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.

Desperation (poem)

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Desperation
is the commodity we trade in
no one needs to kneel without it
no one needs the opioid without it
no one needs the cancer cure

it clings to us like ash
and chokes the life out of our lungs
illegal in some cases
but not in all – and where it is
those who created, prosecute, when you fall

Done in the name
of the Father, Son, and the fallen soldier
don’t you dare attempt to wash yourself clean
don’t try to raise your head above the smog
stand up for the country that’ll see you shot dead
stand up gladiator! SING!

22 a day, pass by your way
3,000 with needle tracks every other three
so much death in Chicago daily, true
yet 500 were shot in Las Vegas the other week

Oh, beautiful for spacious skies
this slow paced suicide is turning America into a tomb
and now we’re deporting Mexican families.
Why, for God’s sake, it’s not like we don’t have the room?

See, Desperation hit places like Mexico first
with the moral majority’s war on drugs
and out of fear families fled in the night
only to find our politicians were nationalistic thugs

Someone please crash this system
you can’t hold someone underwater and get mad when they drown
desperation is the old rugged cross we cling to
and the golden calf at 1600 Penn Ave.
is a pagan deity with the face of a clown

Jesus on the 50 Yard Line

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Edwin Andrade

I knelt to pray in a great coliseum
a humble gesture
to the cross on Golgotha’s Hill
I turn my heart inside out
desperate
hope, and sleep, and calmness evaded
and tremble in our desperation

Great voices spoke
from the foot of that place
and I heard them all one by one
“They slipped the surely bonds of earth…”
“Ask not what your country can do for you..”
“I have a dream, today..”
“..a day that shall live in Infamy..”
“…that this nation, under God, shall have a
new birth of freedom..”
” …betwixt the negros of the north and the women’s of the south…
“A national sin shall cause a national calamity..”
“I once was blind but now I see…”
“Homo sum, humani nahil …”

I at once so weak and powerless
made all the more humble
at the commanding voices from times long since passed
in an attempt to lower myself further, in my madness
I ate the grass at my feet
and the dirt, and the rocks were made wet
with my tears

A long silence followed
and I dared not raise my head
for the voices that had spoken was to great
and mine eyes too unworthy
until I saw a pair of sandal clad
nail scarred feet standing just inside my outstretched
hands
that braced myself against the burdens of the world

“Oh, my child…”
A warm voice softly spoke
as a gentle hand lifted my chin
the sight I can never fully describe
“I’ve not left you, or them, alone.
For they are the most beloved you see
and the most favored, the most blessed, by me”

“How?” was the only word
that managed to escape my lips
Softly and tenderly he wiped my face
with nail scarred hands and knelt down
to look me in the eye
“My love is not tangible items, my son
a blessing isn’t the same as a gift
and while they thanked me for games and wins and gold
I turned a blind eye

but when they knelt, ah yes, when they knelt
though proud gladiators one and all
I stayed the anger of twenty thousand angry fists
and kept them glued to where they stood
for even though no one could see me
I once again used all that was foolish to shame the wise
and no one would mess with the Seahawks tonight
not with Jesus on the fifty yard line ”

 

From a veteran: Grow up, America

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Mark Jefferson Paraan

I have seen two posts over as many days saying ‘we don’t care about the kneeling’ or ‘you’re a rich NFL player and kneeling is disrespectful to those who served and fought yada yada yada”

What’s happened here in America with the rise of racism and would be fascist dictatorships and authoritarianism, is happening all over the Western World.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Murkel was just reelected for her fourth term. That’s great!

The bad news, the far right party, which is equivalent to the Nazi party got 13 percent headway into the new government.

The U.K has Nigel Farage and Theresa May, etc.

First off, if you don’t live in this country and you comment about what’s going on in this country – watch your lane. You need to check your own.

Secondly, the reason the whole kneeling thing is happening by the NFL, WNBA, NBA, MLB etc. is due to dead people in our streets murdered without due process of law. The majority of them being black.

So black athletes – starting with Colin Kaepernick starting making this issue visible using their platform.

See we like black people when we’re bumpin their music, when we’re watching their movies, when they go out and win championship titles, and trophies, and boxing matches, and super-bowl rings.

Black Athletes have brought home the gold in Olympic sports representing this country. They’ve fought and died for this country’s freedom.  (By the way, how did service members and the military get white washed?)

We like our black folks, then.

But when they kneel and we know what it is they’re kneeling over it makes us uncomfortable.

So to deal with that uncomfortablness of your country not being all sunshine and roses, instead of dealing with it – you want to put that off on the flag, or over the anthem, or best of all on veterans and current service members.

Stop putting your bullshit off on us. Because quite frankly, the majority of the responses from vets to the black community and those who are kneeling has been supportive.

Why? Because like major sports, the United States Military integrated successfully. They make it work, everyday.

See, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights is the Beatrice to our Dante. Do you understand?

Of course you don’t.

See, when you sign up to serve, you need something grandiose to hang on to. A reason. A deep abiding faith in more than just looking good in a uniform. Because once you sign over that blank check you know you could die and dammit you have to have a reason to die and an even better reason to live.

That reason is that one day the words of our forebears would be actualized and not just conceptualized.

That oath we swear to uphold and defend, regardless of selective incorporation, regardless of federalism, regardless of SCOTUS decisions – we stand for life, liberty, and all of what it entails.

We stand for the right of the Klans member to march and for fuck sake – we stand for the black man (universally speaking) who was brutally discriminated against for 300 years – to make a statement about his freedom.

Because at the end of the day – our money is not on those who can’t take three minutes of a wake up call. Our money is on someone who’s suffered and died for over three hundred years and still —AND STILL —- remains.

Slavery didn’t wipe them out
The Civil War didn’t wipe them out
Jim Crow never wiped them out
Organized and racist religions didn’t wipe them out
The Rise of the religious right didn’t wipe them out
The war on drugs didn’t wipe them out
These killer cops aren’t going to do it either.

They have 300 years of this, you have three minutes.

I don’t see black people as the problem. I see you as the problem. You’re lazy. Intellectually slothful, hanging on to something your grandpappy put in your head, hanging on to the war of northern aggression, hanging on to dead ideas and death culture, because you’re whiteness somehow equates rightness.

I can’t speak for the rest of my brothers and sisters in arms but quite frankly all of this is the reason why we really don’t like civilians.

You’re children. Spoiled rotten ass children. This country has kept you this way. Your faiths have kept you this way. You’ve refused to leave your colloquialism behind. You refuse to travel the world and see and experience other people. Hell, most of you won’t leave your neighborhoods.

It is 17 years into the 21st century.

It is well passed time for you to grow up.

Personally, I think a mandatory 2 year enlistment for all citizens in one of the service branches would do a great deal toward working out the issues this country has with race among other things.