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Explaining the NFL protest with a boy, his dog and an angry neighbor

Colin Kaepernick (7) began taking a knee during the national anthem last year to protest police brutality.
Colin Kaepernick (7) began taking a knee during the national anthem last year to protest police brutality. AP Images for Panini

Once upon a time there was a mother with many children. She was a good mother and a good neighbor and, for the most part, her children were, too. But they weren’t a perfect family. One of the children was tasked with walking the dog. Most of the time the child took the dog where he was supposed to go to do his business, but once in a while, the child got lazy and let the dog run into his neighbors yard to relieve himself.

The neighbor was not pleased when this happened and let the boy’s mother know it. The mother scolded her son, punished him when she caught him, but still it occasionally happened. Meanwhile the mother continued to be a good neighbor, taking over a meal when the neighbor was sick, feeding the neighbor’s cat when he took a trip, doing thoughtful, good neighbor deeds.

But the neighbor became fixated upon the occasional doggie trespass, and one day, in a fit of rage, he spit in the boy’s mother’s face. The mother’s children were outraged and stormed over to the neighbor’s house, demanding an explanation. The neighbor explained that he could no longer respect their mother because her son would occasionally disrespect him and his property.

The children would have none of it, and went home very angry. Some time later, the neighbor spit in their mother’s face again, and this time he told her angry children that he was not disrespecting their mother, that he did respect their mother and was actually doing her a favor, trying to make her a better mother by forcing her to control the son who walked the dog. The children were unpersuaded by that argument.

I made up this story to try to explain to the aggrieved football player and his supporters why kneeling during the national anthem is not going to achieve what they say they want to achieve. Let’s review. It started out with a personal grievance. Then it became a freedom of expression thing. Then it became a name-calling media event. Then it became a patriotism argument. Now some current and past pro players are demanding that November be set aside by the NFL as “Political Activism Month.”

But what is lost is all this is that to most citizens America is simply our beloved motherland as represented by our national flag. We know she is not perfect because her children are not perfect. Our unique system of government allows for peaceful redress of wrongs in various appropriate ways. But when certain people, who are themselves not perfect, take a knee when the American flag is being honored in public, it feels very inappropriate — like they are spitting in our mother(land’s) face. It causes an emotional, punch-in-the-gut reaction. The resulting outrage causes most people to turn a deaf ear to the grievance, thereby defeating the original purpose for the disrespect. This analogy is not perfect, but it comes close.

Rinda Wilson is a Macon resident.

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