Colin Kaepernick. A true Patriot.

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The freedom of expression and free speech are just two of the cornerstones on which America builds it society.

Often we will hear commentators on the television telling the world one of the reasons America is ‘the greatest country in the world’ is because of their ‘freedoms’.

It would seem from the events of the past few days surrounding Colin Kaepernick that the truth is those same ‘commentators’ really mean that those cornerstones are great ‘so long as they align with me and my narrative.”

For those living under a rock Colin Kaepernick is the quarter back for the San Francisco 49ers and in the weekend he used his right of free expression and ‘speech’ to make a point during the national anthem. He did not stand up.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color, to me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Colin Kaepernick has used his freedom of expression, and freedom of speech to highlight an issue in American society where black citizens are being killed disproportionately by police officers and more often than not, those police officers are not held accountable.

Since then America has lost it’s mind because apparently this one form of free expression and speech is a step to far for many.

Donald Trump had some advice for the young professional athlete

“I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try. It won’t happen.”

But what people seems to be missing is that if America holds onto these ‘freedoms’ as an essential part of who they are as a country, then Kaepernick is in the perfect country to make this protest, and in some other countries, who don’t have those ‘freedoms’ he couldn’t do it.

I find the American devotion to the flag to be incredibly odd. To me the US seems cult like in it’s infatuation with the importance of the flag and approach the flag in a fervor that resembles a religious experience.

It probably stems from the fact, that there is actually statutes dictating how people should address the flag.

“During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in (military) uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.”

Title 36 (section 171) of the United States Code

I look at countries like North Korea, countries where there are no ‘freedoms’, countries where a tyrannical dictator makes the rules that everyone must follow on pain of death and that is where I would expect to see legislation like the Code above, not in the land of the free.

It would seem to me you can either have a society that has rules and statutes that you must follow and if you deviate there are significant negative consequences, or you have a society where people are free to express themselves. I don’t think you can have both.

It seems that many in America want to place a North Korean ideology on Colin Kaepernick of control and expectation of a way he must act, whilst still trying to claim that the society is built and functions on some great rules for life like the right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

Well, which is it America?

What I guess I am saying is that because of the ‘freedoms’ that Americans hold onto as such an important part of what makes them ‘American’, then the protest against the Star Spangled Banner and the American Flag is the most American thing that Colin Kaepernick could possibly do

Sexist, homophobic, racist…but that’s what we want in our sports commentators isn’t it?

Let me put my cards on the table. I like Martin Devlin, in fact if I am out and about between 9am and midday he is my choice to listen to on 693am in Dunedin. I think he is a amazing broadcaster and a nice guy but his rant yesterday to an abusive texter demonstrated once again that Radio Sport has an underbelly of misogynist, homophobic, sexist men who are now the only voice in NZ if you want to listen to entertaining sports commentary on the radio.

Whether it’s on Mark Watson’s show where they think that AFL is ‘bloody gay’ or the convicted criminal in residence who breaks bones in a woman’s back then he himself plays the victim card over and over again. A ‘man’ who is probably the only radio host in the country with his own offenders page on the Sensible Sentencing Trust website.  It would seem that the sentiment of degrading women and minorities is, if not encouraged, certainly acceptable to the bosses at Radio Sport.

To the issue yesterday, I do have empathy for Devlin having been on the receiving end of many text, emails and calls whilst working for Newstalk ZB up to, and including, death threats (I have an account of some of them here if it interests you) and many of us that have been in that position would have liked to do what Devlin did. In fact I’ll go so far is to say I agree with him that just because people work in a public space, no one has the right to be abusive to that person so it’s not what he did…it’s that the terminology he used to the abusive texter that demonstrates the underbelly of the ethos that is acceptable (at least to management) at Radio Sport.

As I said, many of us in the position that Devlin was in may have wanted to do the same thing, and I don’t actually criticize him for calling the texter out, however what I will point to is the language that he used to attempt to shame, insult and degrade the texter.

“Pussy bitch”
“You girl”
“Bitch”
“Pussy bitch”
“You girl”
“Girl”
“You girl”

See a pattern? And I haven’t been selective here, these were the only insults thrown at the texter. Devlin didn’t slip in a ‘coward’ or an ‘idiot’ at any stage, just the list above.

Every term that Devlin threw at the abusive texter wanting to shame, insult and/or degrade him or her was feminine. All the terms that Martin Devlin used to throw abuse back at, and insult the texter, either referenced a female, a female animal, or a female body part in an incredibly crass way.

When we think it is okay to use the way someone looks, or acts, or is…as basically a swear word, then we need to check ourselves. Isn’t it interesting that there are no real words we throw as insults to one another that represent white males, yet women, minorities and the LGBTI community all have representative words that we use to insult one another.

I am sure Martin Devlin didn’t mean to degrade all women by basically using their likeness or words that represent them, to hurl abuse at a texter but that then speaks to the culture at Radio Sport and somewhat to the culture in NZ.

There are words that we used to use like ‘hory’ and ‘retard’ that have gone the way of the dinosaur for good reasons. Now it’s time that we understand, and address that there are many more terms, that we feel comfortable to use as insults, that it is time to put into the annals of history.

