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Hate-Bait: Anthem Kneeling Controversy

Hate-bait is meant to divide us. It appeals to our emotion and prejudices. It over-rides practical thinking as well as our nobler aspirations.  Hate-Bait distracts us from the fundamental importance of the civil liberties our ancestors built into the constitution over time, including the right to speak and debate freely about uncomfortable things.  Our ancestors – country and city alike – relied on those rights to improve their lives, just as many of us do today. Our children and grandchildren might need those same rights some day. So, let’s encourage everyone around us – don’t take the Hate-Bait.

Fish Took the BaitEncouraging people to debate kneeling during the national anthem is a form of Hate-Bait.  That question pits people against each other, creates distrust and fear, and diverts us from the more important work of building a better nation.  The far more important questions are these: why should we care about their protests, and how should we respond to their complaints?

Why should we care?  The answers come from a political bargain our founding fathers made with each other and the people who actively supported them.  After long negotiations, they chose to form a democratic republic for their mutual defense and well being.  A very important part of that deal was the guarantee of equal rights for all citizens. Among these are the right to vote, free speech, freedom of assembly, a free press, the right to privacy, freedom of religion, and the right to a fair and public trial by an impartial jury if accused of a crime.

From the end of the civil war onward, most men had these rights, at least on paper, while women gained the right to vote only by 1920.  American-Indians were granted citizenship in 1924 under the Snyder Act.  Many were barred from voting under various state laws, the last of these was removed by New Mexico in 1962.

These rights, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and other amendments to our Constitution, play a very important role in peaceably holding our democracy together.  Put another way, those times that have not been peaceful – protests, boycotts, riots, and even armed insurrection – were almost always due to some kind of abuse – because some people willfully ignored the Constitution.

So why should you care?  You should care because you want liberty and justice for yourself, and because you want to live in safe place where you can expect a good job that won’t be wrecked by violent protesters.  But we at Free, Fair and Accountable Democracy hope for more: we hope you will care because you want all Americans to have all the good things you have.

Keep this in mind: if someone can abuse the rights of one group, then they can just as easily abuse your rights some day.  Protecting everyone’s rights is therefore a way to protect your rights.

How should we respond to protesters complaints, personally?  First, go for the golden rule:  listen to others as you would have them listen to you.  When you have a complaint about someone, surely you expect that person to listen to you and take you seriously.  There is no way you can get your problem solved if they aren’t willing to do that.  Naturally, you would feel deeply upset if someone talked over you and loudly proclaimed you are ungrateful and unpatriotic.  Very simply, respect others as you would have them respect you.

Second, silence is often taken for permission. Please do not be silent if you see someone abusing – or threatening to abuse – another person’s rights.  Find a way to let them know their behavior is unacceptable.  Be firm, but don’t fight.  Go for safety in numbers if you have to.  Find and report to law officers and justices who understand that the Bill of Rights and other Constitutional amendments are there to guarantee equal rights to all Americans.

How should we respond, in terms of policy?  On the noble side, the history of the United States of America is living proof of our ability to repeatedly expand and improve upon the civil rights guaranteed to all of us.  Never easy, but always possible.  It’s something to be proud of and something to continue.  On the practical side, think about what happens if we go in the opposite direction, further inflaming racial tensions.  Keep in mind what happens after wide-spread riots.  Every dollar spent on personal security is a dollar not spent on better paying jobs.  Similarly, every tax dollar spent on policing and jailing takes away from state services that help ordinary folks deal with things like the opioid crisis.  Hate-Baiting has a way of putting us all into the frying pan.

Want to take action?

  • There are all sorts of organizations in every state that are geared up to fight for one or more kinds of civil rights. Use your computer to search for one that suits you. Give your time or money.
  • Whenever you see an example of Hate-Bait in the media, or coming from an elected official, consider calling it out. Simply tag it as #HateBait.  For example, “This guy’s post is #HateBait. It needlessly pits country music lovers against punk rockers.  #Americans:  Don’t Take The #HateBait!”  Be careful though:  it is NOT Hate-Bait simply because someone’s words make you uncomfortable.  It is only Hate-Bait when those words are crafted to divide one set of Americans against another set of Americans.

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