I begin this post with two points. First, I am not American. I spend time in the US and enjoy my time there. One thing I enjoy, and I shared with my students, is the way Americans respond to their National Anthem. Second, Canada, where I live, has social and historical skeletons in the closet i.e. residential schools.
My aim is not to pass judgment, but to cast a different light on what it means to take a knee. In a world that is increasingly secular, perhaps I lose my way in what it means to live in a spiritual way and it can mean many things to different people.
The image that comes to mind when I think of is people kneeling and standing at the foot of the cross of the crucified Jesus. We were not there, but we are told his friends, family members, and followers knelt and stood. It seems there was no one right way.
When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, I thought of it as praying. The etymology of prayer is to ask earnestly, to beg, and to entreat. Prayer is asking someone i.e. God or something bigger i.e. Universe or a nation than I am to intercede in a concern to me.
To genuflect is to kneel, usually with one knee. It is an act of worship and respect. Parker Palmer wrote about fidelity as something other than mere loyalty. It is loyalty to an obligation, cause, and idea one holds dear.
Who or what one asks depends on one’s spiritual and religious background. What I understand is that there are no fixed answers when I take a knee and pray. I have to listen. Part of praying is silence, listening to what Parker Palmer calls my inner voice. It is only in moments of silence, whether kneeling, standing, or walking, that I hear that inner voice.
I pray in various ways and have since I was a child. When I enter a church, I find holy water, bow to the cross, and complete the sign of the cross. I stand. As I enter a pew I genuflect, taking a knee. I do so with two surgically repaired knees. At times before, during, and after service, I kneel, I pray, and I listen to what my heart says. Other times, I stand. During the Lord’s prayer, I stand and join hands with others asking God to intercede on each of our behalf. As I receive communion, I walk slowly and quietly, bowing my head as I accept the host.
For me, kneeling, standing, and walking quietly show my fidelity to a cause and purpose larger than me. In this case, it is plight of people and our shared humanity. I make a point of being quiet, because it is a time of thoughtful meditation and mindfulness of how the world and I are broken. I beseech someone or something larger than me to intercede and, as Parker Palmer says, to make whole the broken.
This is an absolutely beautiful perspective on the matter. I’m uplifted to have read it. Thank you.
Thank you Deborah
Ivon – This is a beautiful piece, and speaks to and for me. 💕Thank you.
Thank you Carrie.
nice weekend Ivon,
many warm greetings
Thank you. Take care and enjoy.
Thank you for this thoughtful and kind piece Ivon.
You are welcome Val. This has sat with me since the issue popped back up a week ago.
Unfortunately “taking a knee” when the US flag is presented or when our anthem is played (recent pre football game controversy) is seen as a very disgraceful disrespect of the nation. Actually it is respectful as your essay presents and it certainly is the epitome of non violent protest. The rage at these disrespectful “unpatriotic ” acts has gone beyond all reason. Our patriots don’t get the message. It is not about a flag or a song. It is about black men being murdered on the streets by cops who have very little, very improbable or no probable cause to stop the person or conclude the man has a weapon. They focus on the protest form and not the murders. The killing becomes ignored and the fact that white patriotic America does not get it is a sign of their latent racism. Latent of course means they don’t even realize that they are subconsciously (if not overtly) racist. One innocent black man’s murder by law enforcement is more tragic and disrespectful to humanity that kneeling when a song is sang and a flag displayed. As a matter of fact the murders themselves are a disregard of the meaning of the flag and anthem. That’s the disrespect.
I did take a moment to comment on your post as we follow each other but am no longer going to participate in the facebook debate with patriots that are blinded by the kneeling and can’t seem to ask why.
I agree Carl. It is hard to have a conversation about challenging topics. I appreciate your thoughtful comment.
Love this comment, Carl. So many people seem to either miss the point, or deliberately want to change the conversation from the real issue at hand.
Yes, the right has been successful in changing the conversation to being about respect and patriotism. This is not to say those concerns are not legitimate. Trump is a winner here. Moderate thinking people will move further and further to the right as they become disgusted with the left ‘s perceived disrespect of American core values.
I find it amusing that those moderate thinkers shifting to the right are more disgusted by liberal progressive ideas than white supremacists.
