them! Do you agree?
I don’t know about you, but it’s just about time for a boycott of the NFL. At the very least, we should all agree to turn off and/or walk out of ANY game where ANY player of ANY color kneels or sits during the playing of our National Anthem. They exercise their free speech by kneeling, we exercise ours by turning them off. Much respect to the players who did not kneel, and to Jags owner Shad Khan who locking arms and standing. Good job. Everyone else, you’re fired. Go take a knee in the unemployment line.
I agree with our president on this issue, but my protest has nothing to do with Donald Trump. I am boycotting the NFL because I refuse to be used as a pawn in what is obviously a well thought out plan to divide America along racial lines.
So go ahead and kneel all you want during the National Anthem, and raise your fist in the black power salute because guess what? I won’t be watching you do it. And guess what else? I just happen to think there will be more than a couple of million other true patriots of this great nation not watching you along with me.
It’s difficult to see athletes, many of whom are black, who are paid tens of millions—some hundreds of millions of dollars for their contract to play football, stand against our country and our president, dismissing the interests of the fans who in fact pay their salaries. And it’s also difficult to see them essentially standing on a flag that so many gave their lives for. And that so many of us love, and are proud of. It is about the president. And it is about disrespect for our country. In fact, in the game yesterday between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens in London, American players kneeled during the American anthem, then stood during “God Save The Queen, Britain’s national anthem. How would McDonalds respond if the kid working at the drive through window, after taking your money, announced he was going to lecture you about his social beliefs and concerns before he would give you your burger? If the football players are calling for acceptance of the homosexual agenda—and some are, after taking the money of tens of millions of biblical Christians, they are asking us to disavow biblical teachings on the matter, including the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself. The same would apply to abortion. If the players are truly advocating for women’s rights, they could encourage the millions who watch them play to become a Christian. Christianity has done more to elevate the value of women than any other belief system in the history of the world.
Gary Randall, president of Faith and Freedom
“It is a deliberate undermining of another American institution. I’ve been convinced from the time I was a young guy that American boys play football. American boys play football, they don’t play soccer. They play soccer in Europe, they play soccer in Russia, they play soccer in Japan; in America, we play football. You look at what’s going on all across society [and] they’re doing everything they can to destroy football. Mommies aren’t letting their little boys play football anymore” because of concerns about concussions. You don’t want to get hurt? Well, quit riding in a car. There are a lot more concussions in cars than ever were on a football field, I can promise you that. You’re afraid you’re going to get hurt? Quit walking down steps. People break their legs all the time walking down steps. We’ve got to see exactly what’s going on. America’s sport is being destroyed right in front of us.”
Dave Daubenmire, former football coach
And of course this is all meant to divide America. It’s social engineering by the globalists to make whites racist. You know what whites are is lazy, candy-ass, politically correct trash. There’s not much worse in this country than white people, to get to the end of the day. They’re the ones all saying the white people are the devil.They’re the ones that came up with this race-baiting to make everybody racist. I don’t want to give an anti-white rant, but if you want one I’ve got one because I’ve been watching who’s been leading all of this. And they’re a bunch of sociopaths. And I’m sick of them.”
I’m all for exercising Constitutional Rights, but this new trend is alarming. Standing honors those who have given their lives for the freedoms that we now enjoy—freedoms that allow these individuals to make millions of dollars and never have to worry about retirement or hard work. Our arrogance, as a nation, is mind-boggling. “We have forgotten God, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own” (Abraham Lincoln)….Today, entertainers mock God and America, the church is silent and passive and the courts have taken it upon themselves to assume the role of a law-making body, rather than a protector of the Constitution; they have become political rather than constitutional. The wall of separation of church and state that was designed to protect America’s freedoms has now imprisoned her…One of my great concerns is for the pulpits of America. Many are exchanging truth for tolerance, boldness for balance, and conviction for cowardliness. We don’t want to offend; we might lose our audience. But we are not to seek the applause of men but the applause of God.
