COLUMN: From Here and Back Again

Jim Coufal

Vomiting Over the News

Recently (9/12) Emanuel Clay wrote “The behavior of these NFL players (kneeling during the national anthem) almost made me vomit.”
I’m truly sorry you didn’t vomit, Mr. Clay, rather than saving your bile to pour out in a letter of ahistorical tripe. As a lawyer, I’m surprised you want to limit the players’ Constitutional right to (non-violent) dissent—whether you agree with what they are dissenting about or not. As a combat veteran, I’m surprised you don’t realize you fought to purportedly defend all our Constitutional rights.
Instead, you take the typical stand of many not so “silent” citizens, wrap your self in the flag and glorify the military. The flag and the national anthem are not exclusive to the military; they are symbols representing “we the people,” who are supposed to be treated equally.
Your diatribe represents the thinking of many who call themselves “true patriots.” People who stand in the cultural history of America, a history of violence and gun worship. In the big picture, since our founding in 1776, the United States was at war, internally or somewhere around the world, 216 years out of 237. There has been only one five-year period where we were not at war. The current war in Afghanistan is the longest continuous war in our history. War—violence—is simply accepted as the way to solve problems, a sort of forced patriotism.

Looking at our day-to-day culture, we have substituted gladiators fighting in a coliseum with boxing and mixed martial arts, football and violent television, movies, true crime and news coverage that keeps violence at the forefront. We wait for the “showdown” and the “shootout,” for someone to “make my day,” for “guts and glory.”
I really suspect that if there was to be a public execution to be held at Times Square, there would be a crowd cheering it on, not different than many happenings from our history (lynchings, etc.).
More recently, Leona Forbes wrote that she believed Kaepernick and his sports associates had crossed an unbreakable border (10/21/17), saying, “borders create loyal attitudes, unification and behaviors to maintain, not degrade freedom or the identity of the country.”
This sounds like a call for obedience, not for critical thinking. It sounds like Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling journalists that it is inappropriate to question (the lies) of a four-star general. Ours is not to reason why…and all that.
We thank and admire Jefferson, Washington, Adams, the men of the BostonTea party and the Minutemen for crossing the border that required bending to the will of the British Empire; we thank Matilda Jocelyn Gage, Susan B. Anthony and others for crossing the border of their time to bring about woman’s suffrage; we thank Martin Luther King, Lyndon Johnson and others for breaking down the barriers to civil rights; we thank those who broke down the border of the Berlin Wall … and there are so many other examples of heroes and heroines standing up to dissent and breaking down unjust barriers. Dissent is patriotic; without it, the status quo is unthinkingly locked in place.
Jesus was a dissenter, Martin Luther was a dissenter, Gandhi was a dissenter, Mandela was a dissenter.
Bottom line is that Kaepernick and his fellow dissenters are NOT dissing the flag or the military. They are asking for a full, truthful look at the injustice black Americans have endured—which takes uncommon courage in the face of white privilege—since the earliest time of colonization to the current time.
If one does not see this, they are either blind to history and current events or a racist.
Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at

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