Look to the Battlefield, Gladiator.

FILE – Int his Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif. Reid has resumed his kneeling protest for human rights during the national anthem, after joining then-teammate Kaepernick’s polarizing demonstration last season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) ORG XMIT: NYHK702

Dear Football Player,

I really wanted my first blog on my new site to be about books. I wanted it to be about reading, and the craft that  I love so much.   Alas, here we are talking about football.

I am not a big sports guy. I used to play baseball when I was a kid but that was the extent of my sports knowledge.

However, the National Football League has decided that the men who play their sport – mostly black men – no longer have their permission to kneel during the playing of The National Anthem.

Colin Kaepernick started a national conversation with his decision to kneel in recognition of the men and women throughout the United States who’ve been killed in the streets because of a lack of Due Process. Crimes committed by white police officers who were either never charged for it or who were charged and simply got away with it.

Many of these incidents including Freddy Gray, Sandra Bland, a little kid with a toy gun named Tamir Rice, and a man who’d been choked to death in New York named Eric Garner,  have left their families without justice.

These football players in the NFL, 80 percent of whom are African American, have drawn a lot of criticism for their stance. Criticism from President Donald Trump and from football fans who expect these men to play a game for their entertainment and say that because they make X amount of dollars they should be quiet.

The NFL, receiving a lot of flak,  has recently ruled that players cannot kneel in the upcoming season or risk fines and other punishments including ones that would impact the game they are playing.

As a United States veteran, someone who joined after 9/11 and because of 9/11, who deployed the middle east in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, who wore the uniform and swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, I’d like to make it clear to these football players that the permission to protest (or not to in this case) is not granted by the Nation Football League.

During the war, it was often said by the Bush Administration et. al that “Freedom isn’t Free,” and that “We have to defend it.” Well, the same rules apply here.

Gladiator, you’re right to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem was granted to you long before you were ever born.  Long before the NFL was actually a thing. You’re ancestors, my ancestors, the founders and the foundation builders of this country paid for your right to kneel in protest.  Every person who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America, every Civil Rights activist who marched in Selma, or Montgomery, or was assassinated for your right to live is a member of this society – has paid for your right to kneel.

Those hanged by white mobs during the lynching years paid for you. Those who served in the Civil War – paid for you.

Sure, there are going to be people who don’t like it. Mostly, because they know what you’re kneeling for and believe (in one way or another) that the right to harm black bodies and possess black minds, still belongs to them. It’s an ignorance and an anger as old as this country is.

But as rights go – never, ever look to the masses to bestow them on you. That’s never been the way of things here in the United States. Rights are fought for through long and often perilous battles and right now America is at war with itself. Two ideologies are engaged in this uproarus debate for the soul of our country.

If you so feel inclined to kneel. I hope you have the courage to do so. And if you need a little more courage to push you over the edge, when you are standing in the locker room before the game, like Maya Angelou once said, summon the spirits of those who’ve dreamed you into being to escort you onto that field.

Summon those soldiers who died. Summon those Civil Rights Activists who’ve died. Invoke the founders. Invoke the spirit of our country when you take to that field.  Invoke God who granted you inalienable rights and have Jesus meet you on the 50-yard line.

You would then honor them, the flag, the anthem, and your ancestors. Therein lies your permission, Gladiator.

 

P.S. NFL, back off.  This isn’t your lookout.

Scott Lively, Jerry Falwell Jr, and the Theocrats among us.

 

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Once upon a time, in a land apparently not so different than the one we live in today, African American’s achieved (as did the rest of the country) their God given right to snub Jim Crow law and attend any school they chose.  Racial integration had been achieved, and all was well in the land.

Or so we thought.

A little lesser known case than it’s predecessor Brown V Board of Education made it’s way up to the United States Supreme Court called Bob Jones Sr. vs The United States. A preacher (or a group of them, rather) angry that they couldn’t use their tax exempt status to open white only schools sued the government.

They lost in an 8-1 decision handed down by the court.

Everything still seemed right in the land. The last vestiges of the wicked minded had finally been eradicated, nothing to see here. African Americans were brought inside the castle for years of bountiful and joyous celebrations, everyone started getting along, and the Prince married the Princess.

Except that never happened. Not even close and that is more apparent today, than in any other time in my life.

Why?

Well, it’s a simple yet sad thing we as a nation did to our Black brothers and sisters.

The lone dissenter in Bob Jones Sr. vs The United States – William H. Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States where he served as Chief Justice until his death in 2005.

Essentially, We opened the draw bridge to the castle, yes. They were enticed to come in, yes. Yet, without them knowing everyone bailed out, locked the doors and shuttered the windows of the castle…..and then set it on fire.

You can read about the account here in Politico’s article, The Real Origins of the Religious Right. 

