Protests Only Work When It Hurts…

It’s funny the things that will come up when you’re in the process of moving. During me and my wife’s latest move from the foothills of North Carolina to the Gulf Coast of Florida, I happened across probably one of the more disappointing moments from this year (at least until possibly the election in November)…

Springsteen.png

Now, the seats weren’t fantastic – in fact, they were at the other end of the arena from where the stage was situated. But they were square on with the stage and would have offered a great opportunity to see much of the crowd enjoying the show from Bruce, one of the legendary performers in rock history (I could tell stories about seeing him in 1980 for a six-plus hour show, but we’ll save that for another time). My wife and I were eagerly anticipating the show as it had been many years since either of us had been able to see “The Boss” in action.

Then the North Carolina General Assembly and asswipe Governor Pat McCrory got their panties in a bunch.

In February, the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance extending protections to the lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgender (LGBT) community. A part of this ordinance – and the issue that sparked the most controversy – was the provision for allowing people to use the restroom of their gender identity, rather than that of whichever sex they were born. In essence, the ordinance allowed those who were in the process of shifting from one sex to another to use the restroom of that other sex (male transgendered individuals could use female restrooms and vice versa).

The response by McCrory and the GOP-dominated North Carolina legislature (which has been gerrymandered to make it virtually impossible for a balanced legislature to occur – witness the THREE TIMES that the federal government has called the state’s legislative districts unconstitutional) was immediate. Convening a special session of the General Assembly (one outside the normal working times of the legislative body), McCrory and his henchmen pushed through HB2, a bill that was so overreaching in its aim it was destined for the “unconstitutional” bin almost from the start.

Not only did that bill immediately set that “all people” had to use the restroom of the birth sex, but it also removed the right for minorities and the LGBT community to sue through the state court system for discrimination. It included a provision that prevented individual cities from enacting their own laws that differentiated from state statutes. With many Democratic representatives protesting by leaving the voting floor, the statute passed through the General Assembly with only about 12 HOURS of overall discussion.

This was the end of March and, within days, the impact was felt. Several local productions in theaters around the Tar Heel State reported that the rights holders to significant stage productions (plays) were pulling their approval for performance over the bill. The streaming provider Hulu pulled the production of a program they had set for airing out of North Carolina over the bill and PayPal suspended expansion of its operations center in the state. This was but the tip of the iceberg, however.

allstarcanceled

Many entertainment artists have also pulled out of shows that they were scheduled to perform, including “The Boss,” Pearl Jam, Boston, Bryan Adams, Ani DiFranco, Ringo Starr, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato and Cirque du Soleil. The real thunder came down, however, over the past couple of months, first with the National Basketball Association’s removal of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte. Then, just yesterday, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) removed SEVEN championship games or playoff sites from the state, citing the law as the reason. All totaled, the loss of business regarding all of these repercussions could total to as much as half a billion dollars by the year anniversary of HB2’s passage, with the NBA All-Star Game accounting for about $100 million of that total, and could even impact future business in the state.

The reason this came back to me was not only a result of the move. Finding that ticket stub for an unused concert was simply the catalyst for a reply to model Kate Upton’s Twitter hissy fit over athletes not standing for the National Anthem. Of course, over the weekend was the opening weekend of the National Football League season (and the 15th anniversary of 9/11, just coincidentally) and, following in the footsteps of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s continuing protest against inequality in the United States, some players either did not stand for, knelt in protest or displayed the “Black Power” salute as the National Anthem played. This bunched Upton’s panties, who stated, “This is unacceptable. You should be proud to be an American. Especially on 9/11 when we should support each other.”

The continued attention being drawn to what has now become a movement (hey, if a subject catches the nation’s attention for more than two years – yes, it’s been that long since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, widely considered the spur – it is a movement) is only done when a protest has an impact. Kaepernick has been vocal in the past regarding the issues of black people in the United States and their treatment at the hands of law enforcement, but no one was paying any attention to what he was saying. It wasn’t until his act of defiance of not standing for the National Anthem – and attention was drawn to the fact that he was doing it – that there became a national conversation (admittedly sometimes not about what Kaepernick wanted to talk about, as with Upton’s attempt at using her First Amendment rights by silencing Kaepernick’s, but still there was discussion).

nflprotest

For a protest to have an impact, there are a couple of things that it should have. It has to have some financial teeth, some fiscal bite, that pushes some to reconsider their positions (it also has to have a side that understands those fiscal implications – apparently North Carolina Republicans are morons if they issue this response). Along with that, it should have some emotional impact on people. There were plenty that were upset over Springsteen’s decision to not perform in North Carolina, just as there are more than likely many upset that Demi Lovato didn’t come to North Carolina or that LeBron James won’t be making an appearance during the NBA All-Star Game in the state. A protest only works when it hurts, either physically or emotionally. That is what makes a protest enact the change that comes about (eventually) with issues.

