Why Colin Kaepernick is Right for the Green Bay Packers.

When the season began, and Kaepernick again became the center of a controversy for a quarterback with skills not being signed by a number of teams in need, I thought about the Packers, and because their position is secure with Aaron Rodgers, I didn’t give it a second thought.

There wasn’t a need. Rodgers gave our team a lot of confidence week in, week out. That was before this afternoon. When Aaron Rodgers went down with a shoulder injury I immediately thought of Colin Kaepernick. There are a number of reasons why I imagine him to be a good choice to be signed immediately by the Green Bay Packers.

In the immediate, the Packers need a quarterback that can step in and read a defense like a veteran, one who is willing to take risks rather than wonder about the possibility due to limited exposure. Perhaps Brett Hundley will prove the skeptics wrong, but right now, he’s a rookie with green skills playing for a team loaded with talent. If Kaepernick is as good as the critics want him to be then he would be capable of coming in and running the offense of the Packers right away.

The reason Colin Kaepernick is not playing in the NFL in a lot of people’s eyes is because of his statement towards an American tradition, the Star Spangled Banner, and its symbolic measure of our country and society’s allegiance toward a patriotic sentiment. However, the argument has been clear that he’s not slamming our nation for being the icon of freedom we are due to our armed forces and national pride. What Colin Kaepernick speaks of with his actions is the sad reality of the treatment of his own race based upon the color of his skin. That’s an argument a lot of our society would like to ignore and rather than continue dialogue, they might just as soon as brush it off with erroneous statements of race-baiting and displaced systemic error. The fact is, our society needs to face its ills.

Colin Kaepernick represents an athlete with certain skills that are asking for an opportunity to be showcased. I personally stood in line with the critics in that I felt like he was a player surrounded with talent, and when that began to fade, so did his skills. There were seemingly no teams in the league that wanted his talents, and a lot of the scrutiny appeared based upon his abilities, somehow making it easy to ignore the issue of race having anything to do with his pariah-like identity.

So now there is a team that needs him to step in immediately, not a team that at the beginning of the season was willing to shake up their plan. The Packers had a plan and that player went down, and there is precedent for this move.

Our society needs this gesture, in that, if Kaepernick came in and succeeded he would be everything the critics suggest he is not – someone capable of moving a team forward because of his skill-set, someone still capable of leading a team, someone with genuine passion for the game. He plays for the Packers for six weeks, or perhaps the rest of the season, and next year he signs with another team in need, now having redeemed himself as a player in the eyes of his critics.

At the same time, society has to take a step back, and wipe off the egg they have allowed themselves to face due to their own ignorance of the perpetuated nature of his gesture toward the National Anthem. Society can now readily acknowledge the man behind the action actually did have a point to be made, and Colin Kaepernick can step onto a team and play the game he loves and have a chance to prove he can play amongst the best rather than spending the rest of his career being displaced because of a sentiment of systemic privilege.

I have reasons why I want Colin Kaepernick to play for the Green Bay Packers. Primarily, I want them to win games, and I think he’s capable of moving the team forward. But more importantly, I want the saga of his banishment to be acknowledged and brought to light in a manner that gives both him the football player a chance to succeed on the field and our society a chance to redeem its own lack of humility when it comes to facing the ills of racism in this modern century.

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Observing Humanity at Ease

Driving along the highway this morning, I came upon a woman walking alone on the side of the road. I found her to be an odd sight, it was raining, there wasn’t a sidewalk per se, and she was walking away from an industrial region of the city. I looked around to see a stalled vehicle, or something to indicate why she was walking in the rain, with a phone to her ear, not looking particularly stressed but out of sync with her reality.

I then wondered how I might possibly know her reality, what her life was, why she would be walking in the first place, and finally why I would be wondering about this stranger on the road in the early morning hours. My first immediate thought was this was a woman walking by herself in an unfamiliar area. The first thing that went through my mind was she was vulnerable. I thought about whether or not she was safe. My next thought was I had no idea what her life was, and perhaps this was a daily routine she employed to walk to work, and she was just on the phone occupying her time on a typical walk. I then thought about my own world.

How often do I walk alone in an unfamiliar area to get from one place to another? I usually have my car, and if I’m somewhere that is not routine, I’m perhaps on my bicycle exploring, or vacationing with a purpose to go wherever I do happen to land. I wondered about the routine of our lives, how compact and determined our lives may be, without a lot of risk for adventure beyond planned events. In my eyes, this woman was on a journey of unusual circumstances, and perhaps I was making my noting of her presence far more impactful than it was.

