Dear God, I’m Sorry.

When Peaceful Protest and Kneeling Became Verboten

Photo: Sports Illustrated (https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/08/27/eric-reid-kneels-national-anthem-protest-san-francisco-49ers)

Dear God,

Just last week, late in the evening, a rally was held in Alabama.

I learned something from the news coverage and the clips. It was simple and life changing. Because of that, I must say…

“Dearest God, you know I am a great fan and follower, but I must apologize. I didn’t know. Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been disrespecting you every time I knelt down! All my life! I’m so sorry.”

Apparently, according to the leaders at that auspicious political rally, kneeling is disrespectful. They’ve even said that those who knelt during a football game should be fired. Yes, they were focused on a recreational sport rather than any one of the many national crises we face. They accused football players of distracting us from a recreational activity while we see American citizens in dire need of help due to a multitude of devastating storms — specifically, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“They get paid big money to play football, they can protest on their own time.” Yep. I heard that one on the radio. So, the important issue is kneeling.

Yes. Kneeling!

Now God, I have been a follower for what feels like a lifetime — oh, it has been my whole lifetime. I was taught early to kneel or to genuflect to show honor to you in church. I saw adults on TV kneeling in front of kings and queens to show respect to their human leaders. You can imagine, throughout life, I thought it was a gesture of reverence and esteem.

However, since a man who plays football chose to kneel while a specific song played, he has been deemed disrespectful. If I were to quote our nation’s leader, he was a “son of a b@*$!*” (Sorry, my mama taught me not to curse in public, let alone in writing. Wish she taught others.)

A leader’s “surrogate,” Jason Miller said on CNN, “You know what? You have your right to do it, disrespecting our flag and disrespecting our national anthem.”

I had to think about this. I could see it clearly. A well-thought out campaign to conflate — to use the surrogate’s term — the story from protesting a gross injustice and peacefully bringing awareness to it to showing a lack of regard and honor for our nation’s symbols. But God, our national symbols represent our right to peacefully protest, don’t they?

Meanwhile, the nation went into an uproar — on Twitter, at least. Shouting “Fire him!” According to the news, last year more than 20 of these titans (I saw a linebacker up close, titans is the only word) took to kneeling to bring awareness to a national tragedy and embarrassment. After the leader went off the rails recently and decided to show young people that it’s okay to be vulgar, more than 250 joined the original few to show solidarity. I can only pray, that despite their “word salad” explanations of unity, they really did want to honor our right to peacefully protest, to peacefully bring awareness to an issue that needs attention.

Now the news pundits — not journalists, but analysts and opinion makers — are decrying that the message has been lost. Usurped. Did the message change? I think that was the point.

The strategy — which we’ve experienced quite often since a national event in January 2017 — was to once again distract this nation with a Twitter war of words so we don’t pay attention to what really matters. I’ve called it a 3D strategy…#DistractDivertDeceive. But that is another letter, God.

I want to go back to kneeling. See, I’m afraid I’ve been disrespecting you all my life. My government leaders have said that kneeling while playing the national anthem is disrespectful. I can only surmise that kneeling while in church must be as well. Therefore, I’m sorry. But I must admit, I’m not sure when it happened. When did kneeling become a sign of disrespect?

Now as I’ve been told, the original kneeler, Colin Kaepernick, in this campaign learned a lesson from a former U.S. soldier, an Army Green Beret. He was told, after he sat through the anthem, that in the service, they kneel to honor their fallen brethren — hence respect. So Kaep, as his friends call him, and his cohorts changed their protest to kneeling specifically to show respect. He took to his knee.

Thanks to the latest Twitter rage, I’m told that if you kneel, you are showing disrespect. Thus, you can see my confusion. In fact, it was specifically pointed out that it was disrespectful to the anthem, the flag and to every military family in the country. (God, you know I am the daughter of a WWII, Korean Conflict and Viet Nam War veteran. I didn’t feel disrespected.)

But I’ve concluded after reading background about the original act that kneeling was and will continue to be a respectful gesture that these players can use. They have a right to a peaceful protest. In fact, I believe they are illustrating to the nation just how powerful a peaceful protest can be. No violence. Simply awareness.

My apology to you is not about kneeling. It’s about being misunderstood. It is important that we all understand the intent of our actions. I will quote Eric Reid, a San Francisco 49er who joined Colin Kaepernick in this endeavor back before it was trendy.

“We spoke at length about the many issue facing our community including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes…to speak for those who are voiceless…We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.” NYTimes, 9–25–2017

So, God, I hope you find this a palatable explanation. See, I plan to continue to kneel in prayer and in respect. I plan to continue to support all my American family to express their right to peacefully protest and bring awareness to issues no matter what our current and future leaders say. That is one of the core values of this nation, one of our core rights.

I trust others will speak up, stand up, sit down or kneel to bring attention to their own opinions and issues. We need to speak up and be heard. That is our right.

Another respected political leader and now “elder stateswoman” once quoted an African proverb: “it takes a village.” I hope our village learns that it’s okay to agree and disagree, to discuss and debate issues and to accept that not everyone needs to agree with us. We are a multicolored nation with strengths and values yet to be discovered.

Thank you for understanding, God.

I look forward to our continued conversations.

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