#Rio2016 is a fairly good result for NZ

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Over the past few days I have begun to hear commentators and ‘pundits’ talking about how well we are doing (or ‘not’ as the case may be) at #Rio2016. Like those commentators I also had the feeling that we were performing pretty poorly this time round so I thought I’d do some research as to how terrible the New Zealand Olympic Class of 2016 is…and found out something quite interesting.

New Zealand, as New Zealand, has been competing at the Olympic Games since 1920, up to an including the 2012 London Olympics that is 21 appearances competing against the rest of the world. Over those 21 Olympics New Zealand has won Gold 41 times. By my account there are a total of 71 New Zealanders that have won a Gold Medal at any Olympics, including when we competed as Australasia. There have been four occasions when New Zealand has not received any Gold Medals (1920, 1924, 1932, 1948) at an Olympic Games and only twice where New Zealand has won over 3 Gold Medals (8 in 1984 and 6 in 2012).

If you add all these numbers together you understand that New Zealand averages just under two Gold Medals at every Olympics and if we get more than three it is an extraordinary event.

Which means if we look to #Rio2016 with this understanding we will see clearly that as we currently have two Gold Medals, and the chance of more to come, we are doing pretty well. Yes I agree that with 6 Gold Medals at the #London2012 we would have liked to see growth, but it is unrealistic when looking at the history of New Zealand competing at the Olympics that all of a sudden we would go from winning two or three Gold Medals to consistently winning 6+.

So well done to all the New Zealand Olympians and all you couch commentators remember if we can hit 3 Gold Medals that is a great result for New Zealand.

Oh an by the way, I still haven’t seen Mahe’s Gold Medal from #Rio2016 with the bullying control that SkyTV has over the footage…but that complaint is for another day.

 

Where does a progressive charismatic go?

Adversaries 1So many of you know, in fact for many of you it may be the primary reason we are connected, that I am, for want of a better word, religious. I have never fitted well into any box. Most other people use the word ‘Christian’ when they talk about me but I don’t and never really have as I feel it doesn’t represent me accurately, especially when so much of my work over the past 20 years has been in a public setting and that public setting has already decided what the word ‘Christian’ means, and their definition is not what I am.

One of the reasons I have never felt comfortable with the term “Christian” is that I look at the community that identifies with that word and I don’t see people like me, who think like me, who act like me, or who represent their faith in the way I represent my faith. So if I’m nothing like them, then I’m not one of them…right?

As someone who hopes to constantly grow in his beliefs, opinions and perspectives on “life, the universe and everything“, I have come to the conclusion in recent times that it doesn’t seem that I fit…because I don’t fit. Simple really.

As with the word “Christianity” I really hate labels as I find them too encompassing, but for the sake of conversation I will try to expand on where I see myself fit in the church.

My personal beliefs, theology and faith fit more comfortably with what many would describe as Progressive Christianity…but my natural style of worship (read ‘style of church’ for you non-religious) is much more like what many would see as Charismatic Christianity. Let me state this for the record to make it very, very clear before the Christian trolls decide to have a crack. I am neither Progressive nor am I Charismatic, but they are areas within the faith that I gravitate towards for aspects of my personal journey and therein lies the problem.

In New Zealand, progressive churches (which support the LGBTI community and treat women as equals) are typically very traditional (think hymns, organs, choirs and a liturgical, repeated service each week) and seem to be to have less of an interest in what the bible describes as “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.” On the other hand, a charismatic church will have more life, more youth and have more my preference in style of music. However a charismatic church is much more likely to be very conservative in its beliefs (think anti-same sex marriage, limits on women’s participation in the church) and there is often an implicit message that input from outside the bible is something to be avoided, and everything in the bible is ‘literal’. I realise I am being unfair to pigeon hole all charismatic churches like this, but if you lined up a hundred of each, these trends would be very obvious to see.

So for someone who wants the style of a charismatic church, but the intellect and theology of a progressive church what do they do? What do I do?

In an ideal world I would be finding a church that has progressive leanings and a charismatic style but it would seem that in Dunedin that kind of church doesn’t exist. When we first arrived in Dunedin I tried to attend a church that has progressive leanings knowing that the style wasn’t me, and I hoped that I could make a space for myself and others who wanted more of what I was looking for. Offers were made and accepted, but those doors were quickly closed so here I sit on Sunday morning at my desk with no church affiliation…but still feeling like I want one.

I decided this morning that I actually want to find a church here in Dunedin. In my investigative efforts so far I have failed to find what I am looking for and what I’ve decided to do is start by finding out where churches sit theologically. Obviously I can find out about their style of worship is by visiting. I have three questions to ask the leadership in the churches I am going to approach.

  1. If one of my children was to come out as gay at 15 how would they be received in this churches congregation?
  2. If my child, then as an 18 year old, wanted to be the leader of the youth group, how would the leadership approach that?
  3. If my child, at 22, then wanted to be married to their same-sex partner in this church, by the Pastor, how would that be received by the leadership?

Whilst many know that my connection with and defense of the LGBTI community is a very important part of my faith, it’s not the be-all and end-all. However I find that asking questions around this issue is very enlightening – it gives me a pretty good indication of where the church sits on other issues important to my faith.

Let’s see how I go.

 

 

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