Independent Country

James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Flag Follies: Kaepernick, Patriotism and the Patriot Act

National flags do two things: 

  • Identify a nation and its people; for instance, you can tell where a soccer fan is from by the flag he carries with him at the World Cup.  
  • Represent the government of a nation, including its good and bad policies and its wars past and present. 

I could be wrong, but my perception is that the U.S. flag has more militaristic connotations than most. The National Anthem isn't about the nation, but its flag in a battle. Any "insult" directed at the flag, or political protest involving the flag, is perceived not as an insult to the government, but at servicemen and veterans. 
And as if the Star-Spangled Banner isn't enough, children are pressured in public school to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to that flag.   

That's not my relationship to the flag. I'm American born, but most of my childhood was in Canada. When I saw the flag, I didn't think about wars that supposedly freed the slaves or ended the Holocaust. I didn't think about the flag standing for "freedom." When I saw the flag, I thought of the nation and its people; I thought of home.    

I've been moved by ceremonies involving the flag. All were at funerals of veterans, where current servicemen folded that flag and presented it to the widow. It was a reminder that the deceased, someone I cared enough about to attend the funeral, could have easily been killed. The ceremony causes one to think of all those who were not fortunate to come back alive. But that's different from attaching any thought that those wars were actually necessary or were fought for high ideals.  

Thus, when anyone, foreign or domestic, "insults" the flag by burning it, or by kneeling during the national anthem, I don't take personal offense and I don't pretend to be offended on behalf of veterans. These are protests against American governmental policy. 

I've been thinking about this since August when 49ers qb Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of police treatment of blacks. I probably wouldn't have done it. Usually, I'm dispassionately respectful of such proceedings. I stand during pregame performances of the National Anthem. I don't see the upside of calling attention to myself by staying seated. 

But I also think it's a stupid waste of time to play it. It's not performed before concerts or plays or the unveiling of art exhibits, is it? You don't stand at attention and hear it played when you show up at work, do you? So why at sporting events?   

Since the flag does represent the government and its policies, why is it wrong to protest the government by peacefully protesting the playing of the anthem? 

Today is the 15th Anniversary of the signing of the Patriot Act, which provided legal "authority" for the FBI and other law enforcement to infringe on our free speech, privacy, and liberty. If a prominent singer announced she would no longer sing the song about the "land of the free and the home of the brave" until the Patriot Act is repealed, I'd applaud that choice. 

If NFL players and other athletes kneeled at the playing of the national anthem, or otherwise protested the Patriot Act, I would have cheered them on. 

And I would have been even more enthusiastic if they protested the countless wars the U.S. has engaged in over those 15 years.  

After the Edward Snowden revelations, I would have loved to see the Tom Bradys and Aaron Rodgers refusing to stand. More celebrities protesting the Surveillance State might have led to progress in repealing it. 
So what am I to do, tell the Kaepernicks of the world they shouldn't stand because they don't like a system where the "law" has an itchy trigger finger? 

Anyone with common sense understands that such protests are not about veterans or current servicemen. And if you claim that peacefully, quietly taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem is an "inappropriate" form of protest, I'd suspect that what you're really angry about is that there is a protest at all, that you don't agree that there's anything to protest. 

But I'd think it'd be patriotic to protest the Patriot Act by protesting the national anthem. I can only assume that Kaepernick's protest is also for patriotic reasons.
And if more Americans surrendered their quasi-religious attachment to their national flag and instead related to it as normal human beings in other countries do, perhaps they would be less offended by the protest and more concerned about what it is that's being protested. 

October 26, 2016: That's not the Patriot Way

October 26, 2016 in history (via Wikipedia)

2001 – The United States passes the USA PATRIOT Act into law.

If America is in a political and cultural dystopia, this is where it began.

Birthday Quotes

"A goal is a dream with a deadline."

"I fully realize that no wealth or position can long endure, unless built upon truth and justice, therefore, I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit all whom it affects."

