Opinion: Put Down the Smartphone and Engage
Suggestions if you’re still steamed from Sunday
You might be furious about the NFL players who knelt in protest during the National Anthem on Sunday. You may think of those players—and one not playing, Colin Kaepernick—as heroes.
You might be furious about the President of the United States referring to a player who chooses to protest as a “son of a bitch.” You might admire the man for saying whatever’s on his mind.
Either way, it’s understandable. Politics and sports are huge sources of passion for a lot of us. When either touches conflict, it’s like dumping extra fuel into a jet engine. You roar past the sound barrier. When you combine all three, the plane’s likely to explode, and you end up with wreckage and a lot of wasted energy.
So, a humble suggestion:
Can we put that energy to better use?
What if we directed the passion we pour into Facebook arguments, call-in radio shows, and Twitter threads into helping people who need it?
There’s no shortage of opportunities. And this wouldn’t have to be some campfire “Kumbaya” session designed to just make you feel better. There are real needs out there. You can take whatever you feel about those protests and use it to make a difference.
Want to honor the country, the flag, the anthem, and the veterans who fought under all of them? You can donate money, time, and energy to organizations national and local. (A few others here, here, and here.)
Want law enforcement agencies to treat everyone equally and use lethal force only when it’s necessary—the original point of the protests? Arm yourself with knowledge first. Learn what police do, how they do it, and what the law requires. (Trust me, they’ll tell you.) Then put it to use. There’s a public body you might have heard about in Charlotte where you can have some influence. There’s another group that’s working to make sure the first one can hold police accountable. Some of what those folks are doing needs state approval, not local. Find out who represents you in Raleigh and bend their ears. That’s what they’re there for. It’s good to be suspicious of power. The country was founded on a rejection of too much of it. But that doesn’t mean you should separate yourself from the system. You are the system.
Want to make sure we all have the right to say what we think, regardless of what that might be, without fear of arrest? People work all the time to defend that right, and they need to, because it’s nothing to take for granted. See here, here, and here.
And while we’ve spent the last few days arguing about what football players should or shouldn’t do before games, more than 3 million Americans have been trying to survive the aftermath of a natural disaster that’s transformed a lush Caribbean island into hell on Earth. Here’s a list of ways you can help them.
After yesterday’s games, reporters asked NFL players and coaches about the protests and the President’s comments. Several, like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, expressed disappointment that the comments and reaction had been so divisive. We hear that word a lot these days. And we are divided, even fragmented, maybe more than we’ve been since the last time it seemed America had an argument with itself that only a war could settle.
But devoting time and energy to making things better is a lot more satisfying and productive than cyber-yelling via social media. It makes me think about that famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote about light driving out darkness and love driving out hate.
Love doesn’t mean much without acts that show it. The same goes for social justice, and for patriotism.