I couldn’t help think about how purposely safe our lives are in today’s society. Though we have anxiety in our choices, our risks, and our opportunities, in general, I believe our lives are fairly preserved with always familiar protective boundaries. We are not often found in places of risk, or spontaneity that might upset the natural scheme of things, we call our reality. At least that was the overwhelming feeling I got when encountering this human being, walking in the rain, talking on her telephone, along a busy highway feet trampling the gravel where no walkway existed.

I wonder sometimes, what are the circumstances of our lives that help create the burden of anxiety we sometimes carry around with ourselves. For me, I have the opportunity to recognize addictions to be a major piece of what compels my inner thinking when contemplating my decisions. In the case of the woman on the highway, there was a time when I might be compelled to stop and ask where she was going, part of a ploy to find mutual attraction in the moment.

I wonder how it is we find ourselves in the trappings of creating visible shields to protect our lives from the society around us. We don’t wish to be judged or thrown into a category of miscreant. We wish only to be seen in the best light, and though this person I encountered on the highway probably lives an extremely normal life, in this one moment I placed her in a completely different world, one filled with a bounty of suspicious analysis that helps us the observer feel we are doing right in our own lives. At least that was my takeaway for myself on this rainy day in autumn.

Perhaps a sunny day with temperatures in the 80’s might have presented a more plausible observation. Today though, I am reminded just how sheltered our lives have become where it is an abnormal sight to see a human being walking along a busy highway with no visible means of explanation beyond their existence.

Fortunately, I have enough gasoline in my tank to get me from point A to B, preserving my stake in this societal machinery we plan our lives around.

Recognizing Who We Are Today! (a draft)

We experienced a tragedy in (our community) last week. We lost a young man as the result of a traffic accident. He touched many hearts. The city, the district, the students were all impacted by the loss of (student), a student known by many for his affectionate and charming persona, an infectious personality. I listened to a couple of students the night of the tragedy talk about the immediacy, how quickly a life is taken, that we cannot quite comprehend the confusion such a loss leaves us when just hours before they were standing right next to the young man, full of life. We are all surely saddened by tragedy, yet, we are also enlightened by the way the students rallied around the celebration of this young man’s short life. In an intrigue, this experience speaks to an aspect of the beauty of our lives in (our community) as we recognize the diverse nature of our community.

On Friday, as the news flooded social media the night before, the students all wore white to honor the young man. I was amazed to look around the school and see nearly 90% of the student body dressed in white. The sight provided a welcome contrast to the negative image our district has attained in recent months. Here’s why.

What happened inside our school buildings on Friday mattered to the students, they were the ones being represented and cared for, and they responded with more unity than I have seen in my career as a teacher. I watched a school that put aside curriculum for the day, and reasoned with the reality of the human condition in every step of the way. In mid-day, there was a service, known as a ‘smudge’ provided by the young man’s family – his Native American heritage celebrated – and in attendance easily hundreds of students witnessed a cultural phenomena with open arms and respectful intrigue.

I said to a friend of mine late Thursday night, that (young man’s) loss would be a unifying force for allowing our students to recognize life as a whole rather than an individual need for survival. I watched kids from every walk of life hug one other, speak kindly to each other, and embrace grieving in a thoughtful and beautiful manner. (young man’s) death was responsible for that coming together of a school district.

Even more intriguing, I attended a football game that night, a ‘Friday night lights’ experience during which both the visitors and the home team wore white to symbolize (our community) tragic loss. It was remarkable to watch the unification of two school’s students who all recognized together the beauty of life and the tragedy of loss. But together they created and expressed a natural silver lining. Ironically, several schools around the region also showed unity and compassion by wearing white in a symbolic gesture of support. My boss said to me today, ‘It’s a small world’ when I shared my delight in the actions of many.

This weekend we celebrate the loss of a beautiful young man, one that I did not know personally, but understood to have touched the lives of many, including many students in the drama program, for which I am an advisor. The lesson learned from this weekend’s start of the healing process, is that we as a district do embrace the beauty of a unique population of student body that do and can believe in one another if given the proper resources. We as a community need to do our part in assuring our students that we can go forward together.

I think (young man) is imagining how special our world is given his new perspective, and his engaging smile is suggestive of our need to recognize his gift and not forget the message his role in the circle of life provides us all.

*names withheld to respect the student and family.

I’m Struggling to be OK, and other “Trump is my President” Anxieties

Last night I listened to 45 basically implode or become ‘unhinged’ as most news agencies reported, except for one I suppose. I walked into my home and my wife was exasperated with his demonstrative ranting at his Arizona campaign rally. Then I listened more as he defended all of his bigotry and ‘fake news’ accusations, to a rousing crowd of visible support. It felt just any campaign rally we witnessed in the year leading up to his election.

