Oddwalk Ministries

Symbols of Justice, Continuing the Conversation

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Among other things which is giving quite a lot of Americans something I (Orin) might call “News Fatigue,” you have the issue of some NFL players protesting racial injustices by kneeling during the national anthem before their games. [Sidebar: I might suggest reading up sometime on why the heck the anthem is played at sporting events at all.]

Anyway, as some have noted, regardless of what the national anthem signifies, those who kneel during the anthem aren’t any more protesting a flag than Rosa Parks was protesting a bus. It’s not the object or the moment which is under protest, but rather a moment in time to show one’s dissatisfaction. The Black Lives Matter movement has been very active lately in St. Louis following what is seen by many as an unjust verdict a month or so ago. The group elicits a wide spectrum of reactions from folks; I don’t mean to get into that exactly, other than to note they do organize their protests for times and places which both get people to notice, and to realize something symbolic about that particular place and time.

The tricky thing about symbols, like, say, flags, is they can mean different things to different people, and no one person gets to tell someone else what that symbol ought to mean, or that their interpretation of it is incorrect. Perhaps a certain flag to one person might symbolize freedom, bravery, and sacrifice; to another it might symbolize a nation that even over 150 years after a civil war was fought continues to, by action or inaction, let a large percentage of its citizens down in a variety of ways.

And sure, the same aspects of interpretation of symbols holds true for, for instance, flags of former nations that oppressed or killed certain humans for merely being a certain race or creed. The difference is, I hope it’s apparent, is that those who erected those flags lost wars to those who erected ours so that people could, within constitutional reason, live and express themselves as they see fit. And, while such goals were explicitly forbidden for some people under certain flags, it is also true that under ours, not all feel as if what our flag represents to some is a reality for all.

And a small addendum – if you are among the people annoyed by all this chatter on the matter, especially if all you wanted to do on Sunday afternoon was “just watch football,” then I dare say the protests are working. Your minor irritation or perhaps inconvenience is a necessary part of these things, you know, as is conversation on the matter.

So, let’s actually talk. I certainly am aware that I have friends on any and all sides of matters like these. So, if conversation arises here, fantastic. Please, just be respectful, read comments for content, and double-check how entrenched your views are, how dug in your heels are. I will try to be and do those things, anyway.

Lastly, if all we want is unity, I think this is the way, the only way there. Uniformity as a means to an end (unity) will most certainly fail. So, let’s talk.

—Orin

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