Saturday, October 21, 2017

Taking a Knee vs Sieg Heil!

When Colin Kapernick took a knee at the playing of the national anthem at an NFL football game, he probably did not know that he was entering a Twilight Zone of principled resistance which dated back to early anti Nazi protests in American past.

There were two Supreme Court cases which addressed the symbolic actions of citizens to protest a prevailing rule seeking to enforce patriotism on the citizens of this nation.

The first case was the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, in which children were expelled from public school for refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag. These children were Jevovah's witnesses and they had been taught such a pledge spoken, or rather recited, before a flag was tantamount to violating the Biblical proscription from God against worshiping graven images.  Their father supported them right up to the Supreme Court.  

Justice Robert Jackson, who later served as the American lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials wrote a stinging opinion, reversing early decisions and rejecting Felix Frankfuter's dissent. Nobody in this country should be made to speak. The first amendment ensures not just the freedom to speak; it preserves the freedom to remain silent. 
"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us."
Justice Robert Jackson
Remember 1943: America was in the midst of fighting a war against Nazi Germany, and for many across the land the practice which had been widely introduced of instructing school children to recite the pledge--and in those days, they not only recited the pledge but they stretched out one arm toward the flag--looked way too much like the Nazi practice of Seig Heil!  
American children: Seig Heil!

There followed a case in 1971, when the state of New Hampshire, in the midst of the way in Vietnam, decided to change it's state license plates to replace "Scenic New Hampshire" with "Live Free or Die," which prompted another Jehovah's witness to tape over the "Or Die" objecting this violated his religion. Others taped over the whole sentence, saying it was a subterfuge to force New Hampshire citizens to support the War, which supposedly, and arguably was being fought for "freedom."

Group think, the forced conformity of behavior and angry reactions to symbolic protests against symbolic conformity have been with us throughout our lifetimes. 
The American Olympic champions who raised their fist as Black Americans and bowed their heads as the American flag was raised and the anthem played were thrown out of the 1968 Olympics because in the face of the ultimate in jingoistic expression of "patriotism" their mute gesture spoke of their dismay at the way Blacks were treated in America, where they were still being lynched, denied mortgage loans by federal government agencies, beaten by police and drafted to fight in Vietnam, when, as Mohammad Ali said, they had no argument with them Viet Cong. We are all oppressed by the white man.

So now it's Trump and the white supremacists and the super patriots who think patriotism is a gesture, but President Heel Spurs, the commander in chief, does not think patriotism includes the willingness to resist injustice.

1 comment:

  1. Mad Dog is too wordy
    Keep it to 140

    Obadiah Youngblood@obadiahyoungbld1