RIPON HIGH SCHOOL varsity football players standing at attention during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” before a game last season are, from left, Andy Saul, Austin Rechek, Tucker Bender, Cody Sandleback, Brice Peth and Austin Lammers. 				Jonathan Bailey photo
RIPON HIGH SCHOOL varsity football players standing at attention during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” before a game last season are, from left, Andy Saul, Austin Rechek, Tucker Bender, Cody Sandleback, Brice Peth and Austin Lammers. Jonathan Bailey photo

     Little could Lyndon Johnson have known 45 years ago how prescient his words would become in light of the recent spate of NFL players standing/sitting/kneeling/locking arms during the playing of the national anthem.

     The former president was giving the final speech of his life at a civil rights symposium in Austin, Texas, in December 1972, when he observed, “To be black in a white society is not to stand on level and equal ground ....

     “One stands in an elevated position with all the advantages this country has given him. The other one stands down in the rut, neglected and overlooked and enjoyed second-rate facilities and housing and jobs and schools and health and everything else ...We’ve begun to do something about it but unless we recognize as a fact that one’s on a hill and the other’s in the hollow, one’s on the mountain the other’s in the ditch, we’re not evaluating the problem properly and if we’re not evaluating the problem properly, we can’t solve the  problem.”

     So what are the problems with last week’s events?

     Here are a few:

     1. Confusing the symbol with what it represents: Part I — President Trump fanned the dying embers of the Colin Kapernick episode by suggesting team owners should fire any son of a female dog who refuses to stand at attention for the “Star Spangled Banner.” He tweeted “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag.” No they didn’t. Soldiers risked their lives to protect and defend Americans’ freedom, not for the piece of cloth that symbolizes the very national unity Trump often undermines.

      2. Bully occupies bully pulpit — Trump probably isn’t the best person to lecture Americans on patriotism. This man who received five draft deferments yet had the temerity to insult ex-POW Sen. John McCain (“I like people who weren’t captured”) seems to intentionally work at fragmenting America with his reckless Tweets and divisive statements ...

      3. Pseudo Patriotism — Statistics suggest that fewer than half of the same Lambeau Field fans who self-righteously waved flags and chanted “U.S.A.” last week Thursday didn’t bother to vote at any given election ...

     4. The message is muddled — Kapernick protested black oppression in general, with police brutality as a subtext. After Trump got involved, pre-game behavior was a mix of protest against the president, a demonstration of team solidarity and, as stated in the Packer players’ statement, evidence of people working “together to build a society that is more fair and just.” That seems noble, but a bit of a symbolic stretch.

     5. Confusing the symbol with what it represents: Part II — To the pious boys of Sunday: We get it. You’re more enlightened, compassionate and clever than the rest of us. You wear your sanctimony on your jersey sleeve as you demean the rituals that are so sacred to so many who love their country, not blindly but with profound appreciation for its gifts of liberty, opportunity and capacity to improve.

     But what’s next? How do we transform your anger into our action? ...

     Responding to the March 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., then- President Johnson reminded a confused nation that “It’s not just negroes but all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.” ...

     Enough with the protest.

     It’s time to come up with new ways to help minorities and other oppressed classes emerge from the ruts, hollows and ditches they disproportionately occupy. But we can’t give our neighbors a hand up when our fingers are pointing at each other.           
                                   — Tim Lyke

To read the entire editorial, see the Oct. 5, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.