Monday, September 25, 2017

Don't forget, the NFL protests are not about the military or the anthem.

The protests are about this, not the anthem, not flags not the military.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

A friend reminded me today about the treacherous nature of the ruling class in this country as the protests against racism and police brutality are gaining support. We have to be vigilant in not allowing the insidious efforts by the mass media and important and influential figures to make the football player protests about disrespecting the military or the flag, which after all, is merely a symbol. This is an attempt to skirt the seriousness and righteousness of the original intent of Kaepernick’s actions.

Mentioning the military as if it is one single whole with no distinguishable parts is a trick. What role in the decision making process in the US military does the average soldier play? I’ll tell you, none.

The military is made up overwhelmingly of working class men and women. The officer caste is overwhelmingly made up of upper class men, the sons of the 1% and the super rich. The reason for this is that the working class cannot be trusted. We are not made of the same stuff.

Sports to be honest are a distraction, a conscious diversion and an escape from the reality of a highly stressful existence loaded with insecurity and at all times, anxiety about the future or even if there is a future.  Sure, we’re unified for an hour or so over which team will win. But it’s a very political event for the owners of the franchises, billionaire investors who are linked to others like them who sit on boards of corporations, own shares in them and all of them linked with the body politic in one way or another.

When the media revenue, the apparel, the booze that’s consumed and other revenue streams come in, it is a very lucrative game indeed. Football, unlike baseball, which is a more family oriented game, is a very lucrative venue for recruitment in to the military as well. It is a man’s game but like most sport events today, it is becoming harder for the average working class family to attend.

It is because the protests are gaining support that the issue of supporting the military and this nonsense idea that the motive is to disrespect the flag is being thrust forward. I see a restaurant owner in North Carolina is not showing any games until “all players show respect to our flag and our country,"  Killings of unarmed black folks by cops never caused him to stop showing games. The Fascists marching in his part of the world didn’t move him to action either nor apparently did the killing of nine black people by a white supremacists in a church in the state next door. The vicious attacks on workers wages and living standards don’t seem to rouse him either.

We have to reject this idea that these protests have anything to do with disrespecting flags or military forces. It’s about racism, and I mean institutionalized racism, not calling someone a nasty name, and in particular the disproportionate killings by security forces of black people. When we add to this the percentage of blacks (and people of color in general) in the prison industrial complex, this is what is being protested.

They are throwing the patriotism word around now too. What is patriotism? Patriotism is used to con workers in to fighting the wars and conflicts the ruling class instigates in their struggle to dominate the world’s markets and to silence criticism.  I’m sure Hitler and the National Socialists called on German workers to be patriotic and support the war when the “patriotic” thing to do was to resist it. The class war is the only war we need to involve ourselves in and in that war workers of other nations are our allies.

Sports have been used throughout history as a means of pacifying the masses and avoiding dissent. In Christopher Hill’s excellent book on the English Revolution he points out the importance of Sunday sports in the pacification of the masses during those revolutionary times.  For the Puritans, Sunday was for religious education, praying and Bible reading, so they opposed the Sunday sports as it kept folks from sermons. In medieval England and Catholic countries, Hill points out, there were more than 100 holy days a year where no work was done.

The Feudal aristocracy, the King and the Catholic hierarchy on the other hand were loathe to abolish sports as it kept the masses from congregating and sharing ideas about religion, politics life and inevitably the injustice of class society and what might be done about it. “The government feared that unoccupied men (Sunday was a no work day) would talk sedition, whether it was in the ale houses or in conventicles”  says Hill whereas sports, the Duke of Newcastle assured Charles11, “…will amuse the people’s thoughts and keep them in harmless action which will free your Majesty from faction and rebellion.” * (my added emphasis.) This is the major reason for sports today and it is a money- maker as well. What a deal.

It’s part of human culture to compete in some form of sport, it’s healthy and occurs in every culture. Capitalism as with all things, commodifies sport. The owners of teams, the owners of the media the owners of the apparel companies that make the clothing are not interested in sport as a healthy aspect of human culture; they are after profits. If sport wasn’t profitable they wouldn’t invest in it.

