Taking a Knee (to the Face)

By Mike Cronin

After several highly-publicized shootings of young black men by white police officers in 2015 and 2016, San Francisco ‘49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of football games. In one post-game interview, Kaepernick explained: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Since then, Mr. Kaepernick has lost his job, but several players, and in some cases entire teams, have begun emulating his actions. Many fans have been outraged, including President Trump. Both attendance at stadiums and ratings for televised games are way down. This story is vitiating the country.  So, what gives? Let’s unpack it a bit.

First and foremost is whether the protests are having, or can have, the desired effect: eliminating racism, especially alleged police brutality driven by alleged white racism against blacks. That will be hard to measure, since each and every case of alleged racially-driven brutality must be judged against the context of the situation and the facts of the incident that precipitated it. We cannot rationally, automatically infer that just because a young black man is shot and killed by a white cop that there was any racial bias (or injustice of any kind) involved; that has to be proven.  In some cases it is, in many more, the opposite conclusion is reached.

Second is the issue of context and message delivery. While Mr. Kaepernick told the press his actions were taken in protest to police brutality, in his statement above he conflates police brutality with the entire country being oppressive against blacks and other minorities: “I am not going to…show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people…” This is perhaps the most contentious aspect of the entire affair. Mr. Kaepernick may have been the subject of racism and police brutality himself at some point (I have no idea), but as someone who made more money in a single game than most NFL fans will make in several years, he is at best an unlikely spokesperson against oppression. He brought further ambiguity to his alleged anti-oppression message by wearing socks depicting a pig in a police hat during training camp:

And by attending as press conference wearing a pro Fidel Castro T-shirt:

That tone-deafness has now been amplified by entire teams of seven- and eight-digit salary earners “taking a knee” for the anthem (in stadiums often built with the aid of tax subsidies) to protest the “oppression” of the nation that gave them the opportunity to become one-percenters, while the people that defend that opportunity in some cases don’t even make enough to buy groceries without resorting to food stamps.

Maybe Mr. Kaepernick really is just trying to turn the national conversation towards the elimination of police brutality and racism. Or, perhaps Mr. Kaepernick hates cops and hates America. Or both, or neither. The trouble is: his message is mixed, and those who are emulating him are diluting it further. Are we to accept that our entire country is racist and oppressive? Racism and oppression have certainly existed and will continue to exist, in this country and elsewhere, as long as humans refuse to treat others as individuals, instead of as units. Even so, I don’t think we have to accept the premise that the entire country is that way now. After all, every racial barrier to high office or position has been broken: President of the United States. Senator. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Secretary of State. Ambassador. CEO. Doctor. Lawyer. Astronaut. General. Police Officer. Professor. Sports Star.

That leaves police brutality. Are we instead to infer that all police are brutal, racist thugs? That’s a ludicrous proposition that I won’t even dignify with a rebuttal.

Third: Rights. The players protesting the anthem absolutely have the right to do so, but they do not have the right to usurp someone else’s platform to spread their message, nor can they reasonably expect that they can piss off their employers’ customers and keep their jobs.

Lastly: Importance. In the grand scheme of things, the NFL, its games, its ratings, and its stadium attendance are irrelevancies, but the issues of racism, police brutality, and patriotism are not. I don’t know, or care, what Mr. Kaepernick really believes or what message he thinks he was really trying to get across, but he certainly started a national conversation about…something. To borrow from Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, Superintendent of the US Air Force Academy:

If you cannot treat your fellow Americans with dignity and respect, then get out.


By Mike Cronin

It’s been a while since I’ve written about any weasel words. A few new ones have cropped up:

“State Capitalism” is now being offered as a definition of Communism. The enemies of Capitalism, which is the only system of socio-economic-political organization that bans the initiation of force from human affairs and operates on the concept of mutual trade to mutual benefit, are now trying to equate one of their own failed “isms” with Capitalism. The trouble is that Communism thrived on the initiation of force at every level. It was anything but capitalistic in any sense of the term!

