Flag of Our Fathers: Why National Anthem Protests Shouldn’t be Controversial


fist08-05-2008b_001When I wrote my last piece on Colin Kaepernick’s protest, my thought at the time was, “Maybe I’m coming to this a bit late. But, I guess I’ll say something.”

Here we are, weeks later, and the protests of the US National Anthem are still occurring, and it’s still very controversial. It’s a bit surprising, but also quite sad, that this is controversial. Since tons has been said on this issue, I just want to convey a few thoughts:

First – Protesting the flag is not the same as protesting the military. When a flag and national anthem come to stand for military power and military power alone – that to question or protest the flag/anthem is taken as a direct assault on the military – then the line separating patriotism from nationalism has been crossed. The United States stands for far more than its military, so a failure to stand during a National Anthem wouldn’t necessitate a protest against the military.

Second – Protesting the flag/anthem isn’t even a protest against the United States as a whole. Someone can greatly appreciate and value the US, but also have some major issues with it. It’s like loving an alcoholic; you will love that person for reasons other than the alcoholism, but you’ll also “protest” certain parts of that person’s life that could enable that person’s alcoholism, or even do something that would get that person’s attention. That’s similar to what these protests are attempting to accomplish. We have a problem in our nation with how black people, especially black men, are treated in general and by authorities. That doesn’t make the US an evil place, or a horrible place, but it does mean we have a problem and we need to fix that problem. That certain elements of society want to deny and act like this problem isn’t there is why the protest is occurring, to cause a conversation on the treatment of minorities in this nation.

Third – There’s implicit racism in condemning these protests. The argument goes, “If ya’ll want to protest how you think you’re treated, then do it peacefully.” When there’s a riot, we tell minorities to be peaceful. When they protest peacefully en masse through nonviolence, we tell them not to be disruptive (such as blocking highways). When they then perform a silent protest during the National Anthem, we tell them that’s disrespectful and they ought to be forced to stand for patriotic displays (we’ll get to that). So then how are they to protest? The implicit message is, “You have nothing worth protesting over,” or, to be blunt, “You’re treated fine, get over it, and get used to it.” It delegitimizes the experience of millions of African Americans and other minority groups in the US. We assume that because we – as white people – have had a great experience in this nation that all others have had the same great experience.

Fourth – No one should be forced to make patriotic displays, because that’s not patriotism, that’s nationalism. A true patriot of the US will value free speech more than they value a song or piece of cloth. To want to take away someone’s free speech – even under the argument of “it’s a private industry so they can force people to do what they want” (they can’t, that’s called slavery and is illegal) – is the antithesis of America. What’s more insulting to those who died to protect our freedoms than failing to show proper reverence during a song is failing to show proper reverence towards the freedom we were granted by their deaths.

Fifth – Speaking of people who have died to secure our freedoms, those people are more than just the military and those who died in foreign wars. We forget, especially those of us who are white, that many civil rights activists were murdered attempting to secure justice in an unjust world. Their sacrifices, which made national news and swayed public opinion, helped secure your freedoms today as much as any military endeavor in which we’ve engaged. I add the emphasis because this is a point that is hardly ever made; people died to try and beget equality in this nation. When we ignore their sacrifices and attempt to further an entrench a system they died fighting against, we dishonor their memory. I’m a white male, but oppression is a cancer and it spreads and destroys. If oppression is not fought, if it is not combatted, then it will eventually spread to harm other people as well. Thus, even as a white male, I’m indebted to civil rights activists who fought an oppression that had limited liberty. In my debt, I am in no place to then question their children and their children’s children when they speak of the continued oppression they must suffer through; rather, I must pay my debt and continue the fight against that oppression.

Sixth – These are our friends and fellow Americans who are hurting. These are not strangers. Many white people who have black friends still don’t hear what their black friends go through, because they [black friends] are sick of being doubted and questioned. But make no mistake, African Americans go through a lot in this world, not just with the police. They’re followed in department stores, they’re treated differently when they want to purchase something, they have a harder time finding promotions or getting a good job, and the list goes on. There are statistics to back up every single one of these claims, but more than that, there are personal stories from people we know who can back up these claims. When the reality of the US today is only slightly better than the reality of the US 40-60 years ago, maybe that’s why protesting the anthem is a good thing.

