Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Colin Kaepernick

Dear Son,

Colin Kaepernick's election as Gentleman Quarterly's Citizen of the Year brings up a number of questions.  What exactly it is that makes a good citizen is first and foremost among these, because Kaepernick has spent a good amount of his time saying the average American citizen is the worst.  It leads us to wonder what exactly a good citizen champions if it's not the citizens themselves; and if it's the reformation of the citizens, then maybe so be it, and if it's only a small and extremely fractious minority of the citizens, then wouldn't this make him a rebel?


This question has plagued humanity ever since we had city states, and happens to be the defining feature of the Old Testament: the idea that entire peoples can go wrong, and that if they go right again, it's because a few people kept themselves pure and called the miscreants back to Yahweh and were usually murdered by the majority for it.  And I say that if anyone can call the prophets Jeremiah or Ezekiel patriots we can call Kaepernick one too -- if only we could agree with him.

How he got to where he is is the bigger mystery; and this half-white half-black boy, abandoned by his own black father and white mother and picked up, seemingly at random, by two middle-class honkies who loved him and cared for him and got him an education, ensuring he was able to play football and that through his formative years he was always supported; this guy, who owes his fame and fortune not to the black race, but to the white; whose scholarship was paid by historically white institutions; whose career is owed to people who looked past the color of his skin to value what he could do; for this guy, I say, to be found on the side of America that not only rejects white America, but denies the beauty of the American Dream while in the middle of enjoying it; that this guy could be found where he is is one of the most puzzling things we have come across this year, a year when men are saying they're women and women are saying they're men, and a whole host of people believes if you deny it you're a monster.

I believe Colin Kaepernick is where he is because he wants to be loved.  Abandoned by his actual parents and adopted by two strangers, probably half because they wanted a child and half out of charity (who else goes out of their way to adopt someone from another race?), Colin Kaepernick grew up wondering why the natural bond of parenthood was weak and the "artificial" bonds of charity were strong.  He was wanted but he never knew why, and he knew that the people who were supposed to love him the most were the people who didn't love him probably at all.  As an adopted and intelligent child he probably knew that if it wasn't him his adopted parents could very well have picked someone else, and that the love he experienced in that home was part choice on the part of the parents and part lotto ticket.  He could look in the mirror and see he was different.  He was told he belonged but he wondered if he ever did.

Then he began playing sports, and the fact that he did it so well made people go wild.  Suddenly, this wanted-unwanted youth became wanted not with the love of a parent or the love of a do-gooder, but because of something within him; something tangible he gave instead of something he received and couldn't explain.  The cheers from the crowd, an entourage of adoring cheerleaders, the promise of millions and a lifestyle of fame arrived at his doorstep, and still this -- all this, which many people would die for, wasn't enough.  He wanted to know he was loved for real -- for something deeper than playing sports or an accident.

His moment came when the black crises hit us.  After Ferguson was on fire and Philando'd been shot and Colin's career had been lagging behind after he'd promised so many things but just couldn't deliver.  Then, at this moment, besieged by doubts about his value as a player, hounded by that part of him that saw other black men and imagined himself in their shoes, this questioner-of-his-own-worth decides to take a stand by kneeling at the anthem, and immediately arrests the national attention.

His popularity amongst the majority drops rapidly but another thing takes place.  The core fans he had had before grew louder and more loving.  They looked to him not for what he could do with his body, which was beginning to disappoint them anyway, but for what he could do with his voice.  He began to not be a champion of a team in a locality, but a symbol for black men all over the States; a man who cared about them and was because of this cared for.  He was loved not just because of what Colin Kaepernick did, but for who Colin Kaepernick was.

This total revolution in affairs changed Colin's life entirely.  Before he was loved or unloved for inscrutable or shallower reasons.  Now he had a handle on the feeling; and the people thronging around him not only had a spiritual connection with him, but for the first time in his life he was able to have a racial connection with them -- to be wanted by the black man who had abandoned him at first, and wanted not only because they were connected by blood, but connected by cause.  One look at Colin in Harlem with his ridiculous afro, surrounded by the black men and women he champions, standing beside a small boy with a shirt with a slogan, all facing the camera in a silent and powerful unity, and you know what the man feels.  He feels like he belongs somewhere.  It's a shame he never knew that the people most desperate for black champions isn't the black race, but the Republican Party.

Your father,
-J 

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