Ask Matt Labash: How To Make Peace Over Trump And The NFL Kneelers

Dear Matt,

Glad somebody finally asked. For I e long suspected racism from NFL owners, since I a middle-aged white guy who has a 25 percent BMI, can still run a sub-two minute 40, and yet here I remain, unsigned.

Whether I took a knee would depend on a lot of factors, like whether we were playing on artificial turf or natural grass. (If the latter, I for solidarity and all, I just don want to stain my pants.) Also, it would depend on how many cameras are on hand and how many other kneelers there were. It hard work these days, being a virtue-signaler when everyone is also being rave by simultaneously signaling their virtue. Back during simpler times, like say, Tommie Smith and John Carlos Black Power salute on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics, it was literally just two guys on a pedestal. Nowadays, it like being an extra in a crowd shot in Spartacus. You might even have to trip over creeps like Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones if you want to broadcast to the world that you e a Person of Conscience

I don wish to relitigate the NFL whole #TakeAKnee saga. Everything that could be said about it pretty much has been. Twice. You have to get out of the blocks pretty fast if you want to say something novel and/or stake out your moral high ground in these here Divided States of America, where it clear that our national sport is no longer baseball or football, but rather ripping each other to shreds on the airwaves and Internet.

To that end, I will admit something unpleasant about myself: When all this business started, the only knee I wanted to take was to Colin Kaepernick solar plexus. He reflexively got on my nerves, spitting on a symbol so many of us hold dear, with his new-fangled faux-radical Angela Davis hair and his cops-as-pigs socks (and I don even particularly care for cops, who in my neck of the woods spend a lot more time bleeding revenue out of law-abiding citizens with speeding tickets than they do fighting real crime). If Kaepernick truly cared about abuses of authority and Oppressed Peoples of the Land on his Blame America First tour, he be a lot easier to take seriously if he didn show up in Fidel Castro t-shirts, as the late dictator held an entire island of slaves for the better part of a half-century.

And yet, I flash back to F. Scott Fitzgerald maxim that the test of a first-rate intelligence is to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, while still detesting both of them. (I paraphrase.) For Donald Trump once again has taken a worthy idea (serving as a custodian of our patriotic sacred symbols) and sullied it with his boorish behavior, his total lack of judiciousness, his Twitter buffoonery, and his injurious choice of words. ( 窌et that son of a bitch off the field.

As a first amendment absolutist who just returned from Berkeley where innocent profile subjects of mine were beaten with sticks right in front of me by creepy fascists in ISIS pajamas who didn like what they had to say, I would defend to the death both Colin Kaepernick and Donald Trump respective rights to be assholes. But just because we have the constitutionally-enshrined right to be assholes doesn mean we should be.

And in keeping with the a-hole motif, another maxim I wouldn mind seeing carved in granite at the anti-A-holes monument I support erecting on the mall in Washington is that if you side with the asshole you like against the asshole you don like, in order to punish the latter, soon enough, you will become an asshole, too.

We are losing it. osing what? you might ask. Everything. We are losing the ability to track in specifics instead of generalities he latter being the rocket fuel of the identity politics conservatives profess to hate. We are losing the ability to see people as individuals as opposed to blocs or cartoon characters or pawns upon whom we work out our pre-fab political positions. We are losing the ability, on both sides, to follow Atticus Finch advice about understanding our own lack of understanding: 返ou never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. /p>

We are perpetually feeding on a binge-diet of hatred and distrust and mutual suspicion, often unable to even recall, like the Bloods and the Crips with their endless cycle of gang warfare, who fired the first shot or why it was ever fired. We e losing the ability, as a people, to be a people, collectively. After a period of relative calm in our history, we e coming to resemble that apocalyptic passage in Walker Percy Love in the Ruins: 窊ven now, late as it is, nobody can really believe that it didn work after all. The U.S.A. didn work! Is it even possible that from the beginning it never did work? That the thing always had a flaw in it, a place where it would shear, and that all this time we were not really different from Ecuador and Bosnia-Herzegovina, just richer. /p>

So while I not yet quite ready to don my Colin Kaepernick skin suit, I did let my kneejerk anger over his disciples demonstration this past weekend recede a bit, even as I acknowledge their right to demonstrate away in the middle of a song I love, but don particularly like melodically. (Many of the protesters have shifted emphasis, and are instead protesting Trump demagoguery, as our president seems incapable of walking past a hot stove without pouring lighter fluid on the burner.) Instead, I did something I try to do with some regularity. Something we should all do. To read someone I disagree with, and not for the purposes of saying what an idiot they are on Twitter, but to actually subject my thinking to challenge. Sometimes, I go far afield while doing this, and sometimes, I stay closer to home. In this case, I didn have to go far at all, as I read my colleague Jonathan V. Last riveting, sober, and thoughtful reflection on the beef many of the NFL kneelers might have, and why, once we turn the volume down, we should give it an honest hearing.

As JVL wrote of police excesses: 罚ow, you might ask if this sample is a handful of isolated incidents, or the tip of the iceberg. That an important question and one about which every American ought to be curious, because the answer is not obvious. What is obvious is that if this sort of thing happens to middle-class white people, then there every reason to believe that it happens to poor black people, too. Probably more often. And possibly, much, much more often. /p>

I was recently struck by another couple passages as well, written by Marilynne Robinson, a good liberal. (Yes, there still plenty of them. Despite reports to the contrary, they haven all become Antifa supporters or intersectionality bloggers.) In her epistolary novel Gilead, written in the form of a letter from a dying Congregationalist pastor, John Ames, to his young son, Ames addresses the importance of real tolerance, not the kind paid lip service to by social justice warriors, who often find true tolerance intolerable. Ames writes about the essentialness of what is now a dying art he art of not taking offense:

In every important way we are such secrets from one another, and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us, also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence. Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable – which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, intraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person.

The cock-eyed optimist in me hopes that it not too late to turn this American experiment of ours around, to follow the Reverend Ames advice. The realist in me fears that it might be later than we think.

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