Those are my thoughts on this issue. There’s no reason to get upset over someone kneeling or not participating in singing the national anthem. Ultimately, we’d do better to have a conversation over what our friends are facing rather than condemn them for not conforming in a way we like.

The Ever-Present Tyranny or, Why Liberty is so Hard to Obtain


IMG_1006A few months ago, President Obama said the following:

“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works; they’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”

The President simply touched on a sentiment that has always existed in the United States, primarily that, “Oh, that could never happen here.” We see tyranny in far off lands, we see the dictators oppressing the people, the stormtroopers busting down their doors, the people assaulted by the police for protesting the unjust actions of a government, and we gasp and say, “Thank God we live in America, that could never happen here.”

These same voices, however, seemingly ignore that America has in one way or another been tyrannical since its founding. While it has experimented with liberty and attempted to extend that liberty to all, once cannot ignore the tyranny of slavery, of genocide against the Native Americans, of segregation, and so on. Americans turned (and continue to turn) their heads to the police brutality against our minority brothers and sisters. Tyranny is a cancer, a disease that simply spreads across a populace, something that if left uncured and unchecked in one segment of a population will eventually spread to the country entire.

The idea of tyranny spreading from one segment of the population to the other segments is seen best in Martin Niemöller’s famous poem “First they came…” As many already know, he states that “they” came for the Communists and he said nothing, then the socialists and still he said nothing, and so on. Eventually when they came for him, there was no one left. That is because tyranny has voracious appetite, it must always feed off people. It has an unquenchable thirst for oppression. That is because tyranny is sin on a mass scale.

We live in a fallen world, one where we humans have rebelled against God. In rebelling against God we have forgone liberty – true liberty is when one is allowed to pursue one’s nature – and made ourselves slaves to sin. It is not a coincidence or a play on words that in John 8:34 Jesus states that sin is a tyranny, but the Son has come to set us free. The results of sin is always slavery. Thus, in a fallen world tyranny is our natural desire.

Tyranny exists for two reasons: First, the narcissism of those in power cares nothing for the masses (and only feigns concern; they entrench themselves and justify their tyranny by saying the masses need it). Secondly, the narcissism of the masses cares more about personal peace and affluence than anything else. That is, the tyrants throw the bread in order to stay in power and the masses accept the bread so they don’t have to make it themselves; all the while liberty is taken away, which eventually destabilizes a society. Every tyranny that has existed has collapsed in a violent fashion, not to mention the lives taken during its tenure. Yet, the masses allow it for their own selfish reasons and the rulers cause it for their own selfish reasons.

If tyranny is the natural state of humanity in a fallen world, then the contrary is that liberty is something that requires work. Contrary to what the President said, tyranny is always lurking around the corner. It comes ever closer whenever a society becomes more immoral, more lazy, more unloving. It knocks at the door when we not only have no problem with oppressing those who disagree with us, but find a sort of joy in it. Tyranny is always present and if we stop for one second in our pursuit of liberty, we only allow tyranny to catch up.

In a fallen world, history has shown us that the natural tendency of humanity is to allow themselves to be ruled by a tyrant. Only a strong and moral people have ever fought to find liberty. In other words, liberty is not the natural state of man in this unnatural world, rather tyranny is. We must always work for liberty, for tyranny is found in rest.

Why Liberty Matters or, the Pursuit of an Ideal is Better than the Pursuit of Nothing


DSC01965One of the more famous quotes from early in the American Revolution was Patrick Henry saying “Give me liberty or give me death!” The less quoted part of his conclusion in his speech, attempting to sway the Virginia house to commit to war against the Empire, was this:

Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

“Give me liberty or give me death” seemed to be the rallying cry for the Virginia militia and eventually Continental Regulars. They were willing to die before having their liberty officially taken away from them. For them, the pursuit of the ideal of liberty was so important that it was worth giving one’s life in that pursuit.