I’m putting those unused Bruce Springsteen tickets back in the desk as a reminder to myself for a couple of reasons. One, something has to be lost (in some cases) for a protest to have its desired effect, and Two, there is the ability to protest at all levels, from the richest of us all to the poorest. It will be some time before the protests of the actions in North Carolina and the national discussion of inequality are adequately addressed, but hopefully it is sooner than later.

Advertisements

Freedom of Speech is a Right Until Someone Disagrees with It

ColinKaepernick

WRITER’S NOTE:  Been awhile, hasn’t it?

Rather than trying to recap what has happened in the world over the last month (to give you a reason for the lack of material, real life invaded on essays – and moving from North Carolina to Florida had a huge impact itself), we’re going to pick up with the latest discussion du jour. Trust me, there’s going to be more concentrated efforts here over the next few months, especially with the Presidential Election on the horizon!

We’re only two weeks away from the start of the National Football League season and, to be honest, it seems as if they are in midseason form in many areas. Complaints about the officiating, season-ending injuries, suspensions for drugs and/or wife beating have been handed out and controversies over who should be playing are already raging and we have only seen each team play two meaningless preseason games. One instance, however, seems to have stepped beyond the bounds of the gridiron and into the public consciousness.

At the start of their game with the Denver Broncos on Friday night, virtually all of the San Francisco 49ers team stood at attention on the sidelines as the National Anthem was played. After the ceremony of the performance and the start of the game, it was noted by television commentators that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was conspicuously missing from the team lineup, instead sitting on the bench behind his teammates as the National Anthem played. What may have been an insignificant occurrence instead became the latest in media-driven hyperbole and faux patriotism.

Following the game, Kaepernick responded to questions about why he didn’t stand for the National Anthem. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick stated, apparently in reference to many of the incidences regarding black people and their killing by law enforcement officers, among other things. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick didn’t hold back from those sentiments after some thought. On Sunday, as a vortex of controversy swirled in the air, Kaepernick doubled down by saying, “I’ll continue to sit. … I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed. To me, this is something that has to change, and when there’s significant change — and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, and this country is representing people the way it’s supposed to — I’ll stand.”

KaepernickJersey

Needless to say, this incited a boisterous outpouring of condemnation for Kaepernick, including fans of the 49ers burning his jersey, political pundits blustering that he should give up his job and leave the country and others who blasted him for his political stance. A much smaller segment of the population recognized the reasoning that Kaepernick was using but thought he could have done something other than not stand for the Anthem (for the record, Kaepernick said the protest was in no way a reflection on the military men and women who defend the country). An even more microscopic group agreed with Kaepernick, at their own risks.

First off, let’s look at the rules. There is NOTHING that states the athletes have to stand for the National Anthem. This is the path that officials for the 49ers took, issuing an official statement of support for Kaepernick but stating, “The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony…In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the National Anthem.” The NFL echoed the 49ers brass, with spokesman Brian McCarthy saying, “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”

Secondly, it isn’t the first time such a situation has occurred. Former National Basketball Association guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (born Chris Jackson) refused to stand for the National Anthem during a game in 1996 because of his religious beliefs. This resulted in a one-game ban by then-NBA President David Stern that was quickly rescinded because of Abdul-Rauf’s religious convictions (the two parties eventually negotiated a deal where Abdul-Rauf would recite Islamic prayers yet stand with his teammates for the National Anthem).

ChomskyFreedomofSpeech

It seems that the problems arise when people – some who would normally be the staunchest defenders of the “freedom of speech” – forget that this caveat of the First Amendment also applies to things to which you don’t agree. Everything is good for people when they are supportive of the messages put into the ethosphere, but when something is stated that violates the bubble that people have put around themselves, then they begin to deride someone’s “freedom of speech” to the point of having it taken away. Many have stated that Kaepernick should be forced to stand for the National Anthem, depriving him of his First Amendment rights.

As a Marine veteran, we are sworn in on an oath to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This oath also includes defending discussion that you don’t necessarily believe in, such as the statement that Mexicans are rapists or throwing a party for Martin Luther King Day that is questionable in nature. It is only through the respect of all speech, including that type of speech that you find objectionable, that the freedom of the First Amendment – and, by extension, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution – are truly exercised.

This seems to be lost on most, however. Some cite their service or that of another family member and view it as an affront (if they truly considered that oath that I spoke of earlier, they’d know they were wrong). Some cite that, by saying Kaepernick was wrong and being criticized for it, THEY are being silenced are also out of line…you can make your statement, but you also have to respect the rights of Kaepernick to his stance and not state that HE should be silenced. The rights granted by government cover a wide range of issues, including flag burning and having a Nazi rally march through a Polish neighborhood, and are not limited to just what is pleasant in your mind.

Kaepernick has made his statement and he is the one who has to stand with it and defend it. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect his right to be able to make the statement. Once you start to abbreviate or censor a form of thought, then that First Amendment begins to shrink, something that no one should desire.