May 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The appalling spectacle of professional athletes taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem is both revolting and disingenuous. It also sends the message to our youth that public disrespect of the National Anthem, and by extension our country, is acceptable.

There are many ways to express dissatisfaction with our country’s various problems and policies. The Rev. Martin Luther King addressed these issues with respect and dignity. Even though the contemporary mantra of Black Lives Matter was not then articulated in those terms, it certainly represented his perspective.

The unfortunate nature of prejudice is such that minorities — be they racial, ethnic, religious or based on sexual orientation — are always singled out. There are still racists and bigots in our midst, but our country stands for equality and freedom from such hatred.

Wherever racial prejudice raises its ugly head, the United States as a country strives to eradicate it. We may not be perfect, but we try. Our solutions may be too long in coming and not always welcomed in certain parts of the country, but as a matter of policy, in America, all lives matter.

It is our obligation as parents and educators to teach and model for our children good citizenship and respect for our country’s symbols. The low level of current political discourse is a model of what it ought not to be. Our entire democratic process has been mocked and civility towards one’s opponent has all but disappeared. Whether or not one agrees with our president, the office of the president must be respected and treated with deference. The vile and obscene political postings and caricatures on Facebook and elsewhere on the web are abhorrent. What must our enemies think? We pray for the welfare of our political leaders every Shabbat — and then we vilify them!!

It sickens me that certain pampered, undereducated, lionized and overpaid jocks feel they have the right to disrespect the national anthem with impunity, as if their immature demonstration somehow informs us of something new. Kudos to the Beaumont Bulls football team in Beaumont, Texas whose leadership suspended the coach and players and cancelled their season for taking a knee. How many of these weak-kneed athletes actually do anything to fight racial prejudice? To be fair, some athletes set up scholarship funds for underprivileged youth, but very few are politically active. Instead of being grateful that in this country they can earn obscene salaries for chasing a ball and mauling the other team, they publicly show their disdain for the country that makes it possible.

There are many problems facing us as a nation. I am upset by many policies and practices, but I will never disrespect my country to express myself. Thank God that we have the freedom to disagree with our leaders. That’s why we have elections. There are many countries where there is no freedom to disagree. People who do are imprisoned, fined and even executed.

I will take a knee for the widespread poverty that still exists in our country. I will take a knee for all the diseases for which we haven’t yet found cures. I will take a knee for the low salaries offered to our teachers. I will take a knee for the wasted potential of all the young men and women who gave their lives in wars in which we should never have been involved. I will take a knee for all the classics that go unread in this computer age. But I take a knee in prayer, never to disrespect The Star Spangled Banner.

I will take a knee for a community that will not make day school education affordable. I will take a knee for the vanishing congregational schools. I will take a knee for all the day school graduates who cannot converse in Hebrew. I will take a knee for assimilation. I will take a knee for BDS. I will take a knee for the schools that hire unlicensed limudei kodesh teachers. I will take a knee for special needs. I take a knee in frustration, but I will never do so in a manner that disrespects those with whom I disagree.

The fact that we are obsessed with sports and make athletes into heroes who are somehow endowed with special insights is perhaps another reason to take a knee. However, these games are broadcast around the world. How does such public disrespect for our country’s national anthem make us look to other countries? With so many nations eager to take us on in so many domains, this behavior is reprehensible and irresponsible.

It’s a teachable moment.

By Wallace Greene

 

Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene has been advocating for quality Jewish education for over 40 years.

 

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