I love the news headlines that truncate the topic to just “the NFL protests.” Even the secondary meaning that the protests are about the NFL itself is such a disservice, since the meaning of the protests is what the controversy is all about. Really that’s not quite right, either. It’s not so much a controversy as it is a fight for space. It’s not that hard to understand one group of people believe that the playing of the national anthem is inherently about respecting the people who have died defending the nation, while another group of people believe that the playing of the national anthem can also serve as a moment to respectfully protest various social injustices—racism and police brutality—that have been allowed to endure as a characteristic of this nation that is the United States.
It’s all why you gotta be bringing that race stuff into our good, wholesome, idyllic American life? In this fight for the “larger media narrative,” the question becomes what are the most basic American values? Are we, fundamentally, about flag pins, apple pie, and Christianity, or are we about a plural society that’s open to contradictory views so long as they’re peacefully expressed?
It makes me think, too, of all those people and all those conversations I’ve had with people, liberal and conservative, in which people believe the most efficient way to insulate themselves from charges of being a racist is to not think about race or racism at all. And so while it’s a fight for the “oxygen in the room” between two politically-active social groups, you also have a majority of the audience that would rather just not think about these things and enjoy their 4th-and-4 with 2 minutes to go in the game.
So it has been, too, for women and violence. Like the NFL and the toll taken on the average professional football player, violence against women is also, on the one hand, a popular trope of TV and cinematic entertainment, while its IRL iterations are treated like a taboo that consistently serves to shame only the victims. It’s not even that the vast majority of Americans disagree with the underlying principles. It’s that they don’t want to have to think about it. You can’t enjoy your HBO or weekend football or cop drama if you have to also think about your friend who was raped, the classmate who shot himself after just a couple years of college football, or the creepy way that the cop treated you the last time you were pulled over for speeding.
And here’s another thing: I hate how people think the American citizenship is some sacrosanct thing based on innate values of freedom and justice when there’s literally an open market in which people can buy American citizenship. Be sure to look for those targeted employment areas where you can get a 50% discount. And you better hurry. Available slots fill up quickly, and the price is never going to be this low again.
So, you have a pay-to-play system for people who want to buy their way into becoming Americans, while you have an obey-to-play system for people who are already Americans but who may have views about our country that doesn’t mesh with the official company line?