Colin Kaepernick & the Question of Patriotism


Rice:  Kaepernick… Thoughts?

Wood:  I have so many.  I think he was well within his right to not stand.  And it’s funny to me that people pick and choose to when they want to claim outrage.  Donald Trump didn’t put his hand on his heart during the anthem and that’s okay.  Gabby Douglas doesn’t do it and there is a fire storm.

Hypocrisy is alive and well.  Just months ago we were celebrating Ali, a man that had his title stripped from him for open protest of this country.  Now, a man doesn’t stand because he has an issue with a song that glorifies slavery and they are burning his jerseys and calling for his job.  Does it make it okay because they left the slavery parts out?  Why do people fail to realize I can love my country and not like every aspect of it?

I love the United States.  But United States has some serious f*cked qualities like any other country.  What makes our democracy great is the fact I can question it and its practices.  At any point that I can’t question it’s practices is when I will no longer respect it as a democracy.

Rice: Kaepernick is free to do what he wants. That is the beauty of free speech.  And I haven’t yet heard him whine about the backlash, so there is that.

I must admit I was unfamiliar with the third stanza of the song (I should be ashamed, I suppose, all things considered), and if his reasoning had been remotely related to that I might not have much of an issue with it. But his rationale was:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I’m not going to pretend that things are perfect in the US. I’ve admitted as much before. We’ve got a long way to go, but at some level we need to acknowledge how far we have come.  As liberal Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson said, America, “is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protections of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of those of Africa.”

I’m still looking for some better context for the above quote.

To me this is akin to the saying that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

My assessment of the situation:

  • Man is being paid $9 million/year to be a mediocre professional game player (Looks like Gabbert is gonna be starting for SF this year).
  • The country he is protesting not only gives him the opportunity to play a game for a living it grants him the freedom to protest (which he is taking advantage of).
  • So from this guy this particular protest rings a bit hollow to me

All in all I disagree with his method of protest, his reasoning for this particular protest, and his overall assessment of the state of this nation.  But he is free to use the fame that society has bestowed upon him to say what he will. You just can’t get mad at the people who disagree with him for using the same freedom to express their dissent…unless they make threats.

[Also] I thought the brouhaha with Gabby Douglas was stoopid. Lochte probably should pay a fine a minimum for being a drunken tool.

Ali’s title was stripped, not by the government, but by the boxing commission. The only organizations that have the right to discipline him are his employers and that is assuming that there is a conduct clause in the contract that could be construed to govern this type of protest. I think that would cause a bigger ruckus than either the NFL or the 49ers organization would want though, ironically, it would illustrate Kaepernick’s point.  I don’t see that happening for precisely that reason.

Kev: The whole thing is absurd and hilarious to me on a number of levels:  On one level you have the issue of the anthem.  I also didn’t know about the third verse in the anthem about slavery, the fact that the Star Spangled Banner didn’t become our anthem until 1931, or the historical context in which the anthem was written.  Now that all of this has come to light, I completely understand someone, especially a black someone, not wanting to stand [for the anthem] for those reasons.

The next level is the backlash against what Kaepernick was protesting:  Police brutality.  The backlash Kaepernick has received for protesting police brutality and taking a stance for criminal justice reform is the same backlash we have heard for the last few years since this topic has been part of the national discussion.  The usual pushback is bringing up black on black crime, saying black people should invest in their communities, and saying the absurd, “All Lives Matter,” or, “Blue Lives Matter,” as if black people aren’t already cognizant and involved with issues in the community.  People make political statements, using their platforms of influence, all the time about animals, LGBT rights, disease awareness, and other issues important to them.  We are a little over 50 years removed – give or take a few years depending on your town –  from white supremacy being a national policy.  Just because the law changes doesn’t mean the societal systems change overnight.  I think we can agree that there is still work to be done.

Another level is this ridiculous notion of what it means to be patriotic.  Since 9/11, any mere criticism of firemen, policemen, or armed service members is seen in the same light as burning a flag.  The military doesn’t define what the national anthem or flag stand for, rather the military defends what it stands for.  The NFL, in particular, is full of it for using issues such as patriotism and breast cancer awareness as part of its PR campaign.  The Pentagon literally takes our tax dollars and pays the NFL to honor armed service members.  In exchange, the NFL gets to wrap itself in the flag, sell a line of American military-themed merchandise, and further market itself as, “America’s Game.”  When taking all of these optics into consideration, it’s no wonder Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem caused a lot of Americans to clutch their pearls.  I have, will, and will forever be in favor of criticizing every facet of America, at every turn.  The great James Baldwin said it best: “I love America more than any other country in this world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Last, Kaepernick has said, on the record, specifically what he was protesting and that his actions were not meant as disrespect to the military.  So to take his act of protest as an insult to the military – And I am talking to you, Alex Boone – is a weak attempt at interpreting someone else’s actions for them.

