The Universal Notebook: Oh, say can you sit?

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick seems an unlikely dissident. Doubtless many football fans didn’t even know he was biracial before he decided not to stand for the national anthem as a silent protest against racism and violence against black people.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained.

Kaepernick’s national anthem protest has provoked a great deal of soul searching, breast beating and tub thumping about the meaning of patriotism, a possibly meaningless term in a nation so divided.

Those on the right seem to want to force everyone to salute the flag and stand for the anthem. That’s not patriotism, that’s nationalism. Social conservatives don’t seem to recognize that dissent is patriotic, except when it serves their cause, such as defending the Second Amendment as though it granted them the inalienable right to overthrow the government by armed force.

In its most twisted and virulent form, this sort of “patriotism” is embodied in the Alabama minister who said anyone who does not stand for the national anthem should be shot. That’s not Christian or American.

Those on the left believe that if we are not free to sit during the playing of the national anthem, it dishonors millions of veterans who have served their country, that “You are not free to choose, you must do what you are told.” That’s not freedom, that’s dictatorship. My guess is most people think Kaepernick has every right to refuse to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner,” but also think there are better ways to take a stand (or take a knee) for racial justice.

I have heard people argue that the 1st Amendment guarantees Kaepernick and the handful of NFL players who have followed suit the freedom of speech to protest during the playing of the anthem. Actually, it doesn’t. The First Amendment only protects Americans from government infringements on free speech. It does not prevent private employers or coaches from doing so. There is no such thing as free speech in the workplace. Say or do something that displeases the powers-that-be and you can lose your job or your starting position. Kaepernick, who has a six-year $114 million contract, has staged his protest at considerable professional risk. He obviously believes in what he is doing.

Seattle Reign soccer player Megan Rapinoe, who is a lesbian, took up the cause, taking a knee during the anthem in solidarity with Kaepernick to protest the oppression of all minorities. But the next game, her protest was nipped in the bud when the owner of the home-team Washington Spirit had the national anthem played before the teams took the field. Spirit owner Bill Lynch had every right to deny Rapinoe a forum for her protest, but it wasn’t necessarily a smart move.

Just so, South Portland High School athletic director Todd Livingston tried to get out ahead of any Kaepernick copycats by tweeting that Red Riot players and fans should “face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart” when the national anthem is played. That is the anthem etiquette prescribed in the U.S. Code, but the U.S. Code does not prescribe any punishment or penalty for not standing during the anthem. That’s because the government can’t force you to salute the flag or stand for the anthem. I wonder what the punishment might be for a South Portland football player who decides Colin Kaepernick has the right idea?

All the attention Kaepernick has brought to the national anthem has made some Americans better informed about the “The Star-Spangled Banner” and its racist history. Not only was Francis Scott Key a slave owner, but the man who penned the phrase “the land of the free and the home of the brave” also once wrote that Africans in America were “a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

And the unsung third stanza of our national anthem boasts that “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/ From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” a reference to runaway black slaves who fought for the British in the War of 1812.

So Colin Kaepernick seems to have chosen a very appropriate way to call attention to racism in America, simply refusing to stand for a song with a suspect racial history that is the anthem of a country that has elected a black president, but still hasn’t achieved anything like racial equality.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • Jimmy_John67

    It is a special kind of ignorance and hate when a person bemoans a divided country while at the same time accepting only certain opinions and hurling insults and lies at those who don’t share those opinions. Ed Beem is a weekly example of this kind of blind, ignorant hate which is the thing truly dividing the country.

    • EABeem

      You don’t get the irony do you? You hurl insults at me week after week out of blind, ignorant hate. You’re as bad as you say I am. Worse, because you don’t have the courage to put your name and face on your opinions.

      • David R. Hill

        Given the lack of substance in those comments, I wonder if he even reads your column or if he doesn’t just register his disgust prior to publication.

        • EABeem

          Oh, I assume he reads it about as closely as I read the comments of the frequent fliers in the comments section. But, yes, all I ever get from JJ, Poppycock and few others are personal assessments of my personality and character.

      • Jimmy_John67

        You are a bit of a dullard aren’t you Ed? As I have pointed out many many times in the past, I never attack you because of your opinions. Your opinions are yours and they don’t bother me in the least whether I agree with them or not. I only ever attack your approach and the uncivilized and hateful way you denigrate anyone and everyone who doesn’t agree with you. It’s devisive, shameful and indicative of an angry, ignorant bully. I don’t hate your Ed, I feel sorry for you and the extreme anger and insecurity that is inside you.

