I am not a football fan…but let’s rant about protesting protest anyhow.

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My grandfather (a WWII veteran, whom I was inspired by to join the Navy) and I once had a conversation about flag burning…I was in middle school, I think, and I remember exactly what he said to me (because I wrote it down afterwards, and I’ve reread it over the years from time to time)–“I hate the idea of someone burning the flag. I think its disgusting and disrespectful and that is why I would never do it. But I support their right to do it–otherwise, I’d be no better than the Nazis or the Soviets. And I’d like to think I’d never considered the person doing it to be disgusting or disrespectful.  I’d like to think I would think it was a tragedy that someone felt that way and I’d like to think I was man enough to ask them why and really listen to their answer, even if it made me uncomfortable.  I’d like to think that I would want to figure out how to fix things so that they no longer wanted to burn the flag.”  Given that bending one’s knee is hardly burning the flag, I think that even were he disappointed in the form of protest, he’d be more concerned with fixing the ‘why.’

I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

–James Baldwin (among the greatest writers of the 20th century)

The NFL anthem protest is not disrespectful–and I say this as a veteran–it is within the strongest traditions of this nation; indeed, the right to protest the failures of this nation to live up to its promises IS what makes this country great. This nation was founded on the very notion of protesting the status quo to overthrow tradition for tradition’s sake when that tradition is being used to deny the natural rights of mankind.  And of those rights, the very First Amendment (its actually six rights in one amendment) gives us the right to assemble peaceably, to redress grievances, and to speak freely. Don’t get me wrong, I joined the military primarily for health care and education benefits, but the only reason I take pride in that services is because I do believe in the duty to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic (and sadly, most of those enemies are domestic, wrapped in a flag, waving a gun, and toting a Bible).

Kneeling before the symbol that represents the failed actualization of this country’s ideals to certain segments of its population is far more respectful than blindly obsequious posturing before it as some metric of patriotism.

I’m more astounded at what this says about the American character than anything.  We’ve effectively said “Hey, we’ll watch your murderers, your rapists, your child and spouse beaters, your animal abusers…we’ll give you money for permanently disabling people through traumatic brain injury.  And its not just football–we’ll pay sports figures so freaking much their players can fucking build schools and shit, because our society can’t be bothered to just pay for schools–for our future’s fucking basic education,” (It is possible to think Lebron James’ actions are amazing AND think that the fact that *this is what funding good schools has come to* is a terrible stain on our national character–they are not mutually exclusive ideas).

But, you know, we white people just can’t seem to handle the idea that there might still be some aspects of our government and society where we aren’t living up to the values of this nation. Kneeling silently during the anthem–we can’t handle that. It’s somehow just the last straw, a bridge too far for far too many. I mean really, how pathetic is that? The NFL never even really required teams on the field until the DoD bribed them into it (maybe), and all of the sudden we are going to act like this is some travesty of unpatriotic behaviour? The only unpatriotic thing I see is the burying of thousands of heads in the sand over the very real problems this country still has with regard to equal protection under the law for all Americans.

And as a veteran (yeah, I’m gonna play the veteran card), you know what else really pisses me off about the conservative snowflake crowd?  Don’t fucking tell me how patriotic you are and how much you love this country when you are exploiting my fucking service and deciding for me what disrespects my service.  Especially if you haven’t served.  I mean, if they really want to respect my service, they should stop electing people that get us into shitty wars, stop voting for assholes that cut VA funding, and stop using shoving their interpretation of their Bible up my vagina.

This “its disrespectful of the service of our military, blah, blah, blah” stuff pisses me off immensely. How dare someone else tell me what disrespects my service?!? As a veteran, I put more stock in the Constitution I took an Oath to protect and defend than I do a piece of fabric that half these yahoos deface and misuse regularly as a fucking rag for their sweaty head or a piece of fabric to hold their boobs at the pool. Let’s face it, they only care about “disrespect” when its something that makes them uncomfortable–like other people wanting to actually have the same level of civil rights in practice that they take for granted.

And another thing, if taking a knee is SO disrespectful to the flag that its a reason to boycott football and deface Nike products, where the fuck were these bigots when it came time to decry Tebow’s disrespect of Jesus every time took a knee to pray?  And really, that shit actually took place during gameplay.  Don’t get me wrong,  I can think of half a dozen reasons to boycott football and Nike…but peaceful protest is not one of them, whether I agreed with the reason for protesting or not (though I do) or the method of protesting or not (while I would not choose the same for myself, I completely respect not only their right to do so but I also respect the manner in which they have chosen to exercise that right).  After all, it was a veteran (and NFL player) that suggested kneeling in the first place–

 But I thought kneeling was more respectful, and I will say that being alongside his teammates was the biggest thing for me.

And, you know, people – in my opinions and in my experience, kneeling’s never been in our history really seen as a disrespectful act. I mean, people kneel when they get knighted. You kneel to propose to your wife, and you take a knee to pray. And soldiers often take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave to pay respects. So I thought, if anything, besides standing, that was the most respectful. But, of course, that’s just my opinion.

