Yesterday, a friend shared an ESPN story on the NFL’s plans to play the so-called “Black Anthem” before every game in Week 1 of the NFL season. The plan is even to play it before the national anthem. I responded by saying that it was part of “a diabolical cultural assault on the American identity, including how it is expressed through American sports.”
The American identity is a curious thing. Many folks equate it with freedom. I don’t. To me, the American identity is a set of common virtues from which liberty flows. While I am sure that many other virtues could be added, I boil them down to two: self-reliance and rugged individualism.
At the risk of tipping the speech that I intend to deliver on Independence Day, America’s story is not one of fragility and dependence. It is one of rugged individualism, self-reliance, and perseverance through pain and suffering. Our ancestors came to America for various reasons: religious freedom, fortune, and fame to name a few. Some found what they came for. Others did not. Some died in their quests. All, however, found that America was, indeed, a land of hardship, but one of liberty.
Americans established governments because they understood that it was necessary to restrain human vice, but they did not depend on a benevolent sovereign to grant them privileges. They understood that they possessed God-given liberty that could neither be granted nor taken away by government, and they also understood that God-given liberty comes with responsibility for one’s self and one’s family.
In other words, the responsibility for battling life’s hardships lies with the individual, not the society. Our ancestors, thus, embraced unfettered, head-to-head confrontations with hardship because it represented liberty without the government’s interference. They relished the competition to create better lives for themselves and their families.
Tyranny, however, requires dependence no matter what form it comes in. The state becomes the repository of liberty, which no longer exists as natural rights but as privileges subject to the state’s wish and whim. A combination of state and society replaces the individual, and life’s gauntlets become the society’s problems, not yours. The lack of responsibility necessarily dictates the lack of choice, or liberty.
America has consistently beaten back direct assaults upon its liberty by remaining true to its virtues of self-reliance and rugged individualism. Tyranny cannot take hold in America until America’s identity is changed. Consequently, efforts to control our lives have shifted from direct assaults on our way of life to more surreptitious ones.
Instead of problems being addressed in the context of an individual’s place in an individualistic society, problems are made systemic problems – i.e., systemic racism instead of individual liberty or rights and the interactions between every individual citizen and the police. In other words, something is wrong with our way of life – the American identity – and we need to change it.
Those pushing for change to the American identity know that they can never gain the political majority necessary in our republican form of government to prevail in a direct argument. Consequently, they will not, and cannot, reveal their dissatisfaction with the American identity, but, by chipping away at the institutions that represent the American identity, they stigmatize enough of them to gradually reshape it.
Football represents the epitome of the American identity. It is rough, violently adversarial, and rewards individual effort (see my favorite team, the New England Patriots). In other words, it symbolizes the individual’s struggle against life with referees in place to keep the players from killing each other.
The Colin Kaepernick debacle proved that complaining about systemic wrong is distasteful to most people who regularly watch football. The NFL owners realized it, and the league realized it when they started losing viewers, ratings, and money. They canned Kaepernick and phased out anyone else who wouldn’t stand for the anthem. Most of the departed viewers returned, and the money started flowing again.
Those attempting to reshape the American identity realized that they could distance Americans from a leisure reinforcement of the American identity by injecting their whining about systemic wrong into a national past-time. They bided their time and waited for their next opportunity to concoct a racial conflict. Now, they appear to have succeeded in institutionalizing their complaining. Many viewers including some that I know will stop watching.
The racial agitators and the identity re-shapers will rejoice. They know precisely what they’re about: conducting indirect guerrilla warfare on the American identity. The rot in the American public education system will take care of the rest, and we will see a gradual shift in the public’s attitude toward a fragility complex and dependency attitude.
I am not tuning out the NFL, but I am going to sit on my hands during the so-called Black Anthem and keep this big offensive cowboy hat on so my “racial insensitivity” is most conspicuous. Your problem with that is not mine.