Here’s my problem. Today, I listened to Trump give a very sobering and prompter lead speech to the National Convention of the American Legion in Reno, Nevada. His demeanor and focus was a complete contrast to last night’s ranting. He didn’t comment on Charlottesville, there was no braggadocio of the ‘lack of protesters’ outside, he stayed on point, and received mild applause for key statements, that no one could ever disagree with. I was disappointed because I wanted him to go off the rails with his speech, so that he continued to support the critics accusation that he is not fit to hold office. But he didn’t, he stayed on topic, and finished with gracious applause. He was the President a lot of America has been waiting to see.

Trump has done this a couple of times, most recently his proclamations of strategy to deal with Afghanistan earlier in the week – sober and television prompter driven, which gave a calculated impression of steady leadership. But, 24 hours he lost it all in Arizona, and then less than 24 hours later, he returned to the television prompter POTUS.

Where does that leave us as concerned Americans about this man’s leadership. If we were to listen to CNN, we would come away much focus on his unraveling. Then if we listened to FOX news, we would probably hear accolades. So, is the real issue the President, or is it something else?

I sat with a friend today, and spoke of the ills of social media. I cannot get away from the feeling that CNN really wants this guy’s head on a platter (no honorable connection to Kathy Griffith) and that is the network I gravitate toward because they seemingly are focused on good news reporting. But today, they spent a couple of minutes talking about the sobering speech to the veterans, and then the majority of their broadcast spoke to yesterday’s news – or in other words, the blatancy of Donald Trump tendency to dramatically look like an idiot in a position of leadership.

I have to say today, I’m nervous; however there is no news agency helping to ease my anxiety.

The ‘Not Yet’ Reality of Racism

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Boston rally – photo credit – CNN

A dear friend once used the phrase ‘not yet’ to suggest a descriptive moment in our lives that though I will not describe that context, I will explore the phrase as it pertains to our lives in America today. As I write this commentary, I notice a massive gathering of protesters in Boston to represent all sides in light of the Charlottesville tragedy. To be clear, it has been reported that this Boston ‘Freedom’ rally was planned in advance to last week’s hate melee in Virginia; however, at the same time, authorities are said to be prepared for outbreaks, and have given notice to all participants.

I’m personally very happy to see this gathering, and my wishes are for a completely peaceful representation. After all, wouldn’t it be refreshing to be able to say this evening, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Boston Commons without incident? We can only hope, but in the meantime, let’s talk about the ‘not yet’ factor of racism in America. After all, a score of you reading this right now may be sitting in your chair at home or in the office, or sharing drinks or coffee with friends having a dialogue, expounding upon the issues that haunt our country’s racial divide, but just aren’t quite ready to become involved. Many of you might even be saying, I believe the issue exists, but I just don’t want to become … not yet.

After Charlottesville and the notable incidents that will appear to evolve from today’s rallies, my suggestion would be that the time is now. We can all in less than five minutes name a string of current events that impact the racial divide in America. It is time to stop suggesting we are over reacting and begin to address the issues that exist in our society today. Right now, today as I write this I feel a stronger tension than I did as a child growing up in the 60’s. Granted I wasn’t yet in my teens, but I listened to my older siblings, and watched the news with a very well informed mother and father.

The fact that civil rights set such a precedent in the 60’s gives cause to argue that what is happening today in our world is throwing all of that effort out the window. It would seem today, we are right back where we started with open violence attached to racial discrimination. There are no filters, and our children, the young people growing up with this mindset should be our primary concern.

What scares me the most is the actions that happen behind closed doors, just like the very pub or coffee shop you are sitting in right now. Those conversations need to be geared toward reframing our thinking, to understand what ‘love’ means as opposed to the insidious nature of ‘hate’ in America. Time magazine recently published a cover page with the American flag and the heading ‘Hate in America’ as its bi-line. I scratched out hate and wrote love above it and posted it on Facebook, but then took it down because of copyright infringement.

We need to start to dialogue together, to inform one another of the long-term effects of racism, not as much our future but how the past has impacted a way of thinking today, that will not improve if society doesn’t begin to collectively listen. Let’s ignore the ‘not yet’ and begin to act now.

In the meantime, let’s wish for peaceful strolls throughout some major metropolitan cities where protesters are presently laying emphasis on the cause for peace and unity throughout this gorgeous Saturday afternoon.

 

 

On Donald Trump and Ignorance

For weeks, perhaps months, no to be sure, for the last two years I have struggled with the phenomena that is Donald Trump. I will secretly admit to everyone that a decade ago, when he first threw his name into the hat as a candidate and then swiftly pulled it out because the powers that be told him it was too early, I was intrigued by the idea. For all the right reasons: a non-political, yet wealthy candidate that could finance his own election, and perhaps turn D.C. upside down. Yes, I realize it his task at hand at present, but back then, I really didn’t understand the depth his brain could transgress his ideals.