That is what strikes me, too. As long as we live in our silos, we can do those things. When we come out of them and see each other as human, we are able to do much less.
So very true, Ivan. So very true!
I do not subscribe to right and left. It is easy for me to say my mother was conservative and I am progressive, but we shared much in common. My truth is I conserve things of value and discard those I understand as less so. I carve out a new way to try understand how others might think and feel. For example, being pro-life is a choice and we are each pro-choice in some respect. I know farmers who better environmentalists than those who protest so fervently.
It is unfortunate that we do not seek out common ground that begins with the humanity we share.
I hold out hope that good people will prevail and stand together.
so beautifully written and thought-provoking –
Your perspective really gets to the core of the issue. Thank you for
You are welcome.
this heart filling post
Awesome post but I’m waiting for your poems 😇😆💖
I will be back with poetry in the next week or so. I have been busy with some hockey related things that end this weekend.
Ok take your time im waiting😃
That was lovely, being a Catholic, I can appreciate the meanings behind kneeing and standing…
Thank you JC.
Nice post, Ivon. I was confused at the whole debacle surrounding this act by Kaepernick. Taking his actions to task is yet another way the US has of distracting people from more serious matters that need attending to. Like upholding civil rights for ALL citizens. I did not at all find his actions offensive – given the shameful treatment of black people in America to this day and with a racist president in the White House, I guess all hell is breaking loose – the closet haters are out en force. But as far as I know, we still have the right to free speech and peaceful protest. Which this was and is. And I endorse it wholeheartedly. Aloha.
A Racist President, what a disgraceful comment. You had a choice in America as to who was to become President. Those that voted for Clinton, who has such a questionable life, lost and Donald Trump became President. Those that voted for President Trump have the right to their choice, just because you don’t agree don’t call him a Racist. You think you are the only Country who has problems with Black and White. In my Country t England, one can’t fly the flag of my Country if you do you are called a Racist because the Blacks object, the most popular word in this Country is now calling people “Racist” for nearly every damn thing. You call your President a Racist perhaps you should also call our Opposition Party, the Labour Party, Racist as they are blatantly Anti Semitic. I am not Jewish, but lapse Catholic and I know all about kneeling and Holy Water and everything that goes with the Church. Those football players who knelt did not kneel for any other reason but to be disrespectful to their flag to their nation. I applaud the football player who walked out of that dressing room onto the field and stood with hand on heart to his Flag, he had also done three tours of duty, had those on their knees? Shame on those Americans that support the kneelers, you are just jumping on the wagon. “Black lives matter” what about the Whites they do not matter? What about the dreadful amount of BLACK and White Police Officers Murdered? Does Americans not care about them, Eight years of that useless Obama has done immense damage as Tony Blair did to this Country.
It is interesting that Alejandro Villaneuva, the Pittsburgh player, later said his standing the way he did was an acccident. As well, a picture that is overlooked is the one of the rest of his teammates standing quietly in the front of the runway to the field. Democracy, as you allude to, is a messy proposition. As Churchill said and I paraphrase, it is better than anything else we have. What democracy allows people to do is voice differing views. I have the democractic right to be wrong in the eyes of others.
I didn’t know that interesting bit about Villanueva, Ivon. Thanks for sharing that. I just looked it up. He says “it’s unacceptable” to use him in the anthem debate. He really should have just stayed inside then though haha
In an interview, he said he misunderstood what his teammates were going to do and they misunderstood his intent. The other piece was that his teammates were standing in the runway opening to the field. The interesting question is how many other veterans are in the NFL? How do they feel? I know, having read your post, that veterans do not share a monolithic view of this issue. It is quite nuanced.
Wow. Well, you certainly have a right to your opinions. Aloha.
We each do. I used to listen to a sports talk show. The host used to say we each have the democratic right to be wrong. I always hold up the real possibility I am wrong.
Yes Ivon, I am fine being wrong and letting others be right. So many shades of grey anyhow. In this case however, it seems fruitless to feed someone’s need to provoke. Aloha.
Living is such a nuanced thing. It is in the grey we find our greatest meaning as the sun rises.
