Whole cloth and familiar refrains
September 13, 2016
It's Sept. 11, and I find myself up earlier by at least a cup of Joe than what has marked for the past few weeks my normal Hawaiian-time rising. Long shadows from coconut palm and ironwood stretch across the broad green yard-like expanse between where I sit on a small protruding second-story lanai and the sandy beach of Hanalei Bay.
The house is called "Mahamoku," which by some translations means "island of peace." And, unless I choose to engage my cognitive centers with the human plotlines of the day, peaceful it is. The air is heavier than I'm used to in a healthy way, as are the smells from the tropical flora and the accompanying birdsongs.
When I first opened my eyes, I immediately went back to that unassuming morning in the Heber foothills 15 years ago when the world changed. With the additional chore of locating and packing various minutia for a long-planned river trip with friends, I had Dylan's new hot-off-the-press "Time and Theft" CD cranked in lieu of the morning news. Until I went to warm up my truck, ignorance was bliss.
Four trillion dollars or so later, our war on terror has killed something on the south side of two million, lost 7,000 U.S. troops and left 50,000 wounded, not to mention the additional 22 who kill themselves every day. There are now more terrorists controlling more land than ever. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to come to the conclusion that all our efforts have only made matters worse. (Journalist Scott Carrier, unbeknownst to him, contributed to that last paragraph.)
Meanwhile, over here on Kauai, that day of infamy marked the ninth anniversary of the coming of Hurricane Iniki, the eye of which came ashore with much bluster at Waimea, a dry-side hamlet of the south shore, on Sept. 11, 1992. It's never too difficult to get my family to share their stories of that horrific day. Nature had shuffled the deck.
Although some might call the connections tenuous, I've had trouble separating the two 9/11 events from the current conversation that began when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit out the playing of the national
anthem at his team's games. However, as has been proven previously in this space, logic is seldom part of my process when connecting dots.
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That being said — and herein lay the crux of this current epistle — I have always found the concept of "my country, right or wrong" to be, at best, sophomoric. Now, this won't be news to either regular readers of this column or longtime friends from all points on the political spectrum but, for some reason, I felt it might be a good spot upon which to double down on what has become a favorite mantra.
What has always made America great to me is the willingness of its citizenry, over time, to cast a critical eye on what has been promulgated in its name. As I've heard many times in disparate contexts of late, "there is no blank check!"
My friends who are currently bashing Kaepernick while busting buttons over their flag are cut from similar cloth to those who raged against the raised-black-fist protests of Tommy Smith and John Carlos from the podium of the 1968 Mexico City Summer Games and the refusal, a year earlier, of Muhammad Ali to comply with the U.S. Army draft.
For many of us, history has proven that the actions of all three were those of "true patriots." It's always easier to wrap yourself in the flag, a symbol fashioned from cloth, rather than to seek out and comfort those whom a nation fashioned on slavery and manifest destiny has chosen to forget. It's a lesson I learned while stationed in the "Jim Crow" south as a member of the Army 2nd Infantry Division at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Back then, those wrapped in flags often possessed high-powered fire hoses and snarling German Shepard attack dogs as tools with which to communicate to protesters.
The tactics brought into play by law enforcement against Native Americans protesting the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota were not quite the same, but from a similar mental armory. By the way, to borrow a mantra coined by the flag-waving right: "Thanks Obama!" And thanks Colin. The conversation is afoot.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.