Take A Knee

It was six or seven years back when I first decided to walk away from American football. I can still remember the exact reason. I had always been a Jets fan and I remember listening to a game on the radio where they were playing the Broncos. This was during Tim Tebow’s miracle season, the Jets had a the lead, the clock was ticking down, and Tebow was on a roll. I remember refusing to leave the car cheering him on as he posted his sixth (seventh? eighth?) miraculous comeback in a row. It went something like this…

After the game I questioned why I would root for a player I didn’t really like, on a team I didn’t like, over what was supposed to be my favorite team. I haven’t watched a regular season game since that day.

Flash forward to last season and a decent, but not hall of fame caliber, quarterback suddenly starts becoming one of the most talked about players in the game. And he does it for sitting down. (Then, upon reflection and honest discussion, for taking a knee). That got my eye. No matter what you might think about his stance or timing, you have to admit it takes a lot of courage to kneel while the world around you stands. Now Trump has entered the fray in his typically divisive, tactless, yet I would like to believe heartfelt way. Suddenly, half of the NFL seems to be kneeling with him and the conversation has become the newest hot button topic cluttering up my facebook news feed.

Since I am not an expat living in Turkey I have perhaps a different perspective so let me back up and share a bit with you. Every Monday and Friday I stand in respectful silence as students and teachers all around me sing out the Turkish national anthem. Also, every morning I hear this as a call and repeat chant be all the first through fourth graders:

Türküm, doğruyum, çalışkanım.
İlkem, küçüklerimi korumak, büyüklerimi saymak,
yurdumu, milletimi, özümden çok sevmektir.
Ülküm, yükselmek, ileri gitmektir.
Ey büyük Atatürk!
Açtığın yolda, gösterdiğin hedefe durmadan
yürüyeceğime ant içerim.
Varlığım Türk varlığına armağan olsun.
Ne mutlu Türküm diyene!

Now forgive my poor translation abilities, but I understand it to mean something along the lines of:

I’m Turkish, I’m truthful, I work hard.
My purpose is to protect the young, to respect my elders,
to love my community and nation more than myself.
My ideal is to advance and more forward.
Oh, great Attaturk!
On the road you have created, I will follow without stopping.
My life is a gift to Turkey.
Happy are the ones who say, “I’m Turkish!”

The zeal and regularity with which this chant is foisted on the young can be said to border on brain washing (which in itself isn’t actually a bad thing. God even commands us to wash our brains Romans 12:1-2) The nationalism here in Turkey is much more real and prevalent than it is in the States and around Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, there is most definitely a cult of personality. In fact, it is actually a law in Turkey that “Attaturk’s memory” cannot be “offended”. I know of people who have been jailed and/or fined for breaking it. Honestly, Attaturk did a lot of great things for Turkey, but he certainly wasn’t perfect. Forgive me if I don’t go into details… I wouldn’t want to offend his memory. But if you want feel free to go to wikiedia, I’m sure there’s plenty there for you. (Unless you live in Turkey, in which case wikipedia is blocked for offensive memory type articles)

Now back to American football, or rather back to the most recent controversy. What saddens me more than anything is that we aren’t discussing the reasons why an NFL player would feel strongly enough about something to take a knee despite all the pressure and ridicule he has received. Instead we have wrapped our discomfort in rags of patriotism and moved the debate into how he has “dishonored the national anthem”. I didn’t realize how easily so many Americans could take a cue from the Turkish cover up playbook.

I remember writing about a year back how American democracy is so much better than so many others because it doesn’t just accept the rule of the majority but it also gives the minority the freedom to voice their views. (Read it here) Perhaps I was wrong. In trying to shout down these dissenters as unpatriotic, we are moving dangerously close to losing the very thing that makes us so great.

