The Right to Sit

One of the key elements of the Freedom of Speech is being able to speak out against and/or act in protest against a government’s actions without retribution from said government.

Consider this: the symbols of our country are just that — stand-ins for a political structure; an image or collection of notes arranged in a pleasing manner and accompanied by words to stir pride, to stir togetherness and unity.

Not acknowledging one of those symbols is not disrespect, it is within our rights as Americans. In fact, the architects of the Constitution codified those rights as the backbone of our country to ensure that people couldn’t be thrown in jail for speaking out against deplorable policies that treat some of our citizens as second-class while elevating others.

It might seem counterintuitive to say that the people who fought for us to be able to fly the flag also fought for us to be able to burn it. It’s that freedom to speak freely, to express our displeasure with a government that does right by only some of its people some of the time, that the flag represents.

It doesn’t only cover the good parts of the country, it covers the bad, too. It covers the KKK’s right to march (something I personally find reprehensible) and spread its white supremacist ignorance, intolerance and hatred; and it covers a football player’s right to sit out the national anthem because he sees something deeply amiss in the way the state treats black people and people of color.

The national anthem is a song. It is just, at the end of the day, a song. And it’s a song that was appropriated from another culture (like so many wildly popular American things are), to be a unifying symbol to those of us who were lucky enough to be born on U.S. soil, and those who dreamt of becoming Americans in many cases for the exact kinds of freedom Kaep exercised last night. He wasn’t taken out back and shot; he wasn’t jailed for insurrection or treason or simply just being “un-American” as many are accusing him of today. Speaking out in protest is as American as you can get.

NFL teams and the league can’t seem to figure out domestic violence or drugs or game ball deflation, but at least this time, they got it right.

 

 

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The lost summer

And so it is August, and what have we done?

How much can I write about being numb before it gets old?

One of my favorite things is looking out the south-facing window in my room at the moon and seeing its weaker, shadowy double. I’m not sure what it is about our windows, about the glass or their angle, or the effect of the light from my reading lamp, that directly to the left of the actual moon lives its reflection.

It reminds me of the sickly moon in Murakami’s 1Q84. It reminds me of one of my favorite love affairs. When I look at the moon over J.H., I’m brought back to the technicolor brightness of that winter, spring and summer.

This summer has been bright — too bright. Washed out. Some days I step outside and it feels like I haven’t been outside in months. The light feels new. Like I’m a mole person? I lose hours and days inside my head. I’ve always lived in here, always escaped to the parallel worlds I’ve built in my brain, but this summer I’ve shunned the familiar places and have hovered somewhere in between. Autopilot is the easiest way to explain, but autopilot suggests someone not really present. I have no choice but to be present, except when I fill my ears with noise so I can focus and in that focus lose grounding, after which I’ll stumble upon some shred of purpose.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how one angle of my grief has been focused on this idea that the one person by whom I’ve felt understood is now gone. And no one, save a very few people, really get me. But is anyone ever really understood? And why is that such an important thing, anyway? It’s the cliché teenage whine: “I’m such an outcast. No one understands me. Wah.” Maybe that’s where my expectations are too high, or at the very least, misplaced. Instead of striving to be understood, I should be striving for forward motion and growth. Rather than spin my wheels in the mud pit of regret and second-guessing, I’ve got to grab a shovel to dig out of this mess. Where the fuck do I find that shovel? How will I know what it looks like? Will it be a portkey situation, where it’s actually a rusty old can, and in grabbing it, I slice my finger, and now I need stitches, and in the hospital I end up contracting a resistant strain of flesh-eating bacteria and now I’ve lost two fingers and a thumb and I need to learn how to type and write again?

Or will it come in the form of the simple action of taking steps to remedy the things I identify as going wrong?

Probably the latter.

Do people figure these things out earlier in life, and I’ve taken the long road, again?

Doesn’t matter. It’s like running, right? Just gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually, you’ll get to where you’re going.

Thinking about “where you’re going” as an endpoint, though — I mean, yes, we’re all marching on toward death, but in between there are so many other stops and nowhere is there an endpoint.

You jog (or maybe you sprint, or maybe you pole vault) to one stop, and maybe getting there, you bested your personal record. While you’re there you swig some gatorade to recharge and rebalance. You stretch, you breathe. And when the next meet is on the calendar, you train for it. Maybe you make the team for Worlds. Maybe you make the Olympic squad. You recharge, rebalance, stretch and breathe, and put one foot in front of the other to move forward every time.

I’m not really sure what I’m saying right now. My mind is filled with forest scenes and jumbled, muddled thoughts on ~20 different topics. Guess I should probably start writing my way out of this labyrinth.