–Nate Boyer, former Green Beret and NFL player, in an interview with NPR

What little hope I have held on to, that this nation might live up to its promises in my lifetime, have been gouged out by the stunning realization (more of my white privilege)  that completely reasonable peaceful and respectful protest is somehow more offensive to other white people than the continued and unapologetic disregard for the safety of their players on part of the NFL, or the continued employment of the players who have committed rape and domestic abuse, or the exorbitant fees they get paid while teachers have to sell plasma and drive for uber to afford supplies for their classrooms and make ends meet….or fuck, the subject that has caused this protest in the first place.

I mean, you can’t just get more misdirecting than this entire protest having been turned into a racially-privileged commentary on protest instead of the subject of that protest.

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raising a good loser

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Its always funny to me, when I hear the people around me that complain about participation trophies…its more often been my experience that the folks doing the complaining tend to emulate they very definition of poor sportsmanship whether they win or lose.

Often I hear “there were no participation awards in my day” from my contemporaries.  Um, WTF?  I have about a dozen or so that my mom saved along with every piece of artwork and honor roll certificate I ever received.  And guess what?  My parents had some of those same types of awards…

And really, people have been receiving awards for not “winning” (however one defines that) for some time now, starting with the establishment of the Honorable Mention by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1831 as a way to honor soldiers that had done brave deeds that weren’t quite brave enough for an actual award.  Literally, an honorable mention was an official statement honoring an individual for doing something good, but not good enough.

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It has not escaped my notice that, on the participation trophy question alone, I can reliably predict the political bent on the individuals that are against them more than 3/4s of the time… 

Let’s face reality here: The vast majority of children will never play a professional sport or world competition level amateur sport.  At most, a child may play a sport through high school and perhaps into college.  Realistically (unless they go to a tiny school somewhere) they might not even play varsity unless they are pretty darn good, much less be regional or state champions.  At best, for most children, sporting events are a flash in the pan of childhood; sound and fury, signifying nothing in the greater context of a life lived or the wider world.

And that’s not to say that sports do not have a value in the lives of children or in a child’s development into an adult, because they can.  Rather, if your motivation to have your children play sports is to win, I’d say your motivation is in the wrong place to begin with (sadly, I’ve seen too many parents like this, or worse, the ones trying to live their childhood over again through their children regardless of their children’s interested).

As a parent now (and a former coach who has seen dozens of examples of the kind of parent I never wanted to coach, much less become myself when I had children), I only have one goal for my kids’ participation in sports–that it makes them a better person.
To determine this, I routinely my kids five questions…which is another post altogether.
 
I would rather have a child that is a “loser” with the skill to lose gracefully and get back up and try again when they fall down than some snotty brat shoving their 1st place trophy (literally or metaphorically) in another kid’s face (something else I’ve seen).  I would rather have a child that dances or plays basketball or swims or runs for the ecstatic joy of movement and the love of the game itself than to win.  30 years down the road, my kids won’t remember the names of the meets they competed in or where they placed, but they will remember the experience of doing something fun and working hard (win or lose).  They will remember that sometimes they won and sometimes they lost and neither one determined their worth as a person.

If a certificate helps to teach them that its the down and dirty diligent effort and not the score that makes them a better person, then so be it.  If a little ribbon can remind them in a time of hardship that losing with grace as much a skill as winning with humility, then ribbons for all.  If a little chunk of gold-painted plastic gives them the courage and encouragement to get up and try again after falling down and getting hurt or embarrassed or both, then what kind of jackass would take that away?

A kid that gets a participation award instead of a first place trophy knows they are a loser in the strictest sense of the word.  But they know they are a winner too, in the ways and places where it actually counts in life—that they showed up, they played the game with honor, they did their damnedest, and they finished the season with their head up, with dignity and grace, geared to try again, win or lose.  And in life, how many people can’t even claim that?

Conversations with my Daughter

Phee: The 1st amendment is the freedom of expression one, right mom?

Me: Yeah, why?

Phee: Nothing, I was just thinking about the story I’m writing.

Me: What were you thinking about?

Phee: Well, if the 1st amendment means jerks can say terrible and wrong things, it means the rest of us can tell everyone what jerks they are and tell them what we think of them right?

Me: Well, yes. But, you should remember that there are rules and laws that tell you how and when, from a social and even a legal standpoint.

Phee: Are you saying that we shouldn’t stand up when people are doing things that are wrong.

Me (gives the mom “Really? Did you really just ask me that?” look): Nope, not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that when you choose to stand up to jerks and bullies and bigots and all of the ills of humanity, you have to make a decision. What is what you are fighting for worth? Is it worth your life? Your job? Being arrested? Being ostracized? Being harassed by more jerks? Because these are the things that happen to people that are on the right side of history, especially when they are on the right side of history too soon for the sensibilities of most of society. You have to figure out what things are most important to you, and how much you are able and willing to deal with the consequences of how far you choose to go. You are one person, you can’t tilt at every windmill in the world.

Phee: That sounds hard.

