The Thinker: Rich Galen


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I Will Defend to the Death

Rich Galen

Monday September 25, 2017

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    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

         - Fran�ois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) 1694 - 1778

  • Before you hit the SEND key, I know there is some considerable debate as to whether Voltaire should be credited with that quote. I know for a fact that Donald Trump never said it.

  • Or, thought it.

  • But, for the purposes of the debate over the National Anthem at NFL games, let's agree that it is the sentiment of the quote, not its provenance that is important.

  • You know the story. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick chose to sit during the traditional playing of the National Anthem during last year's pre-season games. Kaepernick said, when asked about his then one-man protest:
    "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."

  • Over time, as happens so often, it is not the issue Kaepernick was protesting that has become the source of dispute, but the fact that he and others are protesting at all.

  • The thing about protests is, they don't do much until they do become the focus of the discussion.

  • Rosa Parks first got thrown off a bus in 1943 for entering through the front, and not the rear, door.

  • But, we didn't know about that at the time. In 1955 she was arrested for having violated Alabama law by refusing to give up her seat to a White man when the bus was full.
    "I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home."

  • By then she was a member of the NAACP which took up her cause and the Civil Rights movement in the United States got a huge boost. And, the 1943 incident became part of the Rosa Parks story.

  • For the half-century since Rosa Parks was arrested, the Civil Rights Movement has been at least as much of a point of disagreement as civil rights themselves.

  • Is Colin Kaepernick the NFL equivalent of Rosa Parks? Those are the kinds of things you can't know until well after the fact.

  • We do know that Kaepernick was not released by the 49ers for his actions. He, in effect, released himself this past March when he opted out of his contract to become a free agent.

  • Whether he is still a free agent because of his actions is a matter of some discussion on sports talk programs across the nation.

  • The other night - also in Alabama - Donald Trump told a political crowd, according to CNN's report:
    "Team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem. Trump added that if fans would 'leave the stadium' when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, 'I guarantee, things will stop.'"

  • Sounded just like Voltaire.

  • Before Sunday's early games just about every team had some players who stood, some who kneeled, some who sat on the bench and one - the Pittsburgh Steelers - stayed off the field until the Anthem was finished.

  • In the NFL game played in London (9:30 AM Eastern time) several players on both sides knelt for the National Anthem, but they all stood for "God Save the Queen."


    Maybe that's the answer. Play "God Save the Queen" before every NFL Game just like they did before 1776.


  • It will be interesting to see what happens in a couple of weeks when the MLB playoffs start. During the regular season the teams line up in front of their own dugouts for the National Anthem. If a player chooses not to participate he can simply stay in the clubhouse or in the tunnel leading to the dugout.

  • At the beginning of the playoffs, though, the players will be introduced one-by-one to stand along their own baseline. When the National Anthem is announced, will all the players keep their positions? Or will some walk into the dugout? We'll see.

  • Unlike Rosa Parks - and many other Civil Rights leaders - no NFL player is likely to be arrested, attacked with a fire hose, or lynched.

  • For his part, Donald Trump got back on Air Force One after his speech, glowing with self-appreciation on the ride back to Washington, DC, reinforced by his staff chattering like a group of bad angels perched on his shoulder: "You were terrific, tonight."

  • Thus, reinforcing Trump's bad behavior.

  • Do I agree with these protests? No. Nor, do I agree with Donald Trump's taunting the players because of them.

  • I have, in fact, put my life at risk to defend the players' right to protest, and for Donald Trump to be able to continue acting like Donald Trump.

  • And, so have many of you.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to Voltaire's bio (a LOT of stuff I never knew), to the Rosa Parks timeline, to CNN's report on Trump, and to USA Today's report on the NFL.

    The Mullfoto is a cautionary tale to misbehaving trees - yes trees - everywhere.

-- END --

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