Intersectionality “refer(s) to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and yes, intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.”  The term has legitimate roots. In the mid 1970s, black women were being virtually shut-out of jobs at GM. The allegation was that GM was discriminating against blacks by only giving them factory floor jobs, and discriminating against women by only giving them clerical jobs…but black women couldn’t get any jobs, because the “black” jobs on the factory floor only went to black men, and the “female” clerical jobs only went to white women.  The courts ruled that the black females could not combine racism and sexism into one discrimination complaint. A law professor named Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” to describe the phenomena.  So why is it now a weasel word? Because the very people it is meant to help (victims of multi-axis discrimination) are being victimized by other victims of multi-axis discrimination! Over the years, the point of intersectionality has morphed from trying to help victims of multi-axis discrimination into stratifying them.

Thus, if you are a poor, handicapped, illegal immigrant, trans-gender, person of color you have earned a lot of “street cred” among social justice warriors for your oppressed status, whereas if you are a white female, you are barely tolerated as a member of the “oppressed” club. And if you are Jewish, you are quite possibly reviled because of Israel’s perceived oppression of the Palestinians, even if you have been a victim of anti-Semitism yourself. Never mind that Islam is largely intolerant of homosexuals and often treats women as property. The Holocaust doesn’t even enter into it.

Antifa, or Anti-fascists, is the name of a radical, even militant, “left wing” group that purports to hate fascism and fascists, such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis. Being against hatred and the initiation of violence seem laudable, but Antifa are anything but. Ironically, Antifa has no philosophical compunction against using the same fascist tactics (riots, speech control, initiation of violence) the original Nazis employed to bring Hitler to power and set the world on fire!

Testing our Constitution


By Mike Cronin

Today ought to be a national holiday.  229 years ago today, the Constitution was created.  It was ratified and became the highest law of the land two years later in March of 1789.  Contrary to popular opinion, or even popular “fact” taught in many of our schools, the Constitution didn’t give us a democracy, even though it specified certain democratic processes for electing the president and members of Congress and for proposing and enacting legislation.  It gave us a republic – a form of government where the people’s rights were protected by law and could not be voted away at the whim of the majority.  It gave us the first country in the history of mankind founded on the ideal of individual liberty and personal freedom.

The Constitution, and our republic, has been under attack, either literally or rhetorically, ever since.  Some, like Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, would have us believe the Constitution is a “living document,” i.e. open to re-interpretation through whatever cultural lens exists at a given time.  The Framers knew better than that.  They knew America would not be the same in 1887 or 1987 as it was in 1787, so they crafted a mechanism into the Constitution that would allow for it to be changed: via amendments. They deliberately made the amendment process challenging, but not impossible.  It has worked just fine at least 17 times over the last 229 years.  The most recent, the 27th Amendment, was ratified in 1992.  (Yes, there are 27 amendments, but the first ten were enacted simultaneously as the Bill of Rights, hence 17 instances the amendment process has been carried out.)

One of those amendments, the first in fact, is being tested right before our eyes today. There is a public controversy over several NFL players who are refusing to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.  As a veteran, I am in the curious position of both feeling pained and proud.  It pains me to see people disdain the anthem, because so many have fought and died to protect the freedom and liberty the flag stands for. And yet, the very first freedom protected by the Bill of Rights is the freedom of expression.  As much as it galls me to admit it, our country has not always acted in accord with its own highest law.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, for nearly a century after the Constitution was ratified, men could own other men in this country…if they were black. Our history has other examples of its failure to abide by the Constitution and the principles of individual freedom it protects: Confiscatory income taxes. The draft. Excessive bureaucracy and scandalous deficits and debt. Spying on citizens. Obamacare. Failures to hold officials accountable for their transgressions in office. The list is not short.

So when an NFL player refuses to stand for the National Anthem, and no government sanction ensues, I can be proud to witness an instance where the Constitution itself is being honored by the government, even if those who have given everything in its defense are being dishonored.