Of course, as is true of anything, in pursuing any ideal there are imperfections. The most glaring imperfections in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War was the prohibition of voting to women, slavery, and the eventual genocide of the Native American people. In pursuing an ideal, that ideal is not always acted out perfectly, but in pursuing the ideal the hope exists that we will move closer and closer to liberty. Our nation has never achieved its mantra of “Liberty and Justice for all,” but it has worked toward that direction. In many instances, that direction came with the threat of life. The slaves who did all they could to escape north before the Civil War, to risk their lives for liberty. The men – both black and white – who fought against slavery in the Civil War thought that liberty was more important than living. And after this all, our nation still inhibited the liberty of our black brothers and sisters by segregating them away from the rest of the population, but even in this there were movers who put their own safety on the line (and gave up their lives) to reach equality in all things, including liberty.

Liberty is important because it goes to who we are as people. A dog is happy on a leash, he is happy in a fenced-in backyard, he is happy when an owner feeds him. A dog only becomes unhappy when abused. A dog, however, is a beast, and men are not dogs, but in many ways are far worse. A man who is kept on a leash, forced to live within a fence, supplied food and water, is a slave. Even if he is treated well, then he is only a well-treated slave. He is treated as lesser than the one who owns him and has no real freedom. Human beings, being rational, need the freedom to think and then act on these thoughts, this requires true liberty. When liberty is taken away, even for seemingly benevolent reasons, it opens the door for oppression to occur. Putting a whip in the master’s hand will allow him to protect you from any wolves that come after you, but it will also allow him to whip you for not obeying him. Liberty is important because it provides a check against human rights abuses by those in authority.

Even today, we struggle with liberty, but the difference between today and previous generations is that today we no longer pursue the ideal of liberty. We pursue the ideals of safety and tolerance, and those two couldn’t be further from liberty. In pursuing safety we happily give up our rights. Consider the latest NSA fiasco and how the NSA has now admitted that they actually do listen in on phone calls without warrants. This is done in the name of “national security” and “fighting terrorism” and so the public remains at ease. Our pursuit of tolerance has ruined liberty because we’ve somehow made “free from being offended” and “tolerance” synonymous. Thus, if a business owner refuses to participate in an activity he doesn’t agree with, that owner is sued and we try to make the government force him to act against his conscience. Why? Because it’s offensive to us that he would have a conscience different from our own.

On the issue of safety, one cannot pursue liberty, but then give precedence to safety. There is no compromise between the two, even if our President thinks one can be found. Either you pursue liberty and allow for safety within the pursuit of liberty (meaning that we can still listen in on phones and the like, but only with a warrant, only with just cause) or we allow for liberty within the pursuit of safety. The former is how strong nations develop, the latter is how tyrants form.

On the issue of tolerance, one cannot pursue liberty, but then give precedence to tolerance. I cannot say I support freedom of speech (which includes conscience) and then sue with any speech I disagree with. While it is true that we must protect citizens from the tyranny of other citizens, we must do so within reason. Forcing people to act against their religious beliefs does not protect liberty. The whole irony in the pursuit of tolerance is that it actually leads us to be quite intolerant of those we disagree with. “Tolerance” becomes a code word for, “Those who agree with me.” Traditionally, tolerance was saying, “I disagree with your position, but I’ll fight for your right to believe what you believe.” Now it means, “I disagree with your position and I’ll fight for the government to force you to act against that position.”

Tolerance has become a way for us to say, “It’s okay if you believe this way, but you better not act according to that belief.” That’s not liberty, that’s tyranny. If a Muslim wants to bow to Mecca five times a day and there are those who want to stop him, those who want the government to intervene, then a true lover of liberty would stand guard over the Muslim as he bows so as to protect him, even if he disagrees with Islam. If a Christian man doesn’t want to use his business to support a homosexual union, then a true lover of liberty would respect his decision and either boycott his business or start a competing business that catered to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Either way, he wouldn’t ask for government intervention to change how someone thinks and acts; again, that’s tyranny (just look at 1984). We used to believe that, “I disagree with you, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.” Now we want to silence our opponents, and this happens between both conservatives and liberals (think of how many people attempted to stop a mosque from being built near Ground Zero, even though the First Amendment protects all religions).

