Thu, Jul

Time to Take a Knee


BELL VIEW-So, taking a knee disrespects the flag, the anthem, the troops and the Country? But waiving the Confederate Battle flag is your heritage? The essence of taking a knee, of silent protest, is respect. Respect for yourself and respect for the object of your protest. The players taking a knee are not burning the flag; they’re not spitting on the flag. They are engaged in silent, respectful protest. Just listen to Eric Reid, the 49’ers player who took a knee with Colin Kaepernick explain why he did it: 

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest. 

The contrast between the respect shown by Reid and other players in the NFL and the bile spewed by the president of the United States – who not only insulted the players, but extended the insult to their mothers – cannot be overstated. Listening to  this president speak is like watching an infant be torn to shreds by wild pigs. (Photo right: Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick.) 

If you accept that the nature of the protest itself – silently taking a knee – is a respectful mode of protest, then the charge against the protesters cannot be that they have disrespected the flag or the country. It is rather that the flag and the anthem are incompatible with protest – even the most respectful. 

This position is self-evidently false. Clearly in the Land of the Free we are free to express our opinions in a respectful, non-violent manner. This truth is the beating heart of the American ideal. The central, defining image of America is of the police protecting a flag-burner from the angry mob. Freedom isn’t free, people. You don’t like flag burners? You don’t like silent protesters? Move to North Korea. 

This distortion of silent protests designed to draw the Country’s attention to the persistence of racism in America into a protest against America itself proves the central thesis of the protesters. If protesting racism in America can be construed as a protest against America itself, the protesters have proven their point. 

The logic of this proposition has been at the heart of liberal frustration with right-wing America forever. Trump blasts respectful protesters as “sons of bitches.” Such casual disrespect – not only for his fellow Americans, but for the ideals of America – from the president of the United States now no longer shocks. Every word he utters is a mockery of respect. 

Oddly, many of the same people who scream that the flag and the anthem will brook no dissent also claim that waiving the Confederate Battle flag is nothing more than a benign expression of their heritage. (Never mind that many of the people from my old neighborhood wearing their heritage on their sleeves never made it South of the Mason/Dixon line.) The banner of the single greatest act of treason in the history of the Republic – a treasonous revolt that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans – is nothing less than a total repudiation of the flag and the anthem. Unlike peaceful protest – which forms the core of what the flag represents – the flag of the Confederacy is a negation of every value we pretend to hold dear. 

Which brings us back to race. Those Americans who see the phrase “Black Lives Matter” – that they actually matter – as a racist attack on their heritage, but can’t see the racism inherent in monuments to the Confederacy – the root and soil of the KKK – participate in a mass delusion of a world-historical scale. That this level of delusion still exists in America – and now actually sits at the center of power – is the reason for the protests. 

These players – millionaires all of them – carry on the tradition of the humble nurses and housewives and bus drivers who silently took their seats at segregated lunch counters. Like them, these silent protesters have lit the cauldron of simmering rage that lies at the heart of white America’s delusions. 

Those people screaming that the protesters disrespect the flag and the country take their place among the angry mob. You no longer have to leave your living room to rage at the American Dream.


(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Photo above: 97 year old World War II vet and Missouri farmer who said, “Those kids have every right to protest.” Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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