“Sometimes I love you, sometimes I hate you. But when I hate you, it’s because I love you.”
— Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar
That line from a 1927 song could be part of a new national anthem for those who conscientiously object to certain aspects of life in America.
Take, for instance, the ordeal suffered by Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown in January. Video of his disturbing treatment by lying police officers was released last month on the same day Roger Goodell announced a new NFL policy regarding the “Star Spangled Banner.”
The line from the jazz standard “Sometimes I’m Happy” references a romantic relationship between two people. But it also can be applied to the conflicting emotions that bubble inside fair-minded citizens when contemplating the social injustice, police brutality and systemic inequality they observe.
“Show respect for the flag and the anthem,” Goodell said four times in a statement May 23 as the league attempted to douse flames ignited by President Trump’s criticism of players who have knelt during the song. The new policy requires players on the field to stand at attention, but allows any who choose to remain in the locker room.
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That solution was simple … in the unlearned, ignorant, lacking-mental-acuteness sense of the word.
Unfortunately, that’s the level where Trump lives and he can’t be out-simplified.
The latest proof arrived Monday when he rescinded the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ invitation to the White House while throwing a haymaker at the league’s new policy, tweeting that “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”
Tying the White House visit to the anthem was his transparent attempt to avoid embarrassment upon realizing only a handful of players planned to attend. Not a single Eagles player kneeled last year (or stayed in the locker room). Yet, Trump portrayed their disinterest in visiting him as disrespect for the country.
“They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem, hand on heart,” Trump tweeted. “Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms.”
And there’s no escaping this issue, which merely distracts us and obscures the underlying reasons that so many Americans have a complex love-hate relationship with our country.
Sure, you can stand proudly with a hand on your heart for a few minutes and do nothing to improve society before or after the anthem is played.
But you demonstrate true love for country — regardless of your posture during the song — by engaging in constructive actions like several Eagles players over the past two years.
“We have met with police departments, elected officials and community advocates around the country,” safety Malcolm Jenkins wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “We’ve fed the hungry, we’ve mentored our youth, we’ve fought to create opportunities for communities and individuals who have been disenfranchised, we’ve given scholarships, and the list goes on.”
If you love America, how can you not hate the deadly consequences for unarmed, non-violent men who happen to look like Sterling Brown?
How can you not hate the institutional racism and oppression that’s behind taking a knee or raising a fist? How can you not hate the nation’s highest office manipulating and re-opening our deep racial fissures?
Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
A large percentage of NFL players, along with their families and friends, are much more likely to be affected by injustice, compared to Goodell and NFL owners.
The latter group had a chance to share in their players’ outrage but did so in token fashion after Trump embarrassed the league at a rally in Alabama. When Trump continued to lambaste them, owners shriveled and hatched a new policy meant to appease him.
But nothing they devise can make the president a big person, a requirement for hosting events when everyone doesn’t like you and many won’t show up.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was accurate in his assessment, stating the rescinded invitation “only proves that our President is not a true patriot, but a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.”
In lieu of welcoming the Eagles to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump held a “Celebrate America” event instead.
Indeed, there’s much to celebrate. But unless you love everything that’s going on in our country, there are reasons to demonstrate, too.
Criticizing anyone’s action during the national anthem is easy. But it doesn’t change the substantive issues that need to be addressed. It’s the equivalent of yelling, “Squirrel!”
The players’ union tried to keep us focused in a statement Tuesday: “NFL players love their country, support our troops, give back to their communities and strive to make America a better place.”
You do that by rooting out hateful aspects of society, not pretending that everything is lovey-dovey. But NFL owners are absorbing a hard lesson:
Such nuance escapes the man they’re trying please.
• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.