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It’s Time to Define Just What Freedom Means April 13, 2018

Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
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There are many ways of approaching this topic, especially in 2018.  I choose to do so through professional football.  I am troubled.  Not by actions, but by reactions.  That is kneeling at the national anthem prior to games, and the attendant responses.

Those that criticize call this inappropriate political protest.  I don’t get the political part.  Politics is where we disagree, and agree to disagree.  I cannot for the life of me imagine how anyone would disagree that black men are being disproportionally killed by police in situations where deadly force is not called for.  This is not a political problem, it is a societal one, one that we need to work together to address.

There are almost certainly elements of racism involved in those situations, but I think the main problem is a lack of training of the police.  Being a policeman (or woman) has to be one of the most difficult and stressful jobs imaginable.  They go into ambiguous situations that either start out as violent, or can turn violent at the drop of a hat.  They can find themselves in life or death situations where an immediate decision may make the difference between them getting home, or getting into a coffin.  I think many lack the rigorous and continual training needed to make the right decisions in those situations.

And I’m not sure I even get the protest part.  Unlike protests from my youth, they don’t take over campus buildings, or block streets.  They do so silently.

There are those who also say that it is inappropriate to take such a principled stand while on the job.  As with most professionals, it is difficult to know quite when football players are on the job.  Especially since they can be punished by their employer for some personal behavior, such as drug use or police altercations, that is definitely on personal time.

But here is my biggest problem, and I think one that is fueled by the fantasy football craze.  Too many fans are geared to see players as a set of numbers in any given week.  With the prospect of legalized sports betting, we could see millions of fans who bet on the outcome of individual plays, which serves only to reduce players to how often they deliver on split-second outcomes, perhaps a dozen or more times a game.  They are like inanimate toy soldiers, ours to select and manipulate for our enjoyment and perhaps profit.

But these players aren’t numbers.  They are thinking human beings, certainly on a similar plane as all of us.  They have perspectives and beliefs that are just as valid as anyone else.  I think it appropriate that we hear their voices.

Now, to freedom.  We live in a country where millions of soldiers, policemen, firemen, and others who serve have died.  I would like to think that they died for a larger ideal.  I believe strongly that that ideal is that we can express ourselves freely.  Declining to stand for the national anthem is one way of doing so.

I am a military veteran.  Not standing for the national anthem is not how I might call attention to an issue.  But I will vigorously defend the right of anyone to do so.  That is what freedom means.

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