Wednesday, September 5, 2018

It Always Amazes Me

First, thank you all to everyone who is reading the blog.  As I say repeatedly, it amazes me that anyone takes the time to read it.  And yesterday and into today has been very humbling.  Yesterday's blog is quickly reaching 800 views, which is almost double the previous highest viewed blog.  That's a huge jump in readership previously only seen with a Govteach bump.  Thank you to those that commented and debated it.  Thank you to those that shared it.

I have to say, though, that it always surprises me what catches fire and takes off.  I would have never imagined that yesterday's topic would be the most read blog of all.  It's even more astounding to me that this is a topic that has captured such national attention at all.  That the whole event is the flashpoint that it has become.

This raises in me so many questions and questions drive me.  I'm not as interested in answers.  Answers often lock us into rigid thinking, into an expectation that there is a right and wrong answer.  Instead of recognizing that different answers are possible.  Questions on the other hand drive us to continued learning, to continued pursuit.  One question raises another good question, and another, and so on, and so on.

And there were several good questions raised yesterday.

1. What does Kaepernick think of Nike's business practices?  Of the child labor and sweatshops?  While Nike has worked to improve this failing, it is still an ongoing concern.  And this is a very good question that plays to the problem of modern endorsements and brand loyalty.  I have not heard nor have I been able to locate Kaerpernick's thoughts on this issue.  But the question remains and it affects not only spokespersons like Kaepernick, but also us as a consumer.  At what point does a company's ethics affect our willingness to promote or purchase a product?  It's not hard to find shady business practices for most every national and international company, or at least contribute to or promote causes we disagree with.  For example, Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Target, Exxon, Verizon, and Costco represent a short list of companies that support gay rights, have donated to Planned Parenthood, or lobbied for Hillary Clinton in 2016.  That's just a sample.  We all have to decide for ourselves at what point a companies actions or practices crosses a line and prevents our loyalty or support.

2. Would the backlash have been tempered a bit if Kaepernick had kneeled from the beginning?  I have to agree with my brother-in-law on this one - probably not.  There's a contingent of our society that cares so much about form, that it overrides any explanation for the reason.  The perceived disrespect outweighs the cause.  And I think this goes to Ryan's point about symbols.  The power we give them and the power we allow them to have over us.  At the end of the day, a flag is a piece of cloth.  It only has value because we assign it such.  To illustrate: take away one or more stars from the flag, even to where it would be a historical version (like one with 48 stars), and the flag code no longer applies.  It's a banner, not a flag.  Disney uses this to allow them to fly the flags on top of Main Street Buildings all day and night.  Those flags only have 45 stars and are not required to follow the proper etiquette for the US flag.  Where Disney flies a true flag, it follows the proper protocol, such as the Flag Retreat Ceremony on Main Street each day before sunset.  Most people would never notice this difference and would assume both should be treated the same.  Perception would dictate similar respect.  But perception is not always reality.

Symbols have tremendous power, but only the power we give them.  It may be why people are so intent on destroying the Nike swoosh as their response to the controversy.  To remove the power of the symbol by trying to destroy the symbol.  But again, it destroys clothes and shoes that could be put to better use.  The symbol still exists.  And as other's have pointed out, the logic of destroying something you have already paid for and the company has already profited from to protest is shaky at best.  A coordinated boycott would be much more effective, it would seem.

3. Must one do something offensive in order for their protest to be noticed?  This came up in a comment discussing some of Kaepernick's other actions.  His first protest by sitting, wearing socks depicting cops as pigs, statements in fashion and otherwise supporting the Black Panthers and Fidel Castro, and comments on Ray Lewis and the owner of the Ravens.  His purported ideology, peaceful protest, and then more controversial behavior make him a very complex figure and could lead to the belief he is taking outlandish action to have his protest noticed.  And unfortunately, I believe the answer to the question originally posed is at least partially yes.  I think of John Stewart's comments when he appeared on Fox News with Chris Wallace regarding what the media's true bias is.  Not political, but sensationalism.  "The bias of the mainstream media is towards sensationalism, conflict and laziness."  There's a reason why the maxim is "if it bleeds it leads."  Unfortunately for society's sake, for something to get prime news coverage, it has to generate revenue and ratings.  And nothing generates ratings like the sensational.  The outlandish.  The controversial, the macabre, etc.  The continued visceral reaction that Kaepernick's protest and the NFL kneeling generates guarantees media coverage until interest fades.  It then almost becomes a game of one-up-manship to keep the protest front and center.  Not ideal for anyone involved.  It does raise another question: Would anyone care if the only people who ever knew of Kaepernick kneeling were those who saw him at a live game?  Would anyone care if it was not on the news or aired before the games?

4. Isn't improved law enforcement something we can all get behind?  I hope so.  There should always be a desire to improve, even systems that are working.  We have to recognize, though, that there will be disagreements on how to improve any system.  And disagreements don't make one approach right and one approach wrong, just different ways of proceeding.  We have to avoid reductivism in such an issue.  If someone supports the Black Lives Matter movement, it doesn't mean they hate police.  It may mean that they are sincerely concerned about abuses of police authority and believe it should be investigated and held to account.  Likewise, if someone has a Back the Blue sticker on their vehicle it doesn't mean they do not care about minorities or will support the police regardless of what they do.  They may have family in police service or believe that police should be afforded a little more discretion given the strain and risks of the job.

We are more than a series of affiliations.  Like Kaepernick, we are all complex creatures with a mix of eccentricities and incongruities.  "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Again, thank you for reading.  Thank you for the comments and the kind words.  Keep up the debate and discussion.  Y'all are amazing.

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