Me: It can be hard. Some fights are easier than others because they are less controversial or have more sympathy from the public. You have to remember that not all laws are moral, or for that matter logical. The legal system, the government, its made by people. People are flawed…some of them are all sorts of fucked up…and some of them are wonderful. Most of us are all of those things at some point in our lives, and sometimes all at once. When you decide to stand up for what is right, sometimes you are standing up to the law and to the people in the government.

Phee: What if you get arrested?

Me: Phee, some of the best, most important people in history have been arrested for that–Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai, Alice Paul…we even have a congressman from GA who has been arrested lots of times for that. And, for every person whose name you know, there are hundreds and thousands more that you don’t know. There hasn’t been a movement to bring rights to people from whom they’ve been kept where someone hasn’t been arrested.

Phee: So…if I get arrested when I get older for standing up to something bad, you would be okay with that?

Me: Well, if it’s standing up to protect someone or someone’s rights or to protect something that is right from something that is wrong, whether its a place or an idea…yeah. There are limits though–I wouldn’t be okay with you killing or hurting anyone, except in self-defense, or for participating in the destruction of someone’s home or business. But otherwise, yes.

(conversation falls silent as cogs turn in Phee’s brain)

Phee: Mom?

Me: Yes?

Phee: What does “tilting at windmills” mean?

Me: Well, have you ever heard the story of Don Quixote?

Phee: No…

Me: I guess a trip to the library is in order then!

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The fantasy beach body — Druid Life

Oh, I would want retractable breathing membranes (not gills) and a third eyelid to act as built-in goggles and luminescent finger tips (flashlights, lol)for seeing underwater in the dark (or just in the dark)… And I would want to be able to photosynthesize in the sun. Also, leathery feet for better barefooting would be nice. And, just because, I want sentient hair, that only tangles intentionally and untangles easily and with purpose.

When ‘beach body’ gets mentioned, you can normally expect body shaming and very narrow definitions of beauty to follow. Ageism is likely as well. Rather than doing any of that, I want to subvert the idea of the beach body by inviting people to imagine their ideal beach form in much wilder terms. This isn’t […]

via The fantasy beach body — Druid Life

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Praying for Clean Air

Aeolus, Keeper of the Winds1, I thank you for your part in maintaining the cycles of our home and the health and welfare of all creatures that share it. I ask you to hear this heartfelt plea.

I pray that I may draw a lifesaving breath. This is the most important element of health, to breathe clean and unpolluted air.2

Through ignorance and carelessness, we have poisoned your clean air. For monetary gain, we have reduced verdant forests, the lungs of our world, to barren wastes. In our craving for more, we have plundered your beloved creation and driven many of our fellow creatures to extinction. Only recently have we begun to realize the dangerous future into which our current patterns of consumption and waste are driving us, especially in relation to earth’s climate. Only recently have we begun to see our need to find a wiser and better way of life, before it is too late and our choices are limited by the consequences of inaction. Lord of the Winds, in your mercy, hear our prayer.3

I pray that I may draw a lifesaving breath. This is the most important element of health, to breathe clean and unpolluted air.

I believe the time has come to better fulfil our role as guests of your home4. May our leaders have the courage to set noble goals that reach beyond short-range political expediency, short-term economic profit, and short-sighted self-interest. May sight be given on those that are blind to the mess that we have created and given them the wisdom to act in a way that benefits the health and welfare of those of us that depend on clean air and life-giving breath. Impress upon all of our consciences our sacred duty to bequeath to our children and grandchildren a healthy and thriving environment rather than a world in climate crisis. Lord of the Winds, in your mercy, hear our prayer.5

I pray that I may draw a lifesaving breath. This is the most important element of health, to breathe clean and unpolluted air.

If we fail to take the necessary action, we will have violated your hospitality5. If we fail, every person will be affected, including generations not yet born. Please help to rouse us all to action in righting this wrong. Lord of the Winds, in your mercy, hear our prayer.7

I pray that I may draw a lifesaving breath. This is the most important element of health, to breathe clean and unpolluted air.

 

Notes:
Having spent most of the evening in the ER for breathing problems, I learned first hand what it feels like to not be able to breathe…it’s sort of important. They call it the Breath of Life for a reason. So I felt a little inspired this morning.
1. Aeolus is either the divinely appointed but mortal Keeper of the Winds in Greek mythology, or according to some writers, a god in his own right. I prefer the latter. But, if Greek mythology isn’t your thing, there are other cultures with wind or sky gods that might fit into this prayer with some changes for personality and culture.
2. From Philyllius, translated by Ian C. Storey in Fragments of Old Comedy via the blog Laudator Temporis Acti.
3, 5, 7. These are (some more heavily than others) modified portions from the Prayer for Copenhagen, written before the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
4,6. In both Greek religion (as well as many global religions, ancient and modern) hospitality plays a huge role in an individual’s responsibility. And in my opinion, we are guests in this home of the gods, and have a responsibility not to trash the joint (and to pay for the cleaning bill when we have)–conservation is just as much a part of hospitality as a good bottle of wine.

via Praying for Clean Air @ Pagan Devotionals, this is a repost of a much earlier post of mine, but I think its worth revisiting.