His latest tweet or podium delivery or emanation from his incredulous mind has me deeply saddened. We have witnessed the grueling scrutiny of our national police force with tragedy upon tragedy that raises remarkable scrutiny upon their efforts. We have watched one trial after another, where the reputation of the police department’s efforts are caught in a catch-22 of a moral compass because of the damaging actions of a few. We have witnessed heads of police forces plead with the public that their wish is to train their departments to be of the highest ethical standard on the streets as they protect the citizenry of our country.

Trump to police: “Don’t be too nice too prisoners” -CNN 7/29/2017

Time and time again I have watched this man make statements in rallies and addresses with an angry flair that denigrates, discriminates and blatantly insults certain society with complete disregard. This time he has taken on the police force. So now, according to the POTUS, he wants the blue shield to rough up the alleged criminals. What does this say to our society? Simply that it is ok to take no prisoners, and let the melee proceed.

For me, it is upsetting enough how this man has allowed his vitriolic verbal assaults, to literally wake the dead in regards to racist slurs, homophobic slams, and supremacist ideals. Yet, those close to him suggest he is misunderstood.

We live in a world today that can ill afford to walk itself back 50 years and forget the efforts necessary to create a mosaic life in the United States. How can we possibly move forward if our elected President of the United States continues to demean the efforts of many in our society to remove the literal walls we have fought to break down for decades.

There is no easy answer, beyond asking this man to find his integrity, and that will seem to be a long time coming, maybe less than one term. We can only hope.

 

Philando Castile

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NY Daily photo credit

I recently told a friend of mine I have sometime wished I was black, and as the words left my mouth, the expression on his face indicated to me he was immediately offended. I knew I’d made a horrific presumption, and felt compelled to find him a little later on to continue our dialogue.  I wasn’t really sure what I was asking, but he sat me down and asked me a question.

He said, ‘as you sit in that chair, do you feel like you would be where you are, as a black man, including your personality and everything you are today?’

I had to think about the question. I had to get past trying to find the right answer and really think about how I was going to respond. I did not know what my answer could possibly be because I have never been a person of color. I have always been white.

This afternoon, when I first heard the news of the verdict in the shooting of Philando Castile, I felt immediately sick to my stomach. For a year I have replayed that viral video in my mind, imagining only one outcome. I believed the officer would be found guilty of manslaughter. I thought it was an easily defined case. I felt like I had come to know Philando through all the news reports and the expose’s of his life and the stories his community had expressed of who he was in our society. But I forgot one simple truth. He was a black man pulled over for a routine traffic stop. He was suspected of being involved in a robbery based upon his description. The only solid evidence that suggested he had been involved in the burglary was the color of his skin.

If that had been me, a white guy, with a gun pointed at my body by a peace officer, I am willing to bet, I could have said everything Philando expressed in the final minutes of his life, and I could have reached with my right arm and found my I.D. without the officer feeling compelled to discharge seven bullets into my body. This officer didn’t simply fire a couple of rounds, He fired seven times at point blank range. And there in that moment, while his girlfriend recorded the whole incident, Philando Castile died.

Justice seemed evident in this case, I didn’t even imagine the jury would take as long as they did to come back with a verdict. I only imagined it would be an open and shut case. That was until I saw the jury selection. I knew that when we had a jury of over 20 white people and two people of color, the case for Philando had taken a dangerous turn. I knew that when the officer was coached to cry in the witness stand, Philando’s integrity was in trouble.

I also knew I couldn’t get out of my car as a white man and express my sorrow and rage to any person of color without coming off patronizing. So instead, I called another friend, and told him he was the first person that came to my mind. Now this friend asked me if I was surprised by the verdict. I think I waffled my answer and said something like, “Well, yeah, I guess, well no, well I’m just sad.”

He agreed with my sentiments, and then began to speak of the systemic failure of our society to recognize the inherent discrimination of the African- American culture. Interestingly, he didn’t blame the cop that gunned down an innocent man. Instead he talked about how our society (his African-American culture) has to become proactive in changing the mindset of how we cope with our discrimination. He immediately prayed that there would be no acting out and a peaceful protest might occur.

I agreed with him and thanked him for letting me listen to his ideals, those of which I have always respected and believed. I finished the call, and sat in my car, and thought about what I would do next. All I could think about was how sad I was with the outcome of the day’s events. All I could do was feel like a white guy trying to wrap my head around this horrific tragedy. I still don’t have any answers, except only to say I’m sorry Philando, I am truly sorry this happened to you.