Pastor Shane Idleman
I think what these players are doing is absolutely wrong. These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking a knee like they would be if they were in North Korea.
Pastor Robert Jeffress
Unsurprisingly, given their flag-waving, white, redneck demographic, a few NASCAR luminaries came out in support of Trump:
“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America.”
“Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”
“I would sit down with them and say it’s the wrong thing to do that [take a kneel], and many people, including myself, view it as an affront to our great country. If there is disenchantment towards the President or a few bad law enforcement officers, don’t have it cross over to all that is still good and right about our country.”
Andy Murstein, principle owner of Petty Motorsports
And finally, leave it to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a man who has made millions off the backs of black players, to oppose players sitting for the National Anthem:
“I do not think this is the place to express yourself in society as we recognize the American flag. So that’s not the place to do anything other than honor the flag and everybody that’s given up a little bit for it.”
Trump certainly has a constitutional right to say whatever he wants, and so far, he has exercised that right to its fullest, giving Americans a clear picture of his narcissistic personality and Make America Great (and White) Again view of the world. Unlike many on the left, I do not support silencing hate speech. Trump, along with his white supremacist supporters, have the right to pour vitriol and hate upon the heads of liberals, socialists, people of color, immigrants, and anyone else deemed un-American or inferior. However, with the right of free speech comes the freedom of others to respond, and respond they did over the weekend:
“We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports. This union … will never back down when it comes to constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men in a game that exposes them to great risks.”
NFL Players Association executive director De Maurice Smith
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
“The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!”
Richard Sherman, player for Seattle Seahawks
“I can’t take anything our Celebrity in Chief says seriously. He’s a real life clown/troll”
George Iloka, player for the Cincinnati Bengals
“It’s disappointing that Trump is the president and talks the way he talks, though. It’s just incredibly disappointing. Rick and I had never been real political people, but prior to when all of the campaigning was going on, I mean, it didn’t take more than a minute to realize we didn’t want Donald Trump in the presidency. The guy is not all there, and I can’t tell you how shocked we were when he won, but we have been pretty vocal about it since long before Colin took a knee. So, we have some pretty strong feelings about that part of things. To see this man that you have no respect for, basically because of all that he’s done in this presidency so far, slandering my kid publicly.”
Teresa Kaepernick, Colin Kapernick’s mother
“The idea of civil discourse with a guy who is tweeting and demeaning people and saying the things he’s saying is sort of far-fetched. Can you picture us really having a civil discourse with him? It was an actual chance to talk to the president After all, he works for us. He’s a public servant. He may not be aware of that, but he is a public servant, right? So maybe as NBA champions, as people in a prominent position, we could go in and say, ‘This is what’s bothering us, what can we do about this? How about the irony of, ‘Free speech is fine if you’re a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans, but free speech is not allowed to kneel in protest? No matter how many times a football player says, ‘I honor our military, but I’m protesting police brutality and racial inequality,’ it doesn’t matter. Nationalists are saying, ‘You’re disrespecting our flag.’ Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one’s way worse than the other.”
Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors
“As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all. Respectfully, the players of the Seattle Seahawks.”
The battle for racial justice is far from over. I suspect that the skirmish over the weekend is the first of many battles that will be fought over matters of race, equality, and what kind of country America wants to be. Some Trump supporters have argued that recent protests are all about hatred for the President. I am sure more than a few Americans hate the President. I know I do. I can’t wait for the day when either Robert Mueller or voters run Donald Trump out of office. The man is, in every way, unfit for office, a divisive individual whose simplistic worldview focuses on one word — winning. Trump is the classic playground bully, out to attack and pummel anyone and everyone who crosses him. If the President was just an oft-bankrupt billionaire reality star, few Americans would pay attention. However, Trump and his minions currently hold the keys to the kingdom. They have in their hands the power to cause untold suffering, heartache, and death. Those of us who value freedom, democracy, progress, and civil rights for all must not grow weary in well-doing. If we quit now, we are turning America over to racists, fascists, and theocrats. I want a better tomorrow for my children and grandchildren, so I do what I can to make America a better place to live — a place where people are no longer judged according to the color of their skin or the balance of their checking account.