Bela, thank you for your comment. I approved a couple of comments that were less appreciative. It is the challenge of living in a democratic country to consider the rights and views of others, even when they differ greatly from mine. I agree with your sentiment about free spech and peaceful protest. It is/was the hallmark of Jesus’ sacrifice to and for the world. He turned his cheek when others violently opposed him. We can learn from his message and those of other great spiritual leaders through the ages.
Sometimes I choose not to approve them. It’s a free country, but that also means I’m not obligated to provide a platform for hate speech.
I’m all for disagreeing, but I think disrespectful comments often chase away the people who agree or disagree, and have something meaningful to say.
Kudos on you though! And I love that neither of you acknowledged his rant. 😊
Thank you, Alexis. I struggled to approve some comments, but I understand others have different experiences than I do. I was sad with some of the language, because it coarsens the conversation. You have a wonderful post covering the same topic. It provides insights from a wide range of people, including veterans. My hope, and having read your post, is that we can have a conversation that uplifts people.
I agree with the respect piece/peace. I wonder if that is what has fallen by the wayside. What I understand in life arises from my experience. I hope others understand this and realize I am not questioning what they have experienced.
One thing I left our on purpose was that I have people who came before who served in the military. I appreciate my uncles, and what they risked, who served in Korea and WWII, my great uncles who served in WWI, and my wife’s grandfather who served in WWI.
I have not experienced what they did and find value in their willingness to serve. One thing Iearned is to not let the flag fall to the ground and be disrespected.
A reading various national anthems reminds me how close religion (at least a belief in God or a greater Power) are tied into patriotism and the flag.
Thank you, Ivon. I’m glad you took the time to drop by and read my post. It’s generated some honest discourse on the website and social media.
I am especially interested in hearing from veterans. Ironically, none of the veterans I have spoken to so far are in disagreement with the protest, or view it as disrespecting the anthem or the flag. Two told me point blank that they didn’t join the military for patriotism. They joined because they had no other positive options. One said he knew very few people who served out of patriotism, and the other told me he didn’t know any. They said their focus while deployed was not on serving America, but following orders and coming home alive. They do, however, believe they fight for freedom, and by extension, the freedom to protest peacefully. One went to a football match yesterday and told me he would take a knee during the anthem.
I also love that you said you’re not trying to question people’s experience, and that is very important. Divisevness in America means that people can work at the same place, live in the same household, go to the same schools, and live in the same city, and have vastly different day to day experiences based on how they are treated as a result of their race, gender, and nationality. Those narratives should not be discredited simply because ours don’t match up to someone else’s.
I’m a Black female immigrant in America, and believe me when I say it’s not easy. At least once per week, I am faced with a new incident of racism, or xenophobia. And if we throw in incidents of misogyny, the number climbs. This is despite the fact that I work from home, and don’t go out that often, except to hike or travel. As a woman coming from a country where race is almost irrelevant, it’s been very difficult to adjust.
The people trashing these athletes truly have no idea what the rest of us go through on a day to day basis…
Although I am not a person of colour, I live in a part of Canada where being Francophone, although better now, was not always well-received. I cannot even imagine what it means to be a person of colour in Canada or the US. I read bell hooks. She pointed out women are at the bottom of all hierarchies, so being a male excludes me from what it means to be a woman of colour.
Hey Ivon. Bell Hooks makes an interesting point. But it is not always true.
Did you know that Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Colombia are the only 3 countries in the world where your boss is more likely to be female than male?
I’m from Jamaica. And while I wouldn’t say we are at the top of the hierarchy, I definitely felt less discriminated against as a woman in my 3rd world country than in the US. Women in these 3 countries didn’t make up this rare statistic by being passive. We are strong, independent, outspoken women.
I don’t know about the other 2 countries, but the government of Jamaica estimates that about 80% of Jamaican families are matriarchal or matrifocal.
My family has been a matriarch since the mid-1800s when they sailed from Ireland to Jamaica. The mum was head of the family, and that tradition has carried on. Little did she know her son would change the racial demographic of their family forever! His daughter, my great grandma, was the first mulatto in the family.
We may have been a matriarch even before that, but that’s as early as we’ve been able to trace our roots.
You are welcome Alexis and thank you for the wonderful insight.
This is, as others have commented, a beautifully written piece and one I am going to reblog here and share on my facebook page.
