Three Points to Draw out of the Flag-Kneeling Spectacles in Sports
“Psh…I’m not going to the f***in’ White House,” sneered U.S. Women’s National soccer team co-captain Megan Rapinoe, barely letting the reporter finish his question. “No, I’m not going to the White House,” she said again, just in case there was any doubt.
This took place before the team had won its fourth World Cup championship amid sophomoric Twitter squabbles between Rapinoe, her lesbian girlfriend Sue Bird, and President Trump over Rapinoe’s national anthem protests. In 2016, she’d followed Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem until the U.S. Soccer Federation adopted a policy requiring players to stand, at which point she complied but stood silently with her arms at her side. She says she does so to draw attention to inequality in the U.S.
Now, for those of us who don’t particularly sympathize with her manner of woke protest, there are a few ways we might respond. One way would be to go tribal and call her some name or insult her as a person. Such ad hominem attacks litter the online world, and although they can be entertaining in a schadenfreude kind of way, they don’t tend to build bridges in ideologically divided times. Another way would be to simply ignore the affront, denying it the attention it surely craves. While more honorable, this deprives the public of alternative points of view.
Here’s another way. It’s peaceable and potentially edifying for all, and it only requires knowing a little political history.
Revolutions, Right and Left
The American Revolution: More accurately called the American War for Independence, historians date the beginning of this conflict to 1765, when Great Britain’s Stamp Act imposed a direct tax on the colonies and the colonists said, “No.” “No taxation without representation,” to be specific. Had Parliament accepted this principled “No,” the conflict would have ended right there.
Instead, Parliament doubled down until, as most of us in America recently celebrated, the colonies put pen to paper and issued a bill of separation. That “putting pen to paper” is highly significant. Make note of what the authors did. They: (1) stated what they were doing, (2) stated why they were doing it, and (3) appealed to God and Natural Law as their witness and judge. England again declined to accept “No,” and war ensued until the new nation prevailed. It is unfortunate that blood was shed, but the Americans deemed their cause noble, and two centuries of their posterity have been its beneficiaries.
The French Revolution: A historical minute later, on July 14, 1789, an unruly mob stormed a military garrison in Paris and seized some 32,000 muskets, along with cannons and munitions. This exercise in “street politics” set in motion a decade of bloodshed and social dissolution ending in absolute dictatorship under Napoleon Bonaparte.
The contrasts between the two could not be more stark. The founders of America drew from Enlightenment ideals while retaining as their grounding the basic principles of the biblical worldview. The Declaration of Independence presupposed the existence of God and Natural Law. The aggressor was King George III, and the Declaration was an attempt to resolve their dispute with him peacefully using principled, rational argumentation. This is how the political Right works.
The French Revolution was an entirely different animal. It, too, drew from Enlightenment ideals, but its prosecutors summarily rejected God and therefore dispensed with any transcendent foundation for reason or morality. The aggressors were mobs, might made right, and no one came out better for it. This is how the Left operates.
Illuminating the Woke
Here’s how to tie this history to the flag-kneeling and other expression of woke pseudo-virtue. First, to the extent the protest is nonviolent, we should commend the nonviolence. Restraint of expression is consistent with conservative principles and inconsistent with the Left. Point that out.
Second, Ms. Rapinoe’s very act of publicly snubbing her home country and saying “No” (“F*** off!” to be more specific) to its chief executive demonstrates that she does, in fact, enjoy political equality of the highest order. The First Amendment affords her that privilege, which she may exercise without fear of state reprisal. The First Amendment, too, is consistent with the Right and inconsistent with the Left, which observes an “end justifies the means” hierarchy of values. Point that out.
And third, to the extent possible, we should invite people to articulate in words exactly what their grievance is. And it must be defended by reference to some transcendent moral principle. Rapinoe sympathizers, for example, could be invited to explain the criteria by which she (or anyone) has unequal standing under law.
This will pose significant challenges for the benighted woke, because when you drill down to the principles of the grievances du jour, the principles leftists rely on are only traceable to the conservative side of the American equation. It is the Right that seeks to conserve these principles. The Left has no principles, because principles do not exist in a Machiavellian order. It’s only “might makes right.” Look especially for ways to point that out.
Conservatives have to be the ones venturing out these ideological bridges, because the passive-aggressive woke are too busy protesting their non-aggressive opponents, most of whom actually do accept “No” for an answer.