Which, to be fair, is kind of what we are doing right now, right?



A (Somewhat) Deep Dive on Self-Help

Wood: So this past year I went through some heavy life changes. And like any good American that is too lazy to deal with his issues directly, I turned to counseling and self help books.

As I delved deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole I came to the realization that most of self-help, life coaching, and counseling may just be b***s***.  I’m not saying that they don’t have their merit, but with so much conflicting information out there I’m not sure what to believe any more.

Like… the big advice of the day is follow your passion for success and happiness.  Even the great Steve Jobs said it was the key to success.  Then you have a ever-growing minority that says that advice is stupid.  One guy, Cal Newport, even pointed out that had Steve Jobs followed his own advice he would have never went on to create Apple.  And since we don’t have access to the multiverse yet – I watched way too much Justice League this weekend – then we we can’t verify that claim.  But we have to say that it is a valid argument since at the time he didn’t know anything about computers and it would be hard to be passionate about something you didn’t know anything about.

I came to the passion argument while reading about happiness.  And again, you find conflicting information there: from the Zen ideology that happiness, “just comes,” to the more practical idea that you have to choose to be happy.

And I won’t even start with the plethora of stuff out there on relationships.  It is mind-boggling.

So my questions to the group are these: What are your thoughts on self help? Is it all b***s***?  Is finding your passion good advice? Does passion come from hard work or is passion just an overrated term put together by people as a way to sell products to the miserable masses?  What about happiness and  relationships?

Are the answers really just on the inside of us if we just listen, or do we need help getting to a place of peace?

I wonder because we are in a place in society where Chicken Soup for the____ can literally be it’s own genre now (There are literally over 250 books). Is that really helpful or we just making life way too complicated?

Kev: That sounds like a pretty nuanced topic so here are my initial thoughts…

I think following your passion is sound advice.  I also think having a trade or actual skill is sound advice.  The gray area between is where everything is lost, in my opinion.  We can use religion for instance:

Jesus was a carpenter.

Peter was a fisherman.

Paul was a tentmaker.

Each one had a higher calling and purpose, yet had actual jobs/trades that were needed to function in society.

Another thing that gets lost in the conversation is that passions may or may not be related to your actual business/job.  Do you think Mark Zuckerberg comes in the office to code or does he run a business?  Was coding ever his passion?  Heck, he was a psych major.  A lot of media personalities in sports and news are writers at heart.  Did Ray Kroc really love fast food or real estate?

Wood: [It is ] Very nuanced.  I agree with you.  But the question remains: Does that job need to become your passion or do you work that until you can do your passion? Or is passion just a engineered construct?  Take your example of Jesus.  What if he had just gotten better and better at carpentry and said, “Screw saving the world, I’m pretty good at this.”  Do you think that would have worked for him?  Or say Zuck, is he really happy?  Is this his passion?  Or would he have been happier letting someone sit in a chair next to him spilling their feelings?

Kev: I would say you need money to live!  And you either get money by getting a job, selling something, or having your money work for you.  Having a steady job doesn’t mean it defines you.  Let’s say granddad worked at the factory 40 years.  He really dreamed of owning his own factory one day.  Yet, he worked a steady job, took care of his family, and retired, never getting a chance to pursue what he really wanted.  Ultimately, I would say his passion was taking care of his family, which is not only a good passion to have, it’s a responsibility.  He put them first.  The fact he didn’t understand how to take calculated risks without putting his family in jeopardy is on him.  Tough luck, grandpa.

“Find that thing you are super passionate about. A lot of the founding principles of Facebook are that if people have access to more information and are more connected, it will make the world better; people will have more understanding, more empathy. That’s the guiding principle for me. On hard days, I really just step back, and that’s the thing that keeps me going.” – Mark Zuckerberg

I would say Zuck is pretty happy being a billionaire mogul who runs his own company, and that studying psychology was a way to better understand people… which is ultimately a facet of his business.

Wood: That’s why I say passion could be engineered.  Because you say that granddad’s passion was to raise his family.  Was it really?  Or did he just do that out of obligation because that is what society expected of him?  Or maybe that was one of his passions.  Can passion be separated out by subject or is it all connected?  Because that may have been one passion to raise a family but he didn’t get to live his work passion.  Dude, obviously I have thought about this a lot…lol

Jeff: My two cents…

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, passion doesn’t really come into play until the other four foundational levels of need have been addressed: Physical needs, Safety needs, Emotional needs, Esteem needs, Self actualization. If your pursuit of your passion or your Self actualization supercedes your needs then you have to re-adjust your priorities. This is something that you will have to re-evaluate as you go. I don’t think that it will ever become a static construct. If your passion is not something that anyone is willing to pay you to do, (and isn’t building mud huts and growing a subsistence garden, living like a neanderthal unplugged from society and communication) you will likely have to figure out a way to pursue that passion until the job you have, that supplies for the other levels of your needs, doesn’t need you. Most of us don’t have clean Venn diagrams when it comes to passion, purpose, potential, and pay:


In fact, I don’t personally know very many people who have managed to find that “sweet spot.” Most people I know tend to find that intersection between what the world needs and what you can be paid for called vocation,  and they use their free time to pursue their passions to the extent that they are able to unless and until that passion moves into the zone that they can be paid to do it.

