This week we are treated to another Johnny-come-lately, or in this case, Jane-come-lately, in the person of Megan Rapinoe, giving the nod to Colin Kaepernick’s “protest” , “displaying discontent with the current state of affairs in the U.S.” What state of affairs is this now, you might ask? Well, I shall tell you:
“Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it.”
Yes, it was something small, all right. Downright miniscule. Pointless in fact.
Allow me to be blunt about this. Both of these individuals are full of it. Both of these individuals are cowardly. Why are they cowardly? Why are they full of it? I shall tell you.
They are full of it because there used to be laws in this country that criminalized certain of her behaviors, and downright oppressed anyone of his race. No more. Not only is the President of the United States someone who, 100 years ago, couldn’t have been elected dogcatcher anywhere in the country, it is now the law of the land that any two people at all can get married, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Hey, Colin! Hey, Megan! Wake up, wouldja? The battle has been fought and the war is OVER! All that’s left is the mopping up, and what you’re doing doesn’t help.
You know what this reminds me of? Those Japanese soldiers from World War II who hid out in the jungles and forests for decades after the war was over, fighting a war that, in their case at least, had long been won — by the other side.
But in Colin’s and Megan’s case, the war was WON! Yet still they protest. The only thing left to do, and it’s quite important, is to help with the task of smoothing over the raw spots caused by the process of achieving the ends that now benefit both of them. There are bigots yet to be won over, but the biggest problem of all has been overcome: the laws which have oppressed for so long have been repealed or overturned.
Why did I say they were cowardly? And note carefully that I didn’t say they were cowards. It takes genuine courage to go physically up against opponents, even in a game, because the potential for injury is not trivial. You can get really hurt in both American football and soccer!
The cowardliness is in this: long after the war is won, now suddenly it’s SAFE to protest. They are both standing up to be counted after everyone else has put their lives on the line and achieved the long-sought-after goal. When the only calumny they can trigger is laughter at being fashionably late, or anger at protesting the country that has finally given up its official oppressions, this is the time to help heal the wounds caused by the conflict of reaching the state the country now finds itself in. Not the time to open those wounds further in a pathetic attempt to gain some last-minute fame and ride the coat-tails of those who really put themselves on the firing line.
What Kaepernick and Rapinoe should be doing now is to provide an example of respect and gratitude so that everyone, even those who opposed the reforms that benefit these two, can say of the oppressed: they fought a valiant fight against oppression, but now that that fight is won, they have united behind the country.
Instead, they spit in all of our faces, including all those who fought and sometimes bled and died to achieve the benefits they now thoughtlessly enjoy.
I was going to let that last sentence conclude this message, but just in time I thought of another person who exemplifies the attitude that Kaepernick and Rapinoe ought to have expressed but have not: that person is George Takei, who is most famous for portraying Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the starship USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek television series.
George Takei is a gay Asian man, who as an American citizen of Japanese descent spent World War II locked up in what amounted to a concentration camp. He was oppressed both for his race and later for his sexual orientation, and like Kaepernick and Rapinoe he achieved fame and fortune in show business (yes, I know K&R are athletes, but at its heart, athletics is a spectator sport, or in other words, a form of show business). Yet Mr. Takei has a different take on the United States. I’ve posted this video before, but it seems appropriate to post it again. I shall let this video be the coda for this post.
The title of the video is: “Why I love a country that once betrayed me.”
A relevant point made by George Takei is what his father told him, when young George complained about the treatment his people had experienced:
“Our democracy is a people’s democracy, and it can be as great as the people can be, but it is also as fallible as people are.” He told me that “American democracy is vitally dependent on good people who cherish the ideals of our system and actively engage in the process of making our democracy work.”
Would that Kaepernick and Rapinoe have chosen that path, instead of the disrespectful path they have chosen.