At the end of the day, we all need to thank Donald Trump. Seriously. Yes, he says some idiotic things. Actually, he says things people like him always wanted to say.
Looking at the headlines and social media, we have players in most major sports protesting for freedom of speech and equality. Even some NFL owners, symbols of elitism and power, have come around.
No doubt, Donald Trump has been dividing people since the launch of his campaign but we’ve finally arrived at the “enough is enough” point where the opposite is happening- people are uniting and standing together.
Most of all we need to thank Trump for bringing to light things that were hidden for years- mainly antiquated ways of thinking. It’s refreshing to hear the truth of how people really feel. It’s refreshing to be confronted with the ugliness of our humanity. And it’s refreshing to reflect on what kind of society we actually want to be.
This time really is one of the most introspective times we’ve ever lived in. Even rich sports owners and corporations have to consider, “What is it that I actually believe? What do I stand for?”
The ignorant comments I read online are also making me consider my own thoughts and beliefs. In an article I wrote earlier this year about Canada’s 150th birthday I talked about Indigenous people’s relationship with Canada. It’s only in seeing the struggle that African Americans are going through that I really understand what Indigenous people are going through.
In hindsight, my tone was wrong and insensitive which I have to apologize for, but what really bothered me was being told how I should react to Canada’s 150 birthday. I felt as though I was being told that I should be angry and sour when my family, which immigrated to Canada from Barbados in the mid-70’s, has had a great experience here. One group’s favorable experience in Canada shouldn’t be disregarded because another group has had a bad experience, nor should their bad experience be disregarded because another group has had a great experience.
This is what’s wrong with the arguments of people who oppose peaceful protest during the national anthem at sports games. The fact that Americans have died in the name of the United States while serving with the armed forces shouldn’t disregard the fact that in the same United States Black people have died at the hands of the police. To expect people to protest when you deem it appropriate isn’t democratic and is in itself a sign of oppression.
On the other hand, the fact that the United States has done wrong by certain segments of the population shouldn’t disregard the fact that there are some things that should be celebrated about the United States, including the contributions and sacrifices of the military.
Players who choose to protest shouldn’t be looked down upon in the same way that players like Alejandro Villanueva of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who served with the United States army and chose to come out for the national anthem by himself while his team stayed in the tunnel, shouldn’t be looked down upon.
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Anyone who criticizes Villanueva’s choice to come out and stand for the anthem, including his teammates, is missing the point of this latest stand against Trump. You can’t get upset that Colin Kaepernick was singled out for standing up for what he believed in and then judge Villanueva for going against the grain and standing up for what he believes in.
Now where we’ve gone wrong is that we’ve created a society where we expect everybody to believe and value the same thing. If there’s a protest or a particular hot button issue we expect everybody to be on board and that’s just not going to happen.
A mature society isn’t one where we all believe the same thing. A mature society is one where we’re all free to believe different things but make the choice to live together in a civilized manner based on mutual respect.
In Polonius’ famous words from Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” We need to allow people to express themselves and be true to themselves, whether we stand or kneel, sing or not sing, stay in the tunnel or come out on the field. Anything else isn’t really freedom.