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Steps toward solutions

Posted: October 12, 2017 3:26 p.m.
Updated: October 13, 2017 1:00 a.m.

“If I can’t fix it, it ain’t broke.” 

I use that phrase when I can’t solve a problem, but refuse to admit defeat. With this statement, I triumphantly redefine the problem and declare victory. 

The first challenge in solving any problem is to specifically define the problem. Secondly, those interested in talking about the problem must decide if the purpose of their conversation is to just air grievances or to come up with specific action items to solve the problem. Many men and most all engineers have difficulty recognizing that sometimes people just want to be heard. The third challenge is to keep the discussion focused on the defined problem. 

All three of these challenges are demonstrated every time a husband, for example, meekly asks his wife to change one specific behavior. Invariably, the husband quickly finds the conversation refocused on the three behaviors his wife would like him to change. Defining a problem and staying focused on one issue at a time is very difficult. 

So, this leads me to a recent “crisis of the week.” No, I am not talking about the Las Vegas tragedy, the violence claiming the lives of thousands of youth in our inner cities, nuclear war with North Korea, terrorism, or the rising cost of healthcare. I am talking about football players supposedly disrespecting those who have fought and died for freedom by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. Or, maybe I am talking about players protesting the racial injustice in our society by kneeling. Or maybe I am talking about players protesting our president because they believe he is a racist, xenophobic white supremacist. Or, maybe I am simply talking about our right to free speech.

These are some of the different ideas people are discussing when the subject of kneeling during the playing of the national anthem comes up. This issue has been the subject of so much social media hate because people are not even debating the same problem.

To solve any issue, parties must first have a congenial discussion to determine facts and areas of agreement, and then specifically define the issue you want to solve. Here are a few indisputable facts surrounding the NFL protests that should be areas of agreement.

1. Racial injustice still exists in this country. People can debate the level to which it still exists, but it is a problem worth discussing with the goal of implementing actions to reduce the real and perceived injustice.

2. Americans have freedom of speech. Much to the dismay of young college students who call themselves anti-fascists, we even have a right to speech some consider hateful. However, no one has the right to destroy property or commit violence when people of opposing views want to talk. That’s another topic though.

3. Americans have the right to kneel, ignore or disrespect the national anthem and the flag. We can debate whether people have that right while at work. I, for example, would be fired if I promote values or display behavior that my employer finds offensive while I am on the clock. Some offenses are cause for termination on my own time. 

4. The national anthem is intended to be a unifying song for all Americans. No objective person can deny that millions of Americans rightly find it deeply offensive for anyone to kneel when the national anthem is being played.

Some sports players believe kneeling during the national anthem to protest a cause as significant as racial injustice is acceptable and unquestionably do not intend any disrespect or offense. However, a majority of Americans agree with our president that it’s offensive regardless of intent. If you think good intentions absolve the offense, just answer this question: Is there any argument, position or statement of intent a person can give most African-Americans to justify flying the confederate flag? The answer is no. Good intentions, even from Southerners who truly mean no offense, do not matter. Likewise, the history and tradition of standing during the national anthem is sacred to millions of Americans, both black and white. Kneeling during the anthem, no matter how noble the intent, is offensive to them.

And no, I am in no way saying the two flags are the same.

The real debate should be this: Are protests during the playing of the national anthem an effective way to highlight and solve the problem of racial injustice or is it an unhelpful distraction? The fact that we have spent countless hours talking about NFL players kneeling instead of what we can do to work together to solve the problem answers that question.

If approved by team owners, players can take a knee. However, that does not mean they should. They should stand during the national anthem, and proudly declare that we are one America, and appreciate the sacrifices of all of those who have made it so. They can then use their status, money and power to make a real difference instead of creating further division.


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