Monday, November 7, 2016

No kneel-jerk reaction

They are doing it everywhere now, in football stadiums and on soccer pitches, between the endlines of gleaming basketball floors and on high school and college playing fields from one end of the country to another.

Kneeling quietly for the National Anthem is not just a thing, like so much is these days in a social media-driven world. It is a small, elegant cry of "enough" in the face of injustice, a form of peaceful protest as American as the Constitution itself. And, despite the backlash from the witless, it is far more respectful than not.

Running around, screaming, mooning the flag during the anthem, those would be disrespectful. Kneeling silently is the polar opposite. Certainly it's more respectful than demanding some form of forced "patriotic" behavior that disrespects America far worse than those kneeling ever could,

Especially when it becomes obvious that there is more to the kneeling than simple symbolism.

And so we come to Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, who has knelt for the anthem through the first half of the season, and yesterday did not. He did not, he said, because he has seen progress in community-police relations, an understanding that either wasn't there before or wasn't there in any meaningful sense. And Marshall has been a catalyst for that progress, meeting with local police officials and devoting his time and resources to local community organizations.

The most effective protest is always that which fuses gesture with concrete action, and Marshall's embodied that. He's also not the only one. Which is why the protest hasn't withered and died the moment the media turned its head, but spread.

Kneeling is only part of this, you see. Rising afterward to tackle the hard work of meaningful change is the rest of it.

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