Of course that works both ways.  Just as those few players have the right not to stand, the fans, the teams, and the league have the right to express their displeasure at the offending players.  It would not pain me at all to see the league fine, or the teams discharge, the players in question!

A Crazy Idea


By Mike Cronin

In the 1600s, pilgrims came to this land to escape religious persecution. Other colonists soon followed. In the late 1700s, the thriving 13 colonies decided to throw off the yoke of their far-off ruler. In the 1860s, we fought a war over slavery.  (Some will tell you the war was about state’s rights, but the “rights” being fought over were the right to secede from the Union in order to continue the practice of slavery.) About a half-century later, women won the right to vote. Nearly another half century after that, we had the civil rights and equal rights movements.  At some point, other groups saw that these early movements were largely successful in gaining for their members the recognition that they deserved the same rights as anyone else. But then new groups started seeking privileges disguised as rights.

For instance: the gay marriage movement.  This movement sought (and is still seeking) the privilege for one person to be able to marry another person of the same gender. The movement postulates that since heterosexuals have a “right” to marry, homosexuals deserve no less. Advocates of this arrangement are right that homosexuals ought to have the same rights as heterosexuals; but they err by seeking parity with heterosexuals in being permitted to marry by the government. If marriage (or domestic partnership), or any other kind of association is indeed a right, then the movement should be demanding the elimination of government intrusion (except for the function of contract enforcement) in the domestic arrangements of competent, consenting adults. (Freedom-loving heterosexuals ought to consider advocating for the same thing!)

Now we live in a time with a constantly-increasing number of movements and causes seeking special privileges for smaller and smaller groups of people.  The latest examples: Trans-gendered folks seeking the “right” to use whichever public restrooms are appropriate to the gender they “identify” with.  College kids demanding “safe spaces” where they can be free from challenging ideas espoused by disagreeable people. Illegal immigrants demanding in-state tuition rates and voting rights. Minimum-skilled fast-food workers demanding higher pay than junior military members (who have months of technical training) make. Able-bodied yet jobless people demanding food stamps.

Before you know it, every single individual in this country will get the crazy idea that they deserve equal rights for themselves.  Some will demand free speech, others will want to own a gun, and many would like to have the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.  Some might even want to be free to associate with whomever they’d like.

Folks might get the fantastical notion that a genuine individual right cannot require or obligate anything of anyone else other than that we leave each other alone and honor our voluntary commitments.

Some thought leaders and other prominent people might even get together and decide to craft a document that would enshrine these ideas.  They might imagine that the best way to organize a government would be around the concept that its sole purpose is to protect the rights of free individuals, and that such freedom is the best way yet devised by humans to deliver the greatest good to the greatest number.

I wonder what it would take to produce such a document and put it into force. Could such a society ever flourish? What would we call such a place?


Elevating “Minority Rights” over Individual Rights Yields Chaos


By Mike Cronin

Free market advocate Richard Maybury often mentions the two “laws” of human civilization: Do all that you have agreed to do; and do not encroach on others or their property. According to him, every place that has based their justice systems on these two fundamental principles (wittingly or not) have been relatively more prosperous and free than the places that have not adopted them. Maybury even coined a term for the places where these two principles hold no sway: Chaostan. It comprises, roughly: The Balkans, most of Eastern Europe, Russia and the rest of Asia (minus Japan), North Africa, and the Middle East.

The current troubles in Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan are the most recent manifestations of the chaos endemic in that region.  As long as, and to the degree that, the two laws of civilization hold no influence in that part of the world, it will remain conflicted and embattled. We should take note as our own government takes ever more liberties with its own laws (as if governments do not have to obey the same laws as individuals) and leaves us with less freedom, less order, and increasing chaos.