- Napoleon Hill (26 October 1883 – 8 November 1970

Happy Birthday Seth McFarlane!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Was Mrs. Clinton outraged by the Donald Sterling leak?

You are a wealthy, powerful celebrity. You own a bag with a suffocating cat inside. Somebody steals your bag. The thief may or may not know the cat's in the bag. But once it's opened, the cat jumps out of the bag, and the public knows about your treatment of cats.

Should the thief be punished? Yes, especially if his intent was theft and not cat rescue. But will we remember the thief's name? Does he matter? Won't people remember instead your cruelty to the cat?

You, as the bag owner, would understandably be upset at the theft. You don't have the right, however, to expect other people to treat you the same way once they know of your cat-suffocating activities. 

In April, 2014, a tape of a private conversation between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and a female friend was released to the public. The release was probably illegal, but the racial remarks Sterling made on the tape led to harsh punishment by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Sterling ultimately lost ownership of his franchise.

Most people agreed with the punishment of Sterling. But he wasn't the only one who should have been punished. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote at the time, "I hope Sterling loses his franchise. I hope whoever made this illegal tape is sent to prison."   

Whatever became of that? Does anyone care?

I agreed with Kareem that the crime should be punished, but didn't care all that much about it, and didn't follow up, until writing this. Apparently, Sterling did sue the friend, but dropped the suit last winter. She claims he had consented to the recording.

And that's that.

We could understand why, in Sterling's mind, he is the victim and shouldn't have been punished. But he still said what he said, and once it became known his presence as an owner was bad for the NBA. He had to go.

Likewise, we could understand why, in Hillary Clinton's mind, the Wikileaks evidence of lies and conspiracies in her campaign is less important than the fact that the emails were leaked. But it's not. Blaming the suspected conspirators behind the leak (or hack, or theft, or whatever it was) does not sweep away public knowledge of her dishonesty and cynicism. 

Perhaps the only way Mrs. Clinton can demonstrate any kind of repentance is to...

1. Apologize
2. Admit that this opened her eyes about the wrongness of unauthorized third parties viewing private communications.
3. Realize it is just as wrong for the government to read people's emails without a warrant as it is for third parties to hack them.
4. Call for the outright repeal of the Patriot Act and all laws that expand the government's electronic surveillance.
5. Promise to issue Executive Orders requiring federal agencies to respect individual privacy and the Fourth Amendment.

Of course, she won't do any of this. She doesn't want the normal ethical rules to apply to her. She believes that while nobody should be allowed to snoop into her communications, she as President should have the power to do the same to any of us.  

Privacy for me, but not for thee.

October 25: Stumblin' on to any black square

October 25 in history (via Wikipedia)

1760  George III becomes King of Great Britain.

Called a "tyrant" though he never expanded power for himself and merely tried to protect Parliament's taxes the American colonies. Which goes to show that tyranny isn't in the person or even the office, but in the policy. 

Birthday Quotes I

"I say: liberate yourself as far as you can, and you have done your part; for it is not given to every one to break through all limits, or, more expressively, not to everyone is that a limit which is a limit for the rest. Consequently, do not tire yourself with toiling at the limits of others; enough if you tear down yours. [...] He who overturns one of his limits may have shown others the way and the means; the overturning of their limits remains their affair."

"Everything sacred is a tie, a fetter."

- Max Sterner (October 251806 – June 261856)

Birthday Quotes II

"The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine, and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilize savage and senile and paranoidal peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells or metal mines."

"In different countries the basis of resistance takes different forms, but it comes chiefly from the conservative groups. Hence it becomes increasingly difficult to go on spending in the presence of persisting deficits and rising debt. Some form of spending must be found that will command the support of the conservative groups. Political leaders, embarrassed by their subsidies to the poor, soon learned that one of the easiest ways to spend money is on military establishments and armaments, because it commands the support of the groups most opposed to spending."