I recently participated in a forum discussion on Racism in Northwest Ohio. You can listen to the podcast here. The podcast is also available on iTunes.
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.
It was ten after four as I pulled into the Bryan High School parking lot. I arrived thirty minutes before game time so I could make sure that I had a first-row seat for the night’s slate of basketball games between the Swanton Bulldogs and the Bryan Golden Bears. Bethany, my daughter with Down Syndrome, was with me. Armed with pens and spiral notebooks, she spent the night drawing pictures and entertaining those who sat nearby.
I brought my camera equipment with me. I ALWAYS bring my cameras, feeling naked on those rare occasions when I leave them at home. I love watching high school basketball games. I am reminded of a time long ago — forty years ago now — when a young redhead boy sprinted up and down the court, hoping his meager effort would lead to a team victory. Never a great player, I still love the machinations of the game. Tonight’s varsity match was a blowout until late in the fourth quarter when Swanton mounted a comeback. A flurry of shots fell through the net, trimming Bryan’s lead to eight. I wondered, would Swanton find a way to snatch victory out of jaws of defeat? Alas, it was not to be. Swanton lost all three games — ninth grade, junior varsity, and varsity. My cousin’s son plays on Swanton’s ninth grade team. He, statistically, had a great game, but his fellow teammates did not.
I knew that tonight was going to be difficult me. It was Veteran’s Night — an opportunity for locals to recognize and applaud veterans for their service. Surrounding me were fans wearing Trump tee shirts and hats, along with hundreds of people wearing flag apparel. These are the same people who would be outraged if I burnt a flag, demanding my arrest for violating the “flag code.” Lost on them are their own violations of the code with their Trumpesque accoutrements.
The public address announcer let the crowd know that the pregame events would begin with the Bryan band playing God Bless America. Everyone stood to their feet as the band began to play America’s second national anthem. Those near me put hands over their hearts, and several of them lustfully sang the words made infamous by the terrorist attacks on 9-11.
I did not stand, silently voicing my disapproval of the insertion of Christianity into a secular public high school event. It is not easy for me to do so. I can feel the stares, and in the past I have had people rebuke me for not giving Jesus his due. I remind those who dare to challenge me that I am an atheist and a secularist. Why should I give reverence to a mythical deity or show my support for those who care little for the separation of church and state.
Once the Christian Tabernacle Choir® finished with their hymn of praise and worship to America’s God, it was time to move on to the patriotic portion of the pregame events. The announcer asked all the veterans in attendance to stand while the rest of us stayed seated. Dozens of veterans stood as people cheered and young millennials ran to them, giving them high fives and thanking them for their service. I did not clap, hoping that since we were seated no one would notice my lack of applause. Alas, I was quickly outed as the crowd rose to its feet, applauding and cheering those who were lucky enough not to return home in a body bag. Their raucous applause went on for several minutes.
I was the only person not standing. Across the way stood my uncle, a veteran of the Vietnam War. I am sure my refusal to participate in the night’s glorification of American militarism offended him. However, he knows that my refusal to do so is a matter of principle for me. I resolutely stand in opposition American imperialism and militarism. My refusal to stand is me saying that I oppose America’s continued involvement in violent, unwinnable wars in the Middle East. Without soldiers, politicians would not be able to stuff American exceptionalism down the throats of the world. Most of all I refuse to stand because I don’t want one more drop of blood shed in my name. I don’t want American men and women dying just so I can have the “freedom” to watch basketball games. I will gladly not watch another sporting event if it means no more violence, carnage, and bloodshed. How dare we cheapen military deaths with empty words about freedom and the American way of life. Enough! I say, to the endless violence and destruction.
After the veterans were seated, it was time for the playing of the National Anthem. As is my custom, I stood, removed my hat, and held it over my heart with my right hand. As the band played, I turned my gaze to the flag and quietly sang the Anthem. A tear trickled down my cheek as I pondered what has become of the United States of America, the land of the free and home of the brave.