Two recent examples of chaos encroaching:

  1. The Ninth Circuit Court’s arbitrary ruling in California that in effect promotes Mexican culture and the “rights” of a group (Cinco de Mayo celebrants) over American culture and the rights of individuals (see my post from March 2nd).
  2. The recent cases in Colorado and Arizona that in effect promote minority rights over the rights of individuals – as if they were different. In this set of cases, the state governments have created a “right” for homosexuals to not be refused service by business owners. In other words, in Colorado and Arizona, the government is compelling business owners to conduct business that may be potentially offensive to them (providing goods or services to same-sex weddings) in order to not offend the homosexual constituency. In both cases, authorities have:

-Failed to recognize individual rights. One group does not accrue special privileges over another simply because they have lacked special privileges in the past, or because they are a minority. (If we stop and ask “what is the smallest minority?”  The answer: the individual.)

-Failed to apply the basics of the two laws: in the California case, it is no infringement, or encroachment, on the rights of the Cinco de Mayo celebrants for other student to wear patriotic American clothing, nor should it be considered an infringement for those wearing patriotic Americana to have to tolerate the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. In other words, such displays of cultural enthusiasm ought to be protected as free expression, with the realization by the celebrants that doing so does not grant a right to be protected from competing cultural enthusiasm in a public forum. In the Colorado and Arizona instances, there is no violation of individual rights if the owner of a private business refuses to do business, (i.e., declines to associate) with anyone for any reason, though it may indeed be discriminatory, bigoted, and economically unwise.

No one has the right to not be offended, but our governments are trying very hard to make it a crime to offend…some people some times.

When the government encroaches on others by telling them how they can or cannot express themselves, or compels them to conduct business that offends them, it is making a mockery of the concepts of free expression and free association and displacing the concept of the rule of law with the chaos of rule by influence and pressure.

Are You Guilty of Enjoying White Privilege?


By Mike Cronin

On the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I find myself recalling a class on multiculturalism in my MA program. During the class, one of the topics was “white privilege.”  The essence of white privilege is that being born white, especially as a male, comes with certain privileges that members of other demographic groups don’t get.  The course hinted that white men could and should feel guilty about this privilege, and that they should take unspecified actions to atone for this guilt. 

I had very mixed feelings about this. I acknowledge that, as a white American male, compared to most people in the US and the world, I have a relatively benign position in life. I even accept that due to the accident of my birth, I began life with more advantages than most. If life is a game, then I acknowledge that I started on the easiest setting.  What I could not, (and still cannot) accept, is that I should feel guilty about it.  Guilt implies wrongdoing, and wrongdoing implies a choice between right and wrong. Infants have no understanding of right and wrong, and have not developed the mental faculties to make conscious choices. I cannot be guilty of being a white male, because it is not wrong, and because I had no choice in the matter. 

That means I have nothing to atone for. On the other hand, knowing that just about every other demographic may be “playing life” on a more difficult setting than I am requires that I ask: As an adult with the ability to understand right and wrong and to make conscious choices, what should I do, if anything, about “white privilege?”  I cannot undo history, nor can I change  anyone’s heritage.  I could give money to various causes, but that would have mixed results at best. 

The answer that I arrived at: Context matters.  While, as whole, white males may get the best “starting position” of any group, all groups are made of individuals, and individual circumstances vary. Some white males had it worse than I did, and some had it better. Likewise, while as a group, Asians, blacks, Hispanics, women, or others might not have had as good a starting position as white men, there are individuals in each cohort that started life out in an even better position than I did. In other words, the answer to “white privilege” is not to feel guilty and attempt to atone for something outside of one’s control, but rather to see and interact with every person as an individual, not as a representative of a demographic group (race, ethnicity, gender, etc.). The best thing anyone can do to create a level playing field is not to dole out compensatory advantages to some members of this or that “underprivileged” group, but simply to not hate or act against others because of their differences – to not purposely be bigoted, prejudiced, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, etc. Instead, respect individuals, and be a proponent of individual rights. Since the smallest possible minority is an individual, individual rights ARE minority rights.