Since I became a parent I’ve observed different parenting styles among other parents. It seems to me that there are two types of parents. Both types of parents love their child. One parent thinks their child can do no wrong. The other type of parent loves their child just as much, but will admonish the child when they do wrong and encourage them to do better.
It seems to me that the same paradigm applies to patriots. One type of patriot loves their country and their attitude is “love it or leave it.” The other type of patriot occasionally takes a knee and encourages the country to do better. No doubt that Trump manufactured the controversy over the recent protests of NFL players to distract attention away from his failing presidency, and the tactic is further fracturing American society.
The battle lines may appear to be defined differently – both sides are talking past each other. For players, the protest started as a means of highlighting the continuing problem of police violence against black men and a justice system rigged to allow the legal killing of innocent citizens. The other side sees it as a matter of disrespecting the sacrifices of Americans to preserve freedom. It’s probably not hard to guess which side I fall on, especially as a lawyer with children of color. What has formed my opinion is less the politics than the practical: I had to have a conversation with my boys that I never imagined would be necessary.
I live in the most affluent city in Michigan, but that is no insulation for my sons from profiling. Far from it, because once they get a driver’s license they are sure to be pulled over frequently in our neighborhood. I recall Will Smith talking about being pulled over near his home in Beverly Hills because the officers saw only a black man with a ball cap. I recall a professional tennis player being tackled by police without warning as he waited outside his hotel in New York City. I recall numerous stories from clients and friends, virtually every African-American I have met, who all experienced or know someone who experienced profiling and worse. The very fact that black parents must have that conversation with their sons in this country is shameful.
As much as I understand the players protesting, I am totally dismissive of the fake patriots who are so upset with them. Not all of them are the same, but most of these counter-protesters are just following the emotional lead of their great leader. I asked one person who was so upset at the players that she refuses to attend a Lion’s game. She thinks it’s awful. She denies it’s about race and insists it is about patriotism – patriotism as she wants them to express it. I asked her “wow, if you are that offended by the players taking a knee during the national anthem, you must be really upset with the Russians attacking our election …” Her response – “that’s fake news.”
I do respect some people who are upset about the NFL protests. I understand how they feel and they have a right to feel that way – as long as they have enough patriotism to allow other Americans the unabridged right to protest, especially protest against the government. I have absolutely no tolerance for people who want a few black football players fired for a peaceful protest but dismiss an attack on our country by Russia. Those people are motivated by race, not patriotism.