Pingback: from Teacher as Transformer blog | Leonard Durso
Am I going to be the only one with a different perspective? First let me say that your piece is lovely and if I were from your background and your teaching I would do exactly the same thing and hope you will be able to continue in that method that is meaningful to you. I feel that perhaps you do not understand that the deep feelings that some of us still have for the traditions of our country are to us symbolic of liberty and justice for all. It is the core, the heart of what is loved in having freedoms, of being thankful to those who went before us that our country is still here. The flag and the anthem are about the honor of our country and the people of our country. If this is not what they represent there is no reason for them. These things are obviously and understandably different in different societies. I would not expect or ask any of them to change what they represent’for them. Would you if people of France began to malign the traditions and treat them with disrespect? For us as Americans, the flag and the anthem represent the honor those who died for it. Will we be better people for letting those traditions go? The maligning of the flag began during the Veitnam war. It was burned, ripped apart torn down and violated with bodily secretions.That to me is not a sign of patriotism but a signal of hate of your own country. This knee thing is a new effort to do away with those traditions. Many people do not care one way or another and they aren’t generally made to do something they would prefer not to do. Even in our schools where I taught a teacher of some other race of people were allowed not to say the pledge of a morning to start the day. Instead they were allowed to let their class sing in this instance it was Mexico’s national anthem, How does that teach them about their new country? I assure you it is not about the less than perfect things about our cities and towns, there is rebellion stirring in America. Lots of secret stuff floating around and what is worse a recent survey shows that only 13% of Americans say they still believe in God and I am inclined to believe that is the root of everything that is happening. Thanks for listening. It worries me.
Wonderful piece I have just read, from Marie Hunter Atwood. I love America but I am English of Irish parents. I have always admired the way the Americans stood with hand on heart to the Flag, and I am shocked to read that not all children because they were not from America had to pledge honour every morning to the Flag. I feel at times completely on my own that I want the traditions and respect in the Country of our Birth to continue, people have become so stupid their don’t want to stand up for their Country. Like America the UK is a Christian Country and there are those not from here that want this to end, it will not. We have to stand up and fight for what we believe, Racism is the call here, ridiculous. What about the respect for all those that fought Wars for our Freedom, we would not be here had it not been for their sacrifices. All Colours fought in World War 11, as they did Korea as they did Vietnam, the Gulf and now. It is frightening how America and the UK and other Countries too are having these same sort of problems, Obama caused a lot of trouble. What did he do for all his own very poor people, nothing. President Trump is not a racist, those of certain races who are determined to cause as much trouble as possible in your Country and mine are the Racists.
I note that I am Canadian and made a point of that in my opening comment. Similar to yourself, I admire many of the things I observe when I visit the US. I commented on how the reverance for the flag and country are noticeable. I wonder if polarization and an increasingly secular world are the culprits. It is easy to find fault in the other. It was harder to approve your comment on my blog and open the door to what hopefully is a civil conversation.
Marie, I think you are saying some of the things I pointed to. To stand, sit, and kneel can all be signs of fielty and fidelity to something bigger than I am. I agree descrating the flag is wrong and felt that way in the 1960’s growing up. It is a symbol that can draw people together rather than divide. I agree about moving away from spiritual grounding in a secular world. Kneeling, which is an act of reverance, is part of the loss we experience. My mother, a devout Catholic, sat while praying late in her life. She was unable to kneel and stand.
Reblogged this on Die Erste Eslarner Zeitung – Aus und über Eslarn, sowie die bayerisch-tschechische Region!.
Thank you for this much kNEEDED point of view, Ivon. _へ__(‾◡◝ )>
You are welcome. I am glad to share.
Joining in with the crowd is what going on with the disrespect of our flag. There is a huge difference between kneeling before Christ [religious] and standing proud during your country’s anthem. Football is big business and amusement – nothing religious about it. IMO – you disrespect the flag, then you disrespect the men who fight under that flag for your right to be an asshole on the football field.
