Tuesday, November 15, 2016: The men’s basketball team celebrated a huge win over nationally ranked #15 Emory. Even as a manager, this will forever be one of my highlights of my formerly illustrious athletic career. My teammates (I’ll grant myself the honor until they revoke it) worked their butts off and I cannot help but have an immense sense of pride for the way they played the game. Even in the wake of a tidal wave of elation, I could not help but find myself sobered. Why, you may wonder? So very glad you asked.
Prior to the game, for the duration of the national anthem some of my teammates exercised their right to kneel. Until the ensuing moments, I had markedly mixed feelings about this, until some young men from our student section began to yell at my teammates. I heard cries of “STAND UP!” and “THAT’S DISRESPECTFUL!” In this moment, my stance was greatly shifted from largely undecided to more of a kneel, if you will. Here’s why.
I have a family history very rich in military service, consisting of men who have fought in nearly every war and conflict of the twentieth century. However, those who knelt do not offend me. I have a great sense of pride for my relatives who have served, for this country that we get to live in, problems and all. Yet at the game my exasperation came not from those who chose to kneel, I found myself offended on behalf of my teammates and friends.
When I heard the cries from the audience, I could not help but think of what implications came with the commanding cry.
What I heard spoke far more to me than simple words telling someone to rise to their feet, what I heard was one asserting that they have the right to control another image bearer. I heard that the thoughts, feelings, actions, and experiences of my teammates are so insignificant, that someone out there feels as if they have the right to dictate the way my friends, and assumedly anyone else, thinks, feels, and acts. In a subtle, selfish, subconscious inkling that they have the power to dictate the actions of another based upon their own personal feelings simply by shouting at them; that their sense of the normative should be prescribed into the life of anyone who sees it differently. This is a huge issue for all of us, in our fallen states; it is pervasive to every aspect of our lives.
Furthermore, this perpetuates the issues at hand. You see, in the same fell swoop that it asserts control, it also asserts that someone else’s experiences and lives are not as important as our own experiences and feelings, thus ruling them invalid and insignificant. It writes off the experiences and feelings of another as subordinate to our own.
Thus, it is a bold claim that only my experience and feelings are valid. Without validating the concerns of someone else, we cannot begin to properly address them. We know biblically, that we are all created in God’s image, not some more so than others. Alas, I find myself preaching to the choir.
Finally, I recognize that my teammates’ kneeling is seen as disrespectful to some. I happen to know and believe that they take this course of action free from disrespect for our courageous men and women who fought bravely for our freedoms. Having such a rich history of service, I had to ask myself: what would my Grandads, Uncles, and cousins say about this?
While I do not know with complete certainty what they feel about kneeling during the national anthem (which I assert is better than sitting, due to the traditional reverence associated with kneeling from prayer), I do feel very confident about the way they would feel about my friends reasoning. Many of the conflicts they served in were combating oppressive regimes, which led me to believe they would be appalled to know the way many people feel in our country today.
America has problems, a lot of them. Found on all sides, in nearly every nook and cranny. My teammates feel as though people in our nation, in a practical daily sense, prevent numerous people from actually getting to experience the freedoms we sing about. Our brothers and sisters are crying, what are we to do?
I do not know that kneeling is the best way to protest, but I do know that this is a way I personally believe is better than being destructive and I trust these guys, with their prayerful convictions. This we can all agree on, it has already been highly effective in getting people to think about our issues, whether we choose to truly look with open eyes at our hearts and our country is only for us to know.