Taking a Knee
Earlier this month, San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid made headlines by refusing to stand for the pre-game national anthem. Their choice to "take a knee" sparked outrage in the media and among the American public. Endorsements were pulled. Death threats were made. All because two men elected not to show outward respect for a song about "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
On September 17th, explosive devices were set off in New Jersey and New York. Within hours, talking heads in our national news media were decrying the nation's obsession with privacy rights. They couldn't be sure what the explosions were, who set them, or what their motivation might be, but they were one hundred percent confident that surrendering our privacy would keep us safer from, well, "it." Just a small shaving off our Fourth and Fifth amendments to allow warrantless monitoring of our phone calls would help us live with so much less fear.
Another attack occurred in Minnesota the very next day, on September 18th. A man dressed in a security officer's uniform and armed with a knife stabbed and slashed citizens at the Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud, after asking if they were Muslim. The next day, Democrat Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid responded to both the bombings and slashings by renewing demands for more gun control, describing the defense of Second Amendment rights as perpetuating a "terrorist loophole." Apparently, it's our freedom to own firearms that leaves us vulnerable to terror, despite the fact that it was an armed citizen - an "off-duty cop" who was also an NRA firearms instructor and a competitive shooter - that stopped the mall attack.
Two days later, presidential candidate Donald Trump made his own proposal to save black communities from the fear of violence by recommending a national implementation of New York City's “stop & frisk” policy. The policy, now suspended after being declared unconstitutional, allowed random pat-downs of citizens by police who "have a reasonable suspicion" of wrongdoing. Or, in the case of several CT state troopers who accidentally recorded themselves fabricating charges against a peaceful protestor, who can collude their way into manufacturing one. All citizens in high crime area need to do to find relief from their fear of violence is relinquish their freedom to travel or peaceably assemble unmolested. Simple.
Similarly, the Denver PD is making its own effort to protect the residential neighborhood of Montbello from "gun violence" (an interesting phrase, since the Minnesota stabbings have not been categorized as "knife violence"). Officers spent several hours in the evening of September 21st firing live rounds in the almost entirely non-white neighborhood to calibrate their "ShotSpotter" system. This array of acoustic sensors "measures... sounds which are explosive in nature" to identify the location of gunfire, and the company states they cannot pick up human conversation. This statement conflicts with the fact that at least two criminal cases were successfully prosecuted using ShotSpotter-recorded conversations as evidence, but surely Montbello residents won't object to the possibility of being surreptitiously surveilled without a warrant if it makes them feel more secure.
While America was having a small uproar over the "disrespect shown" by two football players to lyrics, it remained largely silent about the greater disrespect shown by our policymakers and law enforcement brass to the very principles of American freedom and bravery.
No one wants to be vulnerable. No one wants to be the target of violence, or to lose a loved one to an act of terrorism. There is no American parent who relishes the thought of attending a holiday parade that could end with holding their child's bloody corpse, or with their children now orphans. But accepting the shaky (and usually empty) promise of avoiding those horrors at the price of selling our - and our children's - rights to speak our minds, to require a damned good legal reason to search our persons and monitor our communications, to have due process, and to defend ourselves as we see fit is not a much better fate.
The willing surrender of our individual rights for the promise of "national safety" is the literal opposite of being "the land of the free and the home of the brave." It makes us the land of the well-tended subject - and the home of cowards. And if we allow that to happen, then maybe we should all be taking a knee. Kneeling is, after all, a far more traditional posture for the subservient.