Jim and I are on a driving trip and just before we left home I wrote my blog for this week. However, as sometimes happens with me, two things have happened and so I’ve had some new thoughts that I’d rather share.
The first was just a small article that I saw, and then shared, on Facebook. It talked about the idea of being ‘good’. This struck a chord with me since I was raised to be ‘good’. In my family, we were taught to be rule followers. We did not speak back to any adult – even when sometimes those adults were wrong. There are certainly benefits to living this way, but it is dawning on me these days that there is a price to pay for it too.
The second thing that came to my attention was a news story that we listened to yesterday. This story has been developing for a few weeks now. There is an NFL Football player, Colin Kaepernick, who plays quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who has made the choice to ‘take a knee’ rather than stand at attention during the playing of the American National Anthem. The reason for him doing this was to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter campaign in the US. His actions have caused a firestorm of debate.
When I first heard this, my initial reaction was that I did not like this at all. I am a proud Canadian and I have great respect for our anthem and for many things Canadian. I know that many of our neighbours to the south have an equally strong pride in the American anthem. My feeling was that this player did have the right to express his opinion but I didn’t think his choice of how to do that was wise. Certainly, a ‘good’ person would not do this; i.e., I would not have the courage to do this.
I have now had some time to think about this. This young man, Colin Kaepernick, has a lot to lose. He makes a lot of money. He has worked hard to get to where he is professionally. However, he understands that while the Black Lives Matter movement has been around for a while now, visible change has not been made. His actions are forcing his countrymen to be uncomfortable with this. It is only when we are made uncomfortable, that we grow.
I’ve been thinking back on other times in recent history when silence did not work to solve a problem. Silence did not work to shed light on the hundreds of children being abused by people in positions of power (by coaches, priests etc). Those of us who were being ‘good’ and following the rules, could not even fathom how we could possibly get involved. Silence did not work in the years before Rosa Parks chose to take a seat at the front of the bus either.
Throughout history, we have been able to change our opinions and views because of brave people like Colin Kaepernick. This man has hurt no one by his actions. He may be ruffling feathers, but other than creating discomfort, he is doing no harm. He has realized that the problem facing Americans is not going to be solved by silence, nor is it going to be solved by one more debate. The very fact that his simple action is causing so much discomfort, means that this issue needs attention.
Pema Chodron, a modern-day, American, Buddist nun, says that having a fixed mind is a limiting thing. She teaches that we can identify when our mind is fixed by feeling our body’s reaction to an idea. When we set our jaw, or get a tense stomach, it often signals that we have our mind made up, and someone is messing with the good thoughts we have that we know are right.
Coaching has taught me that there is always at least 2% truth in someone else’s opinion. When I decided to apply that to the actions of Colin Kaepernick, I realized that there could be much more than 2% truth here. This young man may be the Rosa Parks of our modern time, in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.
So I have been left wondering to myself, ‘Have I been too good to be true?’ Too good to be true to my own values? ‘Too good to be true’ to standing up to injustice even when it makes other powerful people uncomfortable?
I have some wrestling to do with this in the next weeks. Tomorrow, it is rumoured that the entire Seattle Seahawks Football team will take a knee in support of Kaepernick. I hope they are also taking it in support of Black Lives Matter.
I still don’t know if Kaepernick’s actions are right. Truthfully, I don’t know very much about this young man. I know that he is not being ‘good’. But right this minute I wish I had half of his bravery.
Where in your life are you being ‘Too good to be true?’