Kneeling Down, Rising Up
Dave Zirin’s “Taking a Knee” in the October 16 issue was an eye—opener. Not understanding a “sport” that involves 22 grown men deliberately trying to hurt each other, I don’t follow football, so I was unaware of “Solidarity Sunday.”
Happily, however, it’s not only football players who are taking a knee. I believe some basketball players are doing it as well, and I know that Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland A’s baseball team took a knee (late in the season, after Trump said those nasty things about protesters) with the support of his teammates, the team owners, and the team broadcasters. I would love to see it done during the baseball playoffs and the World Series.
I think it would be enlightening to see what might happen if a sporting event’s public—address announcer, after asking people to stand and remove their hats for the national anthem, added: “If you wish to show support for [athlete’s name]’s protest against police brutality or racial injustice, you may remain seated.” I believe the response would give Trump apoplexy.
Taking a knee is a most patriotic gesture, because it brings attention to the flaws in what our flag represents. It is an exercise aimed at making our flag and all it stands for more perfect and beautiful by enhancing our First Amendment rights.
We must strongly support taking a knee and other flag protests and drown out those who would prohibit our constitutional rights. America has a long and proud history of flag-related protest.
chula vista, calif.
The Wrong Idol
Eric Drooker’s cover for the October 16 issue is awesome.
We continue to insist on placing a higher value on symbols than on human beings. We practice a civil religion, worshipping the flag as Christians do the cross. But while Jesus was focused on improving the lives of humans (just as Judaism is summed up in the phrase “repair the world”), we seem unable to walk in the shoes of those brought to our country in chains, held captive under Jim Crow, and now often killed by those whose job it is to protect us. Didn’t those who died to preserve our country really do so to ensure our living together in peace, rather than “respecting” a symbol that Betsy Ross sewed in her small Philadelphia home centuries ago? I think so.
Are you aware that there is no such thing as the “American flag”? How could there be only one? Within the two continents of North and South America, there are dozens of countries plus islands and other holdings—all of them American. And these other nations are deeply offended by our usurpation of that term, as though it applies exclusively to our country.
Canada has a flag; so do Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Brazil, and all the other nations of these two adjoining continents. And, of course, so does the United States. Each country has a flag that represents that one nation. Each in its unique way is an American flag. None of them can be called the American flag. Ours is the flag of the United States of America.
I mention this because I’ve just been leafing through the October 23 issue of The Nation. Numerous times I see the word “American” used incorrectly, sometimes when the magazine is simply quoting another source that uses it incorrectly, sometimes by the magazine itself. For example, Michael Kazin has written a book, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace (reviewed in that issue in “The War to End All Wars”). In the editorial on the Las Vegas massacre [“WMDs in Las Vegas”], the author speaks of the “danger to American lives.” In the column on the football protests, “Citizenship on Its Knees,” the author speaks of the “American flag.”
This misuse of the term began very early in our history, I realize. As our tendency toward empire has grown, we’ve more and more used the term “American” to mean the United States and the United States alone. However, despite the fact that this has been going on for centuries, we really need to begin a path away from this insulting and empire—driven habit.
Barry Yeoman’s article “Democracy on the Line” [Oct. 16] quotes North Carolina Republican State Representative John Torbett as saying, “I’m not aware of a way [to redistrict] and have it not be partisan.” Torbett’s claim is bunk and should be recognized universally as such. If computers can be programmed to create highly partisan districts, as the GOP has done, they can also be programmed to produce nonpartisan districts. With most precincts already assigned to a single town and/or county, the computers can be given only precinct populations—and no other data. With this unbiased input and the machines programmed to produce compact equal—population districts, we should get minimal splits of towns and counties, and districts that favor the voters, not the politicians.
Having politicians or even “independent bodies” do redistricting is a holdover from the pre—computer era. Using “unbiased” computers is the modern way to do it, and it’s a redistricting method that needs to get far more consideration and eventual universal implementation.
A Worthy Candidate
This is the first time I’ve written to The Nation. I enjoyed reading your review of the George McGovern biography [“The Last Populist,” Aug. 28/ Sept. 4]. To me, McGovern was one of the most decent and honorable men ever to run for president. I feel that he was responsible for making the Democratic Party more democratic. In many ways, his efforts to form a new coalition of working women, minorities, and young people paved the way for Barack Obama and almost elected Hillary Clinton in 2016; they also made possible the likes of Jesse Jackson, Tom Harkin, Paul Wellstone, Russ Feingold, and Nancy Pelosi.
Meanwhile, Eric Alterman’s article “The Hatreds They Share” [Sept. 11/18] is on the money. Alan Dershowitz, Joe Lieberman, and Benjamin Netanyahu are among Trump’s biggest fans. Misery loves company.
east hartford, conn.
From the Stacks
Thank you, Scott Sherman, for “How Citizen Action Saved the New York Public Library” [Oct. 16]. The former and current employees of the New York Public Library are grateful for your ongoing investigations into the way it’s been managed.