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Let America Be America Again

8 September 2016

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

-Langston Hughes (read the entire poem here)

I don’t watch NFL handegg anymore, out of protest, but I am a human being living on the grid so I’m aware of the manufactured controversy involving the Geriatric Prospectors’ Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to pretend that there’s racial harmony throughout the land.

This controversy has made its way to the NHL, the whitest sport that doesn’t involve horses or water, as John Tortorella, coach of Team USA in the upcoming We’re Going To Ruin Olympic Men’s Hockey For You But Leave You With This Shoddy Substitute Cup of Hockey, told ESPN: “If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game.”

Okay, so, this isn’t really the same thing, because Kaepernick is playing in a pro sports league on a team owned by the Mafia, while Tortorella is coaching a team representing the USA. I can see that, that must be his reasoning, but–nope.

“We’re in a great country because we can express ourselves. And I am not against expressing yourselves. That’s what’s great about our country. We can do that. But when there are men and women that give their lives for their flag, for their anthem, have given their lives, continue to put themselves on the line with our services for our flag, for our anthem, families that have been disrupted, traumatic physical injuries, traumatic mental injuries for these people that give us the opportunity to do the things we want to do, there’s no chance an anthem and a flag should come into any type of situation where you’re trying to make a point.”

Ok. The national anthem and the American flag represent every American, not just our Armed Forces. And standing during the national anthem isn’t going to treat PTSD, re-grow a missing limb, halt sexual assault of female service members, or abate the appalling rate at which veterans are committing suicide, so let’s not pretend there aren’t real, horrifying ways in which we are letting down and disrespecting our active duty military members and veterans every single day while we pat ourselves on the back for standing reverently during the anthem.

Plus it was super funny when Michael Phelps laughed during the anthem because Baltimore bros, AMIRITE.

“It is probably the most disrespectful thing you can do as a U.S. citizen is to bring that in. Because that’s our symbol. All for [expressing] yourself. That’s what’s so great. Everybody does. But no chance when it comes to the flag and the anthem. No chance.”

That’s so weird, that exercising one’s Constitutional right in order to call attention to the mistreatment of other Americans is the most disrespectful thing you can do as a U.S. citizen. I would have thought it would be something else, like an actual crime, but considering how the NHL ignores domestic abuse, rape, racism, and homophobia (to say these things are disrespectful would be an understatement, but they are), I guess I can see where those things don’t seem too disrespectful to someone like Torts, deep inside the system.

I’m getting to how this is relevant to this site, calm down.

tUMD alumnus JT Brown, now with the Tampa Bay Lightning, responded to Tortorella’s comments thusly:

Frog Coffee, indeed.

JT made a statement to the Tampa Bay Times to expand on his position, without the pesky 140 character limit. His statement included the following:

“I could have been quiet and just kept my opinion to myself, but I don’t want young minorities who love the game of hockey to think that what’s going on in America today is going unnoticed by the hockey community. I love America and thank the military for protecting our freedoms, as well as law enforcement for protecting and serving our communities, but that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge that there is still racism today. I am glad my tweet provoked a discussion, because we need to start having a conversation about racism if we want to work towards a better America.”

I mean, wow. Who knew there was some other way to be patriotic, besides shouting “LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT” at anyone who doesn’t fall into line? That’s so weird. Who knew one could appreciate the military and still admit that this country is deeply flawed? Who knew it was possible to respect law enforcement while acknowledging there are serious issues of systemic racism that affect how police interact with black people?

Thoughtful, informed protests backed up by meaningful, sincere actions to promote positive change are one billion times more patriotic than standing during the national anthem. I am so proud that JT Brown represents my alma mater and my favorite hockey program, and so glad to live in a country where people still want to make life better for each other.

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