- John T. Flynn  (October 25, 1882– April 13, 1964)

Happy Birthday Jon Anderson!

And Happy Birthday Chris Norman! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Will the Cubs help make America sane again?

Think of an evil that has affected everyone in modern society directly or through a loved one: cancer. Imagine that everyone talked about cancer on social media, and constantly posted grisly memes showing its effects on the body.

Imagine your opinions on its causes, treatments, and cures are a litmus test for friendship. Imagine posting that you hate the idea of chemo but sometimes it's the lesser of two evils, and you get responses calling you stupid or crazy or evil.

Not to diminish the seriousness or gravity of cancer, but wouldn't that be weird? 

Of course, there will always be people who think of cancer almost non-stop, because they or a loved one is afflicted. They post status updates about their struggles and their real friends understand. Or, you may be a medical professional and cancer is on your mind a lot. You might frequently report recent developments on cancer. That's all good and necessary.

But would anyone condemn American society for not focusing enough on cancer? Who would post: 

That'd be crazy because entertainment - which gets our mind off the serious subjects like cancer - helps make life enjoyable, and why live if not to enjoy life?  

We understand that implicitly. Small talk with strangers while waiting in line or beside you on a bar stool don't drift toward, "So who in your life has cancer?" No, we drift toward "How 'bout them Cubs?"  

It's a light topic, it's something common in the news, and if the response is, "I don't know, I don't follow sports," then the conversation goes somewhere else light and general.

The State is worse than cancer. Not always in any individual instance (most people would rather get an IRS audit than cancer), but overall it impairs and destroys more lives. It's the main obstacle to health and human flourishing. It is the common, greatest enemy of humanity, but is so insidious that most people don't realize it. That's why enlarging the State is some people's life's work, while others dedicate their life to working peacefully to abolish or minimize it.

But most people are in the middle who really don't pay that much attention... until they do. Which is, during the 18-month Presidential election "season."

That's inevitable, I suppose. And I'm as guilty of posting political stuff on social media as anyone. But I do it for much the same reason I'm writing this now: This isn't right. We don't have to do things this way.  

I have no ill will toward Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Divorce is a terrible thing. But when news hit that they were getting a divorce, they briefly made America sane again. Attention was briefly diverted away from the ridiculous Presidential campaign, and toward a subject - celebrity gossip -  we would discuss during normal times.

The Cubs, by reaching the World Series, provides a similar but healthier diversion. Anything that gets people talking about something other than politics helps make America sane again.  

In all areas aside from politics, we tend to talk - perhaps not reasonably but at least honestly. Bad news about a celebrity? "I hope it's not true because I really admired him." Comparing athletes? You can point to objective criteria but be called out for your biases.

Politics is different. George Washington famously said"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force!" When discussing "government" or The State,we have the un-reason, the in-eloquence, that comes with trying to justify violence and coercion. Justifying evil is insane, and The State is an unnecessary one.

So bring on the World Series! And the next superhero movie! And the Real Housewives or NCIS! 

Bring on whatever you enjoy, no matter how unimportant it appears to others. Because if it helps keep you sane during this insane time, it is very important.  

October 24, 2016: Westphalia is in another land

October 24 in history (via Wikipedia)

1648 – The Peace of Westphalia is signed, marking the end of the Thirty Years' War.

Countries, or nation-states as we know them now didn't really exist before this, so this is huge in history. But I have to admit: I don't know where Westphalia is.

What should have been a deep but brief depression became Great because Presidents Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt tried to "do something" about it.

1954  Dwight D. Eisenhower pledges United States support to South Vietnam.


Birthday Quotes

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."

"Perform anonymous service. Whenever we do good for others anonymously, our sense of intrinsic worth and self-respect increases." 

- Stephen Covey (October 241932 – July 162012)

Happy Birthday Bill Wyman! Of all the songs you wrote with the Rolling Stones, this has to be in the top 2: