I had a friend ask me this question in response to the young men who chose and who continue to choose to kneel as a silent (maybe not so silent) protest against the recent violence in our (already) Great country. I was even Facebook accosted by someone who read that I had advised a young man who was considering doing the same thing. Needless to say, I have been internally fuming and feverishly searching for the time and space to respond to these "situations" And, since my dogs decided to act like newborn babies, and forced me out of my bed at 2:30 a.m., I now have the time and space to do so.
I am always intrigued by the suggestion that one “find better ways of protesting.” It is as if we are saying, your protest is making me uncomfortable and uneasy. I don’t like the way you are doing it. We cannot forget that protesting within itself is an expression of disapproval of an action or idea, and inherently places those who are the proponents of that idea or the doers of that action in a defensive posture. In other words, “a protest is always going to piss someone off." Furthermore, it has occurred to me that those of us not adversely touched by the idea or act are generally the ones calling for those who are being crushed under the weight of that same idea to "wait, slow down, not act, or find another way." If I saw you drowning, I would not stand on the shore and ask you to be patient with the water. I promise that I would try to save you. Or, at the very least, I would allow you to fight for your life without the pressure of having to worry about whether or not I approved of how you were doing it. I might even deal with the fact that I might get a little wet from all of the splashing you might do; and not attack you for that either. But, again, that’s just because I would want you to survive.
So, let's take a look at this protest in particular. These young men, instead of standing for the national anthem, kneeled down and prayed for our country. (I'm just repeating what was reported.) So, are we objecting to the act of praying, the time of their prayer, the fact that they kneeled down (which itself is an act derived from the bible and was used to show reverence), or that they did it in such a way so as to bring "disgrace" and "dishonor" to our flag, country, servicemen or whatever people place in this space? It cannot be that we object to the prayer. We all got riled up when they said we could not pray before games, in schools, or around other public events. Well, not riled up enough to protest until they reversed that decision. But, that is another story. The kneeling within itself is not offensive to most. We are a nation under God. And, even though no one protests the fact that we don’t recite the pledge anymore (that darn God word keeps getting in the way), we still claim to be that nation under that one God. With that in mind, kneeling is a Godly act. As my kids used to say when they wanted to prove the “rightness” of saying hell, “It’s in the bible.” The word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament. And I have never heard anyone complain about the act on its own. Kneeling is not the issue. So we are left with the fact that the act is "disgraceful" (I am borrowing that word from someone you may or may not know) and disrespects our country and those who died for us to have the freedoms we enjoy. Let me see if I understand this intellectual conundrum.
The funders of this already GREAT country created a constitution. As schoolchildren learn in their civics classes, the first ten amendments to the Constitution were added at the insistence of the Anti-Federalists who believed an enumeration of protected individual freedoms was necessary to ensure the government did not transgress on natural rights always retained by the people. And, the very first thing they wanted to protect was our freedom to express ourselves. Maybe they thought it was important. It was so important that our First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. And, we have young men and women who serve and die to protect this right. But, our argument is that exercising that right disrespects the people who gave us the right. That argument lacks so much that I refuse to even engage in the act of discussing it any further. If you do not see the fallacy in it, you are either unable to or unwilling to. Neither of these issues will be affected by any amount of logic or argument on my part.
Alas, I am left with one possibility. When those young men kneeled, they were not attacking any one. They were trying to say something. They were trying to say something that others had tried to express through violence, and the message was consumed by the clamor of chaos and confusion. They were trying to say something that others tried to express through politicians and policy, and the message was pinned down by pundits of the opponents, policies and the powers that be. These young men were trying to share a message. And, in the moments when people were regarding and remembering what our (already) GREAT country stands for, they peacefully knelt and prayed their quiet message into the minds of the masses. Finally, in that moment, what was deep inside of them was allowed to float to the surface and be seen and recognized for what it was. And their quiet act, at that same time, allowed what was deep inside the hearts of others to float to the surface and be seen and recognized for what it was as well.
So could they have chosen a different way? I am sure they could have. But, who are we to judge how drowning people survive that process? I love you each.