TL;DR = Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and Bob Jones Sr. were really really mad their little Bobby’s and Little Susie’s would have to go to school with little Tyrone. Lied to people about their stance on abortion, convinced Catholics that they didn’t think the Pope was the Anti-Christ, and their church was the Great Whore of Babylon, defeated their own Christian brother Jimmy Carter for a B Hollywood Movie Actor (and former Union Boss) Ronald Reagan.  Ta-Da – Civil Rights curtailed.

Donald Trump pandered to the religious right, supporters of Mike Pence who nauseatingly prayed over the Presidential Candidate who, despite holding up a rainbow flag and was quoted as saying, ” I love the gays,” believed him to be what it took to Make America Great again.

Nothing to see here.

Except for The White House just announcing that Jerry Falwell will be heading up the ‘Education Reform’ task force to not only address public schools but higher levels of learning.  Jerry Falwell Jr, the son of the late, great (although greatness doesn’t denote goodness) Jerry Falwell Sr. is the Chancellor of Liberty University.

“So what,” you say. We knew Public Education was about to get blown out of the water with Betsy Devos.  “After how many years of Every Child Left Behind? The average tenure of a school teacher in America is roughly two years. Their salaries are meager, the work load is enormous, I mean – come on the Tea Party has been putting nutjobs on school boards since Obama got elected. Of course we know what’s going on. They’re trying to eradicate public education or at least make it so public school kids leave those schools sounding like the idiots that graduate from non accredited private Christian schools. Why campaign and convince a generation of people to vote for you when you can grow your own?”

Hold on grasshopper, this story gets better.

A couple of years ago, Scott Lively, a radical Christian fundamentalist went to Uganda and not only spread his gospel, he decided to spread his murderous hatred for gay people. Convincing the Ugandan government that enacting anti-gay laws that killed gay people or worse, threw them into 3rd world prisons for the crime of BEING gay, was God’s Will – he was brought up on charges of Crimes Against Humanity by a Ugandan who wanted his pasty white and cowardly ass sent to the Hague to stand trial.

Seems pretty logical, right?

Try and incite a genocide – have to go stand before a court that sort of frowns on these things.

Except, Mr. Lively won his case. Yet he didn’t walk away from it unscathed. The Judge basically called him shit underneath his shoe, called him a bigot, Judge Pryor had this to say about Mr. Lively:

 “Discovery confirmed the nature of Defendant’s, on the one hand, vicious and, on the other hand, ludicrously extreme animus against LGBTI people and his determination to assist in persecuting them wherever they are, including Uganda.

 

“The evidence of record demonstrates that Defendant aided and abetted efforts (1) to restrict freedom of expression by members of the LBGTI community in Uganda, (2) to suppress their civil rights, and (3) to make the very existence of LGBTI people in Uganda a crime.

“The record also confirms that these efforts to intimidate and injure the LGBTI community in Uganda were, unfortunately, to some extent successful.

“This crackpot bigotry could be brushed aside as pathetic, except for the terrible harm it can cause. The record in this case demonstrates that Defendant has worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda, deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal.

“He has, for example, proposed twenty-year prison sentences for gay couples in Uganda who simply lead open, law-abiding lives.”

Scott Lively, unhappy with the Judge for calling him names is appealing the case. You can read about it, here. 

Now what, do you ask, has this to do with Mr. Jerry Falwell Jr?  I am so glad you asked.

The Liberty Counsel is the Law firm that represents Liberty University and their very own King James – Mr. Jerry Falwell Jr. They were the same legal counsel for Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis who infamously refused to give a gay couple a marriage license.

Now, what does this have to do with everyone else? Especially gay people?

One of the last things Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said to his followers before he was assassinated was, “You know, we’ve struggled long and hard for the victories we have attained. Yet there is something that troubles me deeply. For all the Civil Rights and all the things we’ve done….I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house…we have no choice but to become firemen.”

Just like our African American brothers and sisters, we’re facing a real and motivated threat. There are those who are angry at us just for simply having the right to live as human beings live. They’re angry that we have the same rights they have. Yet among those who are angry, there are some who have allowed their anger to fester into cancerous hate. We’ve called them Republican, We’ve called them Tea Partiers, but the truth of the matter is we had better call them what they are. Fascists. And not just any kind of fascists, Theocrats.

These people aren’t interested in a democracy, or a democratic republic – they’re interested in created The Kingdom of God on Earth. Taliban who? Isis wha..?

Liberty as a word written down, or something vocalized, is not Liberty actualized. He can call his university Liberty University, they can call their law firm Liberty Counsel. Yet Freedom and liberty are as far from their minds as their belief in Global Climate Change, Civil Rights for minorities, Gay marriage, and believing Muslims should be allowed into the country. As a matter of fact they are, as are people like Franklin Graham, extremely vocal in demonizing the latter. Just remember those that push this nonsense don’t want to relieve the world of religious oppression; they want to oppress you with theirs.

Liberty, real liberty, is being threatened.  As Sinclair Lewis famously put it, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  We, like our African American brothers and sisters, may have been run into our own burning building with the SCOTUS decision. Watch this space, this story could have a very sad ending for us all.