Actions speak louder than words. At least they are supposed to, according to this well known maxim. But the silent action of a solitary football player has sparked a war of words. A war that continues to escalate in intensity and impact. A war that continues to expand outward from football into other arenas of our daily lives, if you will. The ripple effect is in effect and the end is not in sight.
Irony fills every aspect of this controversy, brought about by one player’s initial action of taking a knee during the National Anthem. Traditionally and historically, kneeling is seen as a sign of utmost respect and humility, both cross culturally and across religious lines as well. But the objection being raised to this action of taking a knee is that it is disrespectful to our flag, our veterans and our country. And indeed, it was intended as a protest of current social and racial injustices occurring in our country.
Point of view seems to be vital to understanding the many perspectives involved in the national dialogue that is the ripple resulting from this initial casting of the stone upon the water, if you will. The surface may have appeared calm at the time, but turbulence swirling just beneath the surface is again being revealed for all to behold. And what we behold we are forced to face. And when we have the courage to face what has been revealed, we can find a way to forget our fears and forge ahead toward something new and full of promise.
Let’s start with the booing taking place at these NFL games during the national anthem. NOT COOL. Remember, actions speak louder than words. (or noises) So, stand up tall, remove your hat (if need be), put your hand over your heart and give your honor and respect to your country and to those who have fought for your freedom in this way. These actions are a personal, powerful, peaceful statement of your position and doing this speaks far louder than your booing ever could.
Likewise, the taking of a knee, is a personal, powerful, peaceful statement of one’s position. It speaks with eloquence and purpose. In comparison, booing is weak. Booing is lame. So enough with the booing already. Sit, stand or kneel, what we are witnessing as we see and comment on these players’ protests, is American freedom in action. These players are free to express their views without fear of being beheaded, without fear of being imprisoned, without fear of losing their jobs and without fear of being silenced.
This is the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and where it continues to lead us today. There is power in non-violent, peaceful protest. Let freedom ring, the freedom to take a knee. Let freedom ring, the freedom to stand with hand over heart. Let us define ourselves, each one, not by what we are against, but by what we are for. In supporting our brothers’ right to free speech, we support our own right to that same free speech. With all that free speaking going on, my hope is that some of us are also exercising our right to free listening. And I pray we are listening well. Our shared futures depend upon it. We each want to feel we have been heard.
Maybe that’s why this particular dialogue is playing out before us in the NFL. These players have a platform and personal power that you and I probably don’t have. (unless some of you, dear readers, are rich, famous celibs, in which case I beg your forgiveness for not giving you your due) Nonetheless, some feel the call to use their platform for causes greater than themselves. Ultimately, we will find ourselves indebted to them for trying to make our world a better place, a more just place for all of us.
This simple, non-violent act of taking a knee has opened dialogue and debate, long overdue and forces us once again to evaluate how we treat each other in this country. You know what I would like to see? I would like to see the players on a team with locked arms (as some have been doing) but ALL on the team with locked arms, those standing and those kneeling, preferably alternating those who have chosen to stand with those who have chosen to kneel. The purpose? To show support and respect for each teammate’s choice and position. This would be powerful beyond any words. I would like to see Rishard Matthews come out of the tunnel, join his teammates in support and be supported in return.
Freedom only works if each of us allow others the very freedoms we desire for ourselves. These players have earned their platform through hard work and dedication. If they choose to use their platform in a peaceful, non-threatening, non harmful way to affect change, that has to be respected. What cannot be respected or tolerated are threats to take away their jobs simply because they exercised their right to free speech. Taking a knee harms no one and does not interfere with their job performance. Let freedom ring.
We can each draw inspiration from this drama playing out before us in the daily papers and the daily news. We have platforms too. They may be small but we can do whatever is within our power to do at work, at home, in our churches and in our neighborhoods to bring about the justice and liberty for all that our pledge of allegiance promises. Keeping in mind that our “inalienable rights” derive from our Creator God and not from any government, we should be diligent to ensure that our government protects those rights while not infringing upon them in any way.
The irony of the action/symbol of taking a knee as a position of protest and power is not lost on me, nor I suspect does it elude anyone else who has experienced and therefore knows the power of prayer. It is often from a position of bended knees that we bend God’s ear in petition for ourselves and for others. It is when we feel powerless in the face of great obstacles that we seek what we need in prayer. There is a power in prayer beyond our human understanding. What Kaepernick began as a call for justice and equality, we could all take as a call to prayer. Prayer for our nation, prayer for each other, a prayer for peace here and around the world. The posture of strength is on our knees. Let us each one take a knee. Let freedom ring!
The ultimate irony in all this is that there will come a day when we all, each and everyone of us will take a knee, two to be exact. Not in protest, but in awe and humility and submission and confession and joy and wonder we will all do this. This will coincide with the words resounding, “free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last!”
“that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
sincerely, Grace Day