In giving up the ideal of liberty for the ideals of safety and tolerance we have put a time limit on this experiment called America. The America that once was, the one that was highly imperfect, but still pursuing liberty, will simply cease to exist. It only has a few more generations and, in truth, we may already be on the precipice of generations that are more willing to embrace tyranny. How long before the definition of “terrorist” is loosened and other people are included? The pursuit of safety and tolerance leaves open the door to persecution of those we disagree with, or who are labeled “intolerant.”

“But that would never happen here! We have laws that protect citizens from being persecuted by their government!” Yes, a government agency would never become corrupted to the point that it would target those who disagree with the policies of an administration so as to make their lives difficult. That would never happen in the United States, correct? I need not point to the Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany for examples of what happens when safety and tolerance (eradicating those who disagree with you) are put into place above liberty, I can point to our own history. I can point to the FBI targeting civil rights groups in the 1950s and 60s, or Congress targeting suspecting Communists in the 1950s, or the Executive branch forcing Japanese-Americans into internment camps during WWII, or Nixon wiretapping his political opponents, or the IRS targeting conservative non-profits. There are many other examples within our own history of our government abusing any power it receives  of the examples I listed, only one was actually illegal under the law (the IRS issue is still being investigated).

When you give your master a whip to protect you from those you fear, you inevitably allow the master to whip you. When you allow the oppression of those you disagree with, it doesn’t take long before you disagree with the establishment on something else and you find yourself oppressed. This is not fear speaking, this is a voice from history. We were always told that those who didn’t study history were doomed to repeat it; but the study of history is not enough, we must understand it. We must realize that when liberty is no longer the ideal for a people group, the citizens become slaves, they face oppression, and it eventually results in the collapse of that society. That is the direction for America as it stands, but it is not too late to change our pursuit.

Dealing with Judith Jarvis Thompson


The other day I came across this post and found it quite interesting. What was more interesting was one of the comments given by someone with the handle of “Operation Counterstrike”:

Yes, abortion is homicide. But abortion on demand is JUSTIFIABLE homicide.

If something is inside your body, then you’re entitled to have it killed. No exceptions. Even if it’s an “innocent” person. If you were inside my body, then I’d be entitled to kill you, and if I were inside your body, you’d be entitled to kill me. In fact if ALL the people in the WHOLE HUMPING WORLD, including the innocent ones, the pregnant ones, and the unborn ones, were inside your body, then you’d be entitled to holocaust them. That’s part of the meaning of the word “your” in the phrase “your body”.

This is really a sophomoric version of Judith Jarvis Thompson’s “body ownership” argument. Though he approaches the argument in a childish and immature manner, it is a real argument. I offered up the following as a response:

Continue reading

Random Thoughts for the Day


* A government that believes its citizens have no need or would never have a need to revolt against it is a government that must be revolted against.

* Obama should forgo using Linda Douglass. Using videos from the last two months to counter a video showing that Obama is changing his rhetoric to get a bill passed, a video that uses proof from previous speeches, is substandard propaganda. Instead, Obama should bring someone on with similar ideology and who is an expert at propaganda, like Joseph Goebbels.

* The problem isn’t the health care system – it’s the health care cost. At the same time, the reason the United States has a good health care system is because of the amount of money pumped into it from the private sector.

* If just 10% of the conservative orthodox Christians in the United States did what they were supposed to do according to the words of Christ, the issues of welfare, universal health care, public eduction, and homelessness would no longer exist.

* If you don’t believe that Jesus was God, that He resurrected from the dead, or that He was born of a virgin, then why bother to call yourself a Christian? I believe Muhammad lived, I believe he existed, but I don’t consider him special; this is why I don’t call myself a Muslim (among other reasons).

* Is it better for a man to have lived 90 healthy years, acquired vast sums of wealth, but fail to be a positive impact on people’s lives, or is it better for a man to have lived just 20 years of poor health, lived in poverty, but have touched the lives of many?