To G.P. COX Very well said Sir. I am English and have always admired the Americans for their respect to their Flag. Here, unfortunately, Patriotism has not always been so strong as in America, I have flown the Flag of my Country the St. George’s Cross and have been told to take it down, called a Racist, why its the Flag of my Country. When I saw the disrespect by those overpaid football players I was so appalled. I am glad that the Fans are reacting and I am glad that the Sponsors are pulling away. The morons who disrespect their Flag, disrespect all those that fought and died for their Country and to gave these morons their Freedom.
No one has the right to question your flying the flag of your country and call you a racist for doing so. That is wrong. It is one thing to protest in a peaceful manner and another to insult one’s rights.
The basis of democracy is to share differing views in civil conversation. I respect the American ideal of patriotism. When I visit, I am struck by the sense of patriotism Americans have.
I enjoyed the piece. Eric Reid stated that they chose kneeling due to it being a respectful gesture. My issue is that some of the statements and what Kaepernick has said himself are conflicting. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
So in effect he is saying he is protesting the flag by trying to show respect? If you are going to present an argument, be clear on the message, which he is not.
Secondly, if his comments were specific such as “I would like join a long history of Black athletes using their platforms to advance racial and gender justice issues – like Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power salute during the national anthem at the 1968 Olympics and Jackie Robinson writing that he could not salute the flag as “a Black man in a white world. Instead I will kneel in prayer for those who have been discriminated against due to these issues.” -credit to Color of Change website for portions of the comment.
Lastly, I agree with what Kaepernick is trying to do in theory. Bring to light racial issues. He is a person who put his money where his mouth is donating $1,000,000.00 to these causes including
and the list goes on. Full list at http://kaepernick7.com/million-dollar-pledge/
Two quotes come to mind
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And I choose not to betray those who are being oppressed.
JFK “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
My own final thought is that the biggest challenge with what is going on in the world is that we are all spending too much time pointing fingers at people rather than pointing fingers at the problems.
George, I learned today. I did not realize Colin Kaepernick pledged $1 million to those causes. I love the quotes.
I remember as a young adult being angry at Muhammed Ali when I refused to serve. Even as a Canadian, I questioned his motives. Older and wiser, I understand now the sacrifices he made i.e. earning a living. He was the most hated person in America. I remember him lighting the Olympic torch with trembling hands to a standing ovation in Atlanta. I remember the eulogies that lionized him and his constributions to the world.
When I taught, my favourite activity was one where students had to complete a project about a hero. The girls seemed to gety it, but some of the boys struggled. I spent time talking to them about the contributions of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey in baseball and Willie O’Ree in hockey. They got excited. It was sports. They discovered Jackie Robinson served. I learned he was a success as a TV analyst and business executive. What made his story more important was he played AAA baseball in Canada.
To have a conversation means to set aside our grievances with one another, recognize the common humanity we share with each other, and listen to what we have each experienced.
I’m not religious, but I can appreciate your interpretation of taking a knee. In fact, Reid, who knelt alongside hom, credited his faith as the reason he chose to join Kaepernick in protest.
Religion means to join together. Parker Palmer, who I read frequently, (his books are well marked) says religion is about tying together in common values, much like we are through patriotism and nationhood. I know how I feel when something troubling happens in other parts of Canada. I feel bound to those people who suffer.
My mother provided a remarkable role model of what it means to live in community with each other and set aside real and imagined grievances in times of need.
I’ll have to disagree there. I appreciate your interpretation, but find religion to be divisive, and it has always been that way.
Christianity is the most divisive, with more denominations than any other religion. It also often pits itself against any other belief as pagan or ungodly ie Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Wiccan etc.
I do believe there are religious people who use their faith for good, but generally speaking, history tells another story.
Fun fact you probably already know: Christianity and the Bible were the main proofs used to justify both African slavery, and subjugation of the Indians.
I agree religion as it is practiced and has been is divise. Another writer I read extensively is the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. In today’s Catholic Church, he would have been told not to write. He agreed with Nietzsche in that, if we do not live the word of God, God might as well be dead. John Caputo at Villanove argues the question is not if God exists, but how God insists on life. Do we live the life we think we do is quite often at odds with reality.
I agree with your general view, slavery and colonialism were sanctioned by various churches. That continues in different forms today. Yet, we show up at church and feel quite good about ourselves.
Well I’m glad we can see eye-to-eye on that one. All that you’ve said are some of the big reasons I decided to leave the Church.