And it’s known that most of the venues in which teams play are paid for by the taxpayers of that community. They socialize the costs and privatize the profits. As Marx so eloquently put it:
 “a schoolmaster is a productive labourer when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his scholars, he works like a horse to enrich the school proprietor. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, does not alter the relation.”

Violent or peaceful protests

There is growing support as we can see. Dale Earnhardt Jr. the NASCAR driver tweeted "All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests. Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK"

This is true, and the protests are extremely mild given that we have seen black children, unarmed men and women shot, mowed down in the streets, chased down and shot and then guns planted on them. In other cases choked to death for selling cigarettes on the street despite cries of “I can’t breathe”. 

If peaceful protests works that would be good. But the smallest glimpse in to US history shows that they don’t accomplish much. It is not the oppressed that cause violence, it is the state that responds to protests, even peaceful ones with violence. If people begin to attain the objective, the state introduces violence in to the mix. It’s the same with strikes. And I add that to cut wages, to remove benefits, to lay people off, in other words to take away their means of subsistence is in itself an act of violence. When the sheriff knocks on someone’s door to remove them from their home, which is their shelter, on behalf of the moneylenders, that’s violence. But if the person who needs that home to live in resists and others gather to help them stay in it, further violence is inflicted on people including prison.

The state only supports protests that don’t actually change anything. It is not those who seek change that make the struggle for change violent, it is those opposing that change.

A study published in the Financial Times today, (Millions mired in poverty as US upturn passes them by.) reveals that over 50 million Americans live in districts that in a “deep ongoing recession”, with one in six Americans living in a zip code the study defines as a “distressed community”. Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana account for half of the population affected while in Mississippi, “….43 per cent of the population lives in a distressed community.”

Inequality is rampant. In Utah, “….47 per cent of the population lives in a prosperous zip code, compared with just 3.1 per cent of people in West Virginia.” The study claims.

The study reports that “22 per cent of the Texas population live in distressed communities, nearly twice the proportion as New York or California.”  and that,  Mortality rates in distressed areas are 25 per cent higher than in prosperous districts, and mortality rates from mental health disorders and substance abuse are 64 per cent higher.” The opioid addiction is another issue, a true catastrophe.

A friend and I were talking today about Trump voters. Many of them come from these communities. In some areas they voted for Obama twice but for millions in this country the decline in livings standards and in to abject poverty continues. The study adds that, “strikingly, three-quarters of counties that flipped from backing Barack Obama twice to supporting Mr Trump suffered both job and business losses over the five-year period”

People are desperate. There is a great opportunity for change and for some Trump was the only voice that hadn’t been tested and failed.

The obsession with sport is aimed at keeping us from discussing the tragedy that consumes the nation. All the talk of patriotism, the flag, and the obsession with North Korea, this is all a smoke screen. US capitalism is in an acute economic, political and social crisis. In this situation, both parties increase military spending even beyond what Trump was asking. There is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. le.

I thought of something I left out in my previous post about the NFL owners and mentioning Kraft in particular. Kraft has voiced his displeasure at Trump for being divisive and insulting the football players. Trump has called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. He has boasted about grabbing women’s genitals and doing whatever he wants to them because he’s famous. He’s supported Nazis and fascists. He’s mocked the disabled and said US workers are paid to much. He has, from what I understand, numerous legal; cases against him for sexual abuse. We don’t hear about that any more. And Kraft and the owners who are now speaking out said not a word about this. In fact, after all of this, Kraft donated $1 million to his inauguration.

It is natural that for black folks the issue of police violence, incarceration rates, and the general discrimination they face from institutionalized racism is a dominant theme. This does not mean they are not aware of issues facing all working class and poor Americans. What has to happen is that we must brush aside these smoke screens of patriotism and insulting the military and the flag, and join in the struggle against racism and police brutality as we widen this movement to draw in all sections of society that are feeling the strain and the pain of this war against all of us by US capitalism. It is not the little man in North Korea that is a threat to us; the threat is here at home.

* The Century of Revolution 1603-1714 Christopher Hill

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