Can You See Both Sides?

A player takes a knee and is labeled unpatriotic.  A fan burns his team’s jersey in protest and is called a racist. People, who had previously been united by a team, are now divided over an issue.
It is an indictment of our times, our media and our educational institutions that these two sides are pitted against one another, seemingly incapable of seeing, yet alone understanding the point of view of the other.
For the kneeling player, he does so to make a peaceful protest of the racial injustices that are very real for African Americans and other minorities. As Eric Reid wrote describing his rationale for kneeling, “After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player… 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.”
On the other side, many consider our flag and national anthem as sacred symbols that embody the sacrifice of our soldiers, first responders and others who have worked to protect our country and our rights (ironically including our right to free speech).   In this view any denigration of these symbols is seen as disrespectful to the country and to that service – regardless of the intention.
To put it more plainly, consider two mothers:

  • One loses a son who was unarmed and shot by the police.
  • Another loses a son killed in combat.

While there can be little solace in their tragedy, both seek and deserve something from us.  For one that starts with giving voice to that loss so it is not forgotten or repeated.  For the other it begins with respecting the idea that her loss was in service to some higher purpose.
In this context both the act of kneeling or any feeling it might provoke could both be understandable depending upon which mother’s eyes you see the act through.
We cannot see into the heart of any player, fan or person to know their motivations for their actions. Yet we quickly judge those on opposing sides with labels ascribing the worst intentions behind their beliefs and actions.
Others of us sit on the sidelines and say nothing.  We see friends and family members in our Facebook feeds stoke the flames of civil discord and remain silent.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” 

This means stepping off the sidelines and saying something – not out of judgement but with dignity and respect.  Just like Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy does so powerfully in this video.

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