TAKING THE KNEE (Part One)
The phone range and it was my friend Arnold, telling me his wife Irma just kicked him out of the house.
“What for?” I asked. “Nothing permanent, I hope.:
“No. She just told me to take a walk around the block – and go soak my head somewhere in the process.”
“What brought that on?”
“Oh, we got into an argument about those football players taking the knee during the national anthem.”
“Is that all?”
“Well, she got really upset. She’s an avid pro football fan – originally from Kansas City, she likes the Chiefs – and she thinks it’s terrible to show disrespect for the flag and the country like that. I thought it was kind of funny and I guess I got a little too sarcastic. I was really surprised she cared that much about it.”
“Where are you now,” I asked.
“Sitting on a bench in the park near us, talking to you on my cellphone – and it doesn’t have that much juice left in it.”
“So what made her so upset?”
“It got into religion – that’s why I’m calling you,” Arnold said.
“Religion? I thought it was about football.”
“Yeah, but I started kidding her about her religion – ‘America first,’ you know, and she took umbrage at that.”
“Is she religious?” I asked.
“Not really, except when it comes to football – or any other sport where the national anthem is played.”
“Tell me more,” I said.
“Well, you know, there’s a ritual to these games – especially the important ones, like Super Bowl and World Series – where everybody is supposed to stand and watch four fighter planes swoop over the stadium and a color guard march out with their flags like an acolyte procession and then sing the national anthem with your hand over your heart and then in the seventh inning stand up and sing “God Bless America.” My God, it’s like some kind of religious ritual – or, what you would call a kind of liturgy, don’t you think?”
“Some people treat it that way, I suppose. Sounds like Irma does.”
“Yeah, well, she sure didn’t like it that these players are all taking the knee.”
“Were you able to explain why?”
“I tried. Told her it was a gesture of protest. And she didn’t think their politics had any place at a football game. People were coming to watch the game, not people protesting. So I asked why we can’t watch the game without all the nationalistic ritual before it starts, and then she accused me of being unpatriotic. I told her she was sounding religious about it, so she told me I ought to take a walk.”
“That happen much?” I asked.
“No. How about you? By the way, you still have the American flag in your church, don’t you?”
And before I could answer, his cellphone broke off – out of juice.