So, Colin Kaepernick, for taking a knee against all the pressure to conform, I stand and applaud you. For all those who are doing their best to keep this discussion where it belongs: on social and racial injustice, I stand and applaud you. For all those who have turned this debate into a nationalistic shout fest, I respect your right to disagree but please, please be careful. It is through the loud suppression of dissent that Hitlers find room to grow.

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8 thoughts on “Take A Knee

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  1. I assume your school is a special school or existing in a time warp . . . as the AKP government is fast erasing Mustafa Kemal from daily life in Turkey, including school curricula . ..

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    1. I’ve taught in Istanbul and my current city. I know many teachers from multiple schools. Yes, there is a drive to replace Ataturk with Erdoğan as the center of Turkey’s cult of personality, but they have a long, long way before this desire becomes reality. You can’t go anywhere without seeing everywhere (in schools or the community) without seeing pictures of Ataturk every time you turn around.

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      1. The drive has been going strong for quite some time now . . . the tarikats (or brotherhoods, if you will) have returned in full force and as such, the AKP government is now already cooperating with the Nakshibandiyyah . . . in schools and other institutions. This is an effort to construct a new nation in the land, a land of believers. Have a look at what I wrote some time ago: “The Birth of a Nation: Thoughts on Turkey’s Recent Anniversary Celebrations” http://21stcenturywire.com/2017/07/22/the-birth-of-a-nation-thoughts-on-turkeys-recent-anniversary-celebrations/

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  2. I appreciate you seeing the right of the player! His right for social and racial injustice could be served so much better off the field! My issue is with disrespect! This young man is paid Millions to play a game! Children watch him while wanting to imitate him! It then is not about his Social & racial injustice. Well written!

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  3. As an Englishwoman, I read your post with interest. My thoughts on “Taking a Knee” are that it is the most respectful manner in which to express one’s feelings. I realise that the national anthem is special, but I felt the reaction of the president and many others was too extreme.

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  4. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

    First of all, thank you for stopping by my blog and “liking” one of my fiction stories. Your blog doesn’t appear to have an “About Me” page, so I’ve been scanning your various articles trying to get to know you just a wee bit.

    I reading this article, I seriously doubt that everyone disagreeing with Colin Kaepernick and others who “take the knee” are automatically “Hitlers.” Some of us believe that what our nation ultimately stands for outweighs her flaws. After all, the U.S. still seems to be the number one destination for refugees all over the world who seek to escape tyranny and instead live in liberty.

    Does the U.S. need to improve? Yes, of course it does. Is the U.S. the heart and soul of evil on the Earth, the most horrible nation on the globe? No, of course not. As you’ve said, not only do we value the rights of the majority but of the minority as well.

    As far as Kaepernick being a victim, I hardly think so. In fact, he was recently on the cover of GQ magazine and honored by the ACLU. Not only that, but he’s signed a $1 million dollar contract to write a book about his life (which he will likely author with a “ghost writer” as many celebrities do), which is on top of the $39 million he earned playing football, so all in all, he doesn’t seem to be doing too badly.

    Being disagreed with does not make you a victim, it just means you’ve taken a stand for something.

    “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” -attributed to Winston Churchill but more likely derived from the following by Victor Hugo:

    You have enemies? Why, it is the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats. Do not bother yourself about it; disdain. Keep your mind serene as you keep your life clear.

    I don’t necessarily consider Kaepernick a “great man,” but he certainly has the right to protest as he sees fit.

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  5. I haven’t stood for the National Anthem (U.S.) since I was in high school (1980s), because I read the words of all the verses and saw how disgustingly racist it is. It was also about that time I recognized that *forced* patriotism isn’t patriotism. And I stopped reciting the U.S. pledge of allegiance too — realizing it was absurd to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth. It is scary how many Americans get super-angry when you’re the lone person in a crowd refusing to stand for a song or recitation. People next to you start getting frantic, whispering loudly: “Get up! Take off your hat! Put your hand over your heart!” As if the FBI is closing in. No way will ever participate in these nationalistic rituals ever again.

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