Being a man who grew up in the Sixties, I was unimpressed with Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem. I knew guys protesting the Vietnam War who marched down the middle of the street facing National Guard soldier holding rifles and batons. Some went to prison to protest that War. Many, like Tommy Smith and John Carlos, lost their careers and jobs because they protested the way African Americans were being treated in our country. That took courage. But a protest is a protest. And if it is heartfelt, then our Constitution gives any person the right of free speech. This inalienable right, this profound document, is the most important part of what we honor when the flag is raised and the Anthem sung. Therefore, sitting or kneeling is as much a confirmation of our Constitution as standing with our hands over our hearts.
Personally, I would stand because I'm an immigrant, the son of Russian immigrants who arrived in the United States after World War II to live and grow and achieve in a country that took us in. Would I stand if I were an African-American today? As a high school teacher, I always exhorted my students to walk for awhile in somebody else's shoes before making decisions about them. If I were a black man today, I know I'd be pissed. I'm not giving black males a pass, nor any other race a pass. We should obey laws, but we should also be able in this country to demand justice. There is a lot of blathering about law and order these days, but very little talk about justice. So, yeah, but not without sadness, I'd join Kaepernick in solidarity as I suspect a lot of African American football players will do this season. I will, however, not grow an Angela Davis Afro were I even able to do so. That's carrying protest too far.
Here's a poem I wrote as part of a series of poems about my travels in West Africa.
Coaching in the Republic of the Congo by Tom Meschery
Entering the airport, the soldier
guarding the passport booth
can't be more than fifteen years old.
He's holding a rifle at port arms,
a cigarette dangling from his lips.
Above him, a banner in red print reads:
A Bas Les Americans! Down with Americans!
"Don't worry," the Embassy man says,
"They don't mean basketball players."
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.