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 deeply wounded the psyche of Christian nationalists. Thinking that the United States had favored nation status with God, these white, middle-class, Republican, Evangelical Christians thought that our country was invincible. The Christian nation myth is so deeply embedded in our culture that it is almost impossible to get Evangelicals to see and understand the facts of the matter — that the United States is a schoolyard bully that uses violence and extortion to advance its globalist agenda. No, no, no, the United States is a Christian nation, says Evangelicals. We are a good, kind, and loving people who want what’s best for the world. Best being, of course, Christianity and capitalism. From its earliest days, United States has used violence to conquer all those who oppose her. One need only to look to the Middle East to see that the United States still thinks that bombs and bullets are the best way to settle any conflict. Even more troubling is the fact that millions of Americans plan on voting for a man who not only embraces the use of violence but wants to expand its use, going so far as to suggest that the United States needs to drop nuclear bombs on its enemies
These violence-loving Christians — thinking that the United States is some sort of global dispenser of God’s justice — are increasingly incensed over what they perceive to be a lack of fealty to their version of the Christian God. Ignoring the fact that the United States is a secular state, flag-waving Evangelicals demand that their God and their religion be given preferential treatment. Any pushback from atheists, humanists, secularists, or Christians who support the separation of church and state is viewed as persecution. Pretty soon the Christmas season will be upon us, and social media, along with Faux News, will be filled with stories about the “war on Christmas.” Businesses that don’t have their employees say Merry Christmas to their customers are viewed as anti-Christian. The same story is played out over and over throughout the year as Evangelicals whine, scream, and complain about the supposed secularist takeover of America. Again, facts don’t matter. Christians feel threatened by the restoration of the proper place of the separation of church and state in our government institutions, and instead of realizing that Christianity actually benefits from this, Evangelicals attempt to force God on people through public displays of Christian power. One such display is the singing of God Bless America at sporting events.
Last Friday, I attended the Wayne Trace-Tinora high school football game. A few minutes before game time, Wayne Trace’s marching band came on the field to play what I thought would be the Star-Spangled Banner. Imagine my surprise when they played, not the national anthem, but God Bless America. Fans on both sides of the field stood, removed their hats, and placed their hands over the hearts as the band played America’s new national anthem. I, for one, did not stand, nor did I take my hat off or put my hand over my heart. I find such displays of Christian nationalism to be offensive and I refuse to give my tacit support to anything that promotes the America-is-a-Christian-Nation myth.
After the playing of God Bless America, the band played the Star-Spangled Banner. At that moment, I stood, removed my hat, placed my hand over my heart, and quietly mouthed the words to the national anthem. While I’m not a big fan of singing the national anthem at sporting events, I recognize doing so is an attempt to express the common patriotic bond Americans have with one another. Personally, I wish they’d stop singing the national anthem, especially since in recent years its singing has often been used to advance militarism and display American military prowess. How else can we explain the use of military personnel to unfurl the flag or the Air Force jet flyovers as the anthem is being sung?
Several years ago, I attended a Sunday service at a Lutheran Church outside of Newark Ohio. As part of its worship service — I kid you not — the pastor led the congregation in singing the national anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I thought, at the time, how ironic to see this in a Lutheran Church. Seventy-five years ago, such displays of Christian nationalism were common in Hitler’s Germany. Both the Lutheran and Catholic churches played a significant part in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It is not beyond the pale of human imagination to see the same thing happening in the United States if Donald Trump is elected president. Like Hitler, Trump is not a Christian, but he is smart enough to see that Christian nationalism can be used to advance his political agenda. Evangelicals in particular have been manipulated and used by the Republican Party for the past 40 years. And once again, in 2016, they are being used to advance a pernicious agenda that could lead to World War III. And what will these God-fearing, flag-waving Christians do when war comes to the shores of the United States? Why, they will wave their flags, sing God Bless America, and with great pride pledge their allegiance to America’s Christian God.
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.