I prefer to just live an authentic life, inject as much good as I can into the world, and see what happens. It may not be the best plan in the world, but it’s the one that has made me happiest.
I grew up in the Church, and know the Bible better than most Christians and even some pastors. I’ve been questioning the Bible since as early as kindergarten. By 17, I decided I just couldn’t continue with identifying with with a group I didn’t believe in, and found too many holes in.
Thanks again, Ivon. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. 😊
It has been. I was introduced to Thomas Merton via Parker Palmer’s writing. In 2015, I met Parker (it was a bucket list thing for me) and we chatted about what the Catholic church would say about Merton’s writing today.
Kneeling as prayer needed to be said. Thank you.
You are welcome Cheyenne.
Thank you very much ~ well thought out and written.
You are welcome and thank you.
Ivon: I appreciate this and thank you for it. I wrote something similar to a group of friends, but you do it way better!
I also just an hour ago read a story, verified by snopes.com, about the real reason that colin Kaepernick kneels. I was pleasantly surprised. http://www.snopes.com/veteran-kaepernick-take-a-knee-anthem/
It confirmed that: “kneeling for the flag would symbolize his reverence for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice while still allowing Colin to peacefully protest the injustices he saw.”
Cynthia, thank you for sharing the link with me. It is a incredible read. Reverence is a great word to describe what it means to kneel.
It’s kind of amazing that this is even an issue. It just shows the amount of control and conditioning everyone has been through. Each person thinks differently about what anything means. I’m an American, born and raised in Chicago (still here) and I don’t care who kneels and who doesn’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I think or believe. It’s just a person expressing his/her personal opinion/belief/position. That’s what FREEDOM is all about. I don’t care if people pray, make the sign of the cross, kneel, pledge to the flag, or anything else…because those things are available and we each get to choose what we want to do. As long as no one tries to make ME do those things, I’m okay with what they do.
Why aren’t those same people outraged that the KKK is active and on college campuses? Wearing their Halloween hoods and threatening VIOLENCE and DEATH to people who are minding their own business? Where is the OUTRAGE over those people? They make their meaning perfectly clear. THAT is something that needs to be addressed because those people are OPENLY THREATENING TO HARM OTHERS. THEY WANT TO CREATE FEAR.
I believe in Freedom big time, and standing, or kneeling for what you believe in fits into that. People who do the “right” thing, like rapist priests, who kneel all the time, pray, do their thing, are violent, hateful, destructive people who have destroyed the lives of children, some who have been so damaged they have committed suicide. And NOTHING happens to the rapists.
Being insulted by something someone standing or kneeling is amazing to me and I’ve NEVER in my entire life heard the phrase, “take a knee.” How fortunate was I? Not everyone feels the same way about this country. People who have been stepped on and abused by this country for their entire lives (generations) do not live in the same country as those who are privileged. Instead of fretting about what insults their feelings, perhaps people could try and make America a place where people were equal and treated with respect…a place where women could go out alone at night without FEAR of attack.
Our problems are HUGE but people focus/are DISTRACTED on/by tiny things that won’t change anything at all, like a war with Korea. Kneeling/standing won’t stop rape, racism, sexism, hatred, hunger, poverty, child abuse, violence, agism, health care, wars, greedy politicians, or war, to name a FEW. Get rid of those things and the other problems will go away as well. Hard to love a country when your kids are shot in the street, when you’re FORCED into poverty by lack of jobs, education, and a million other things, and you can’t fight back. And prejudice does all of those things to groups of targeted people ON PURPOSE.
I agree. There appears to be more outrage about quietly taking a knee than there is over neo-nazis, KKK, and other far right groups. It speaks volumes.
The whole taking a was about social justice and that has been misdirected.
All the violence is coming from the Left. The KKK and other neo-Nazi groups constitute a tiny minority of people. Antifa is a violent Far Left group that poses a far bigger threat to society. Disrespecting the flag, the National Anthem, and America (or any other country), is NOT the appropriate way to protest. All it does is make people angry.
Professional football players are not paid to infuse personal politics into the game. They can protest on their own time.
Thank you Michele.
Thank you for a beautifully written post!
Thank you Dawn.