For the Sake of Argument

By Bob Hiller

Well, thank you, Colin Kapernick. Really, I mean it. Thank you. Because of your big, brave stand (or sit), you have given sports talk radio hosts a feeling of self-importance once again. You’ve helped them feel like they are more than just dudes talking about last night’s game. You’ve given them the ability to become social commentators. The penetrating sociological insight one can gain from listening to sport’s talk is truly breathtaking. So thank you, Colin Kapernick, for giving a bunch of self-important voices with a platform an opportunity to demonstrate that they alone know the right answers to all of life’s struggles.

In case you missed it, this past weekend, San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kapernick decided to make his career relevant again by staging a one-man protest during the national anthem in a pre-season football game. In protest against what he perceives to be a systemic racial problem in our country, Kapernick refused to stand for the National Anthem. The internet outrage was, to put it lightly, boring and predictable. Many got angry, others defended Kapernick’s right to sit, while others agreed with the caveat that they had the right to disagree with Kapernick’s move, and the arguments just developed into thought-provoking memes from there. Kapernick created buzz, which was his goal, though he didn’t really draw our attention to anything new or surprising. More or less, he just stoked the political flames for a few internet days. What he really did was give everyone an opportunity to shoot off their mouths, create memes, and dig their proverbial heels deeper into the ground. Honestly, I don’t think he did much of anything to help any cause or correct any issues. He just kind of let us know where he stands (or sits). In the process, he gave us all an opportunity to do the same. We all got to be radio talk show hosts and speak our minds without actually entering into any sort of real dialogue. Yawn. Sorry.

I’m not bothered by Kapernick’s comments that we have a race problem in this country. I fully agree. Spend just a little time in the inner city and tell me that many non-white folks are not at a disadvantage. Or at least take the time to listen to their stories before you decide to correct their view on things. Unfortunately, Kapernick chose to make his point not in a constructive or helpful way but by disrespecting the flag of his nation. (Yes, yes, he has the right to do it. That doesn’t mean it is okay or helpful. I don’t know if he meant to disrespect, say, our soldiers who fight under that flag. But he did. That’s within his rights. But just because he can doesn’t mean he should. Those men and women deserve better. I digress…) Who knows? Maybe Kapernick himself has some insightful views on this. To be completely honest with you, I haven’t really heard all of what he has to say.

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And that is what is bothering me about this whole thing. My bet is you haven’t heard all he has to say, either. The reason why is that all Kapernick did was create buzz and give a few sound bites. In the buzz, the internet responded with more sound bites and opinions. Sitting for the anthem doesn’t really produce anything productive. It seems to me that the entire discussion is void of healthy argumentation that might correct false views and create opportunities for healing. Perhaps in a former time, this move could have produced arguments leading to solutions. But, I’m afraid we live in a time where we simply react with assertions and opinions. The whole thing becomes a school-yard shouting match, “He has his rights!” “Well, I have mine!” “I know you are, but what am I!”

I’m afraid of the times we live in, when the nature of our disagreements is shaped more by the rhetoric of political TV personalities and emotionally driven memes than it is by reason or logical argumentation. I mean, be honest, how many of you read more than three lines on a Facebook post? No one can develop a constructive argument, nor can they respond to that, in three lines or less! We don’t think; we just react and repost. Sure, we have the right to do it. But as Kapernick and the internet have demonstrated this week, exercising that right may not produce anything good.

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