The whole damn thing is a journey and sometimes you’ll be in the sweet spot. It might only be for a moment, but I tend to believe that we spend most of our time on a continuum, vacillating between some degree of happiness and misery.

As for what the religion that I subscribe to has to say on the matter, if you look at what Christ said: “I have come that they may have life, and that to its full,” (depending on your translation). None of that says happily ever after. It says life and the most possible of life that you can have. I’m pretty sure that you don’t get the most “life” without ups AND downs. He does promise joy, but you have to look at his definition. Happiness is a momentary response to external stimuli. Joy that He promised is something that He puts there and He feeds and fuels. Joy is something that we are supposed to have in spite of our circumstances.

Wood: Well said…

I have never seen that diagram before.

I think most of us do fall between profession and vocation and try to find time for mission and passion.

Based on this diagram, that sweet spot is hard to find.  I do think it’s attainable.  Also, based on this diagram, and what Kev said earlier, it seems like passion is part of the overall goal of life.

And I would further to say that a lot of self-help is catered to people who are looking for external stimulus to find happiness.  Any stimulus will eventually run out until you get your next fix.  A lot of it keeps you from a place of having to deal with internal issues and/or gives you steps to make you feel like you are progressing whether you are or not.

Jeff: I also tend to find that passion is a very transient thing. We have passions throughout our lives and sometimes for some people they remain constant, but for most of us they come and go in a moment unless it falls into one or more of the other intersections above.

If your passion is making buggy whips I might have some bad news for you:

Lawrence Garfield: [In response to Jorgy’s speech] Amen. And amen. And amen. You have to forgive me. I’m not familiar with the local custom. Where I come from, you always say “Amen” after you hear a prayer. Because that’s what you just heard – a prayer. Where I come from, that particular prayer is called “The Prayer for the Dead.” You just heard The Prayer for the Dead, my fellow stockholders, and you didn’t say, “Amen.” This company is dead. I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me. It was dead when I got here. It’s too late for prayers. For even if the prayers were answered, and a miracle occurred, and the yen did this, and the dollar did that, and the infrastructure did the other thing, we would still be dead. You know why? Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence. We’re dead alright. We’re just not broke. And you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure. You know, at one time there must’ve been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future. “Ah, but we can’t,” goes the prayer. “We can’t because we have responsibility, a responsibility to our employees, to our community. What will happen to them?” I got two words for that: Who cares? Care about them? Why? They didn’t care about you. They sucked you dry. You have no responsibility to them. For the last ten years this company bled your money. Did this community ever say, “We know times are tough. We’ll lower taxes, reduce water and sewer.” Check it out: You’re paying twice what you did ten years ago. And our devoted employees, who have taken no increases for the past three years, are still making twice what they made ten years ago; and our stock – one-sixth what it was ten years ago. Who cares? I’ll tell you. Me. I’m not your best friend. I’m your only friend. I don’t make anything? I’m making you money. And lest we forget, that’s the only reason any of you became stockholders in the first place. You want to make money! You don’t care if they manufacture wire and cable, fried chicken, or grow tangerines! You want to make money! I’m the only friend you’ve got. I’m making you money. Take the money. Invest it somewhere else. Maybe, maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll be used productively. And if it is, you’ll create new jobs and provide a service for the economy and, God forbid, even make a few bucks for yourselves. And if anybody asks, tell ’em ya gave at the plant. And by the way, it pleases me that I am called “Larry the Liquidator.” You know why, fellow stockholders? Because at my funeral, you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a few bucks in your pocket. Now that’s a funeral worth having!

I saw the play in downtown Houston when I was a Freshman/Sophmore in high school and much preferred it to the movie “Other People’s Money.”

Wood: I agree.  Well it gets scary when people say well figure out what you will do for free and that’s your passion and what you should do for a living.  Well that is some stupid advice.  Because I asked friends that and everyone was like nothing.  Hell I would have sex with beautiful women all day for free, but there ain’t much money in that unless I’m a prostitute or pornstar.  And I don’t have a passion for either profession.

Kev: Well said and the monologue is spot on.

Self-help isn’t BS to me.  It’s education.  Some of it is free.  Some of it you pay for.  At the end of the day, it’s up to you to comprehend, apply it,, and then make work for you.

Then when it works for you, perhaps you pass it along to someone else it may be able to help… for a fee, of course.