National Anthem Protests: What If?


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Charles Moore and I are often customers of Starbucks near the Walmart on 40 Highway. As we drank coffee and visited, we pontificated on many subjects. One topic was the discussion of standing or kneeling during the National Anthem. Our discussion could easily be summarized with a few “what if” questions.

What if people sought to understand the other side’s perspective?

Both Charles and I have friends on both sides of the issue. We understand, at least to some degree, the enormously difficult job that law enforcement officers face. I have told police friends on several occasions that I think they have an “impossible” job. Their response is always a nod of appreciation or a story about how tough the job is. What if people could have a dialogue with ordinary, caring police officers and learn about the challenges of their job?

At the same time, both Charles and I know individuals who have suffered under our judicial system. One of the most glaring examples of abuse is that of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his tent city (now closed). Take the time to do a Google search on Sheriff Joe. I think you will cringe over the abuse prisoners received in his system. What if there was an opportunity for people to listen to the stories of inmates in Arpaio’s tent city or other tragic examples of our justice system?

What if people listened instead of reacting on impulse?

“Reaction precedes misconception,” stated Steve Brown, a well-known Presbyterian minister. I have remembered Brown’s words for years. Every time I react to something, I run the risk of not seeing the whole picture. When I am reacting to someone, I don’t listen and attempt to understand. Rather, I plan what I’m going to say as soon as the person with whom I’m debating takes a breath.

What if persons on both sides of the National Anthem issue took the time to genuinely listen to the other person’s perspective? What if we didn’t label persons with some of the insults that are common on Twitter and Facebook? What if we tried to be peacemakers, as Jesus commanded (see Matthew 5.9)?

What if NFL and NBA players took the high road of leadership?

While Charles and I were talking, I thought back to the American Culture event that Charles initiated in August. Over 1,000 people of all races and economic status attended an afternoon in the park, that was hosted by Charles, his business group and a local attorney. The park was filled with music, the smell of barbecue, special events for children and much more. Charles, his business partner, friends and family devote months of effort to put on this event. Why? One reason is that they believe our culture is better because of its diversity. The way to appreciate each other is to get to know one another in a fun, joyful setting.

What if NFL and NBA players put on an American Culture type of event coast-to-coast? What if they sought to engage persons who generally misunderstand each other into a setting of joy and peace? What if they began the dialogue, like Charles has done?

Granted, most of these players have foundations that serve various aspects of society. I’m just wondering what would happen if they took the leadership to bridge gaps in our culture? If they did this in Kansas City, I’d be willing to help and I expect many more would, too.

Bob Spradlinghand-sunlight-1-of-1

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