Life imitates art. This time on the sidelines of the National Football League. Week 3. September 24th. I couldn’t stop laughing. At us. At America. I mean, you have to laugh or cry. Or move to Belize. Or drink more. Or up your medication.
The ‘art’ I saw imitated was a scene from the 1979 movie Life of Brian, the savage satire of western religion conceived and written by the English comedy troop Monty Python. You can see the bit here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka9mfZbTFbk” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka9mfZbTFbk. Take a look, come back and we’ll talk.
– INTERLUDE –
So, what makes that bit funny is protagonist Brian is mistaken by the religious horde for the Messiah. In a flash, Brian is a phenomenon. It’s an official movement. Then, in the first 8 minutes of the new religion, the movement becomes a confusing, conflicted argument of interpretations, symbols, and disparate meanings. Follow the shoe. Gather shoes. Follow the gourd. There are factions. Schisms. Mutating denominations.
You get the picture.
That’s the “art” part. Here’s the “life” part …
Once upon a time, Colin Kaepernick, erstwhile quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the national anthem. It was a planned protest, decrying what he believes to be the unjust treatment of black Americans by law enforcement.
Now, let me either buy or forfeit credibility right now, so I can get on with describing the absurdity at hand. What do I think about Colin’s protest? I’m all over the map.
On the one hand, I think free speech is a BIG deal. So, there. Colin is/was doing what Americans get to do.
Next, I grew up in the 60’s. I remember flag burning! Compared to that, I find Colin’s move on the NFL sideline … staid. Even dignified. Never occurred to me that he was disrespecting the flag, the country, or (sheesh!) the military. Looked to me like a guy wanting to start a conversation. That’s it.
On the other hand, don’t count me a champion of Colin’s cause, per se. I was willing to acknowledge his sincerity, but I don’t believe there is a conspiracy in America to deploy police officers for the serial murder of black Americans. I tended to think of Colin as naïve, likely seduced by the bullying frathouse of modern politics, a politics not famous for depth critical thinking. Neither on the left nor the right.
For the record, the “pigs on the socks” thing were where Colin lost me entirely.
In short, I would not have knelt for Colin’s cause, but I had no particular reaction to the fact that Colin was kneeling.
Fast forward to our Commander-in-Pre-Adolescence. There is virtually no subject The Donald can’t make more confusing, divisive and vulgar when he decides to toot in. I mean, tweet in. Or attempt to speak nobly and coherently in any medium.
He called sideline protesters “sonzubitches.” Said they should be fired.
NFL Sunday dawned, September 24th
Players stood. They knelt. They sat. They locked arms. Owners joined their teams on the sideline. They knelt, then stood. They sequestered in the locker room. They stood in the tunnel. Teams invited their fans to lock arms.
Where was this going? Were they gonna play Twister? Or start barnyard dancing?
And … why? Protesting what? Standing for what?
Racial injustice? Unity? Free speech? Love for the military? Respect for the flag? No one gets to call my teammate a son-of-a-bitch? Goofy presidents can’t tell me what to do? Our goofy president in general? Two-ply toilet paper? The treatment of feral gerbils in the inner city?
Follow the shoe! The gourd! Gather shoes! It started to look like a Monty Python sketch. And all I could think is the thing I think a lot these days: Just look at us. Who are we? What have we become? Look at me, everyone! Look at how unifying and not-racist I am, while still loving my country and respecting the flag!
It’s somehow silly, sad and terrifying all at once.
I so want to have a beer with Colin Kaepernick, because I would love to get his take on September 24th NFL Sunday. Personally, I think my head would be spinning, trying to remember what my protest was about in the first place.
(Steven Kalas is a Nevada therapist and author. He writes a weekly column for the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)