        By the way, the for the umpteenth time this is my name. Serious question, have you been checked for early onset dementia lately?

        • EABeem

          You really are clueless. You think up every vicious thing you can say about me and think that’s just fine. But if I badmouth some shitpoke like LePage or Trump who has it coming, I’m being divisive. Well, you have earned my scorn. Now find the courage to stop crawling around on your anonymous hands and knees, stand up straight and identify yourself. Until you can do that, you are back on the no fly list.

          • Jimmy_John67

            Oh no not the no fly list! Whatever shall I do for the whole week until you can’t help but respond!!

            Seriously though Ed, I am really concerned about your mental health. I don’t know how many times I need to repeat that I am giving my real name. Someone named “Edgar Allan Beem” should never question the veracity of someone’s name. Quoth the raven, you are a moron.

    • splurker

      For an opinion column – he really has you in a tizzy doesn’t he? Yet, I can totally see you waiting by your keyboard on Monday waiting for his column to drop so you can rage..

      • EABeem

        There are a handful of faithful critics who pop up week after week, never seeming to understand that 1) I don’t mind their criticism, 2) they attach way too much importance to an opinion column in a local weekly and 3) the editor and publisher like the fact that people get upset and respond.

        • Jimmy_John67

          Oh Ed, we both know it isn’t true that you don’t mind the criticism. If it was true you wouldn’t feel the need to respond to every criticism. No matter how many times you put anyone on the not so dreaded “no fly list” you can never help but respond to them in a matter of weeks or sometimes days. You are just like Trump and LePage in that you say you don’t mind the criticism while at the same time feeling the need to respond to every real or perceived slight. It is a prime personality trait of insecure bullies.

        • Ted

          “…3) the editor and publisher like the fact that people get upset and respond.”

          This confirms my suspicion. Not because editors and publishers like active engagement with their media sites, but because they are actively engaged in fueling the crass and sometimes hateful discontent that is getting ever worse – a cynical and harmful ploy that leads me to conclude that the media is a key participant in the rapid decline of this country. And I am not alone in this sentiment.

          An excellent editorial on the CNN site addresses this issue very well, IMO: “Indeed, this election has been ugly. It has consistently raised more questions than answers, provoked more problems than solutions. So much so it makes you wonder if the whole system isn’t falling apart. I used to think Congress and Washington were broken, but this electoral season reveals broader and deeper dysfunctions: the intractability of the two-party system, the dubious role of the media, and the polarized, crass, uncivil, uneducated, sensationalist, shallow and self-absorbed national culture.”

          • I can assure you the editor neither enjoys the level of discourse often displayed here nor, as another reader suggested, censors comments on this or any other column or story (in fact, he rarely reads them). Comments on our website are unmoderated. If you observe the rules of decency, don’t break any laws, don’t try to sell stuff, etc., you can play along — no matter how angry, crass, ignorant or insulting your rant or opinion may be. If you break the rules, and can’t put a couple dozen words together without throwing in an expletive, or libeling someone, or using racist, perjorative language, Disqus — not the editor, not the publisher, not the writer — will automatically yank your comment. And, I can assure you, the editor is in no hurry to review those “pending” comments.

          • Ted

            You missed my point, Mo, and your scolding was mostly mis-spent on me – I try very hard not to get personal or crass.

            What I tried to say, perhaps too wordily, was that the media is not blameless in the spiraling level of discourse in this country. If you “like the fact that people get upset and respond,” it seems you wouldn’t mind so much that folks don’t always “observe the rules of decency.” That door swings both ways.

            Here’s a gift to you (and probably Ed and Steve): I will no longer post to The Forecaster comments section. For reasons we have both alluded to, there simply is not enough value in even reading these posts anymore. I’m going back to where most of the decent stuff hangs out – print.

      • Jimmy_John67

        It is Tuesday buddy not Monday.. Maybe lay off the sauce a bit.

        • splurker

          Gosh, by durnded if your little troll fingers done put me in my place..!

          • Jimmy_John67

            Nice comeback dude! You are about as original as New Coke. Now go upstairs I hear your mommy calling you for dinner.

          • splurker

            What? Two in a row? Look at you as king troll!!

            Dinners ready, gotta go and eat, mom gets mad if we don’t eat by 730..

    • Aliyah33

      Jimmy_John67, have you ever gotten a “Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by The Forecaster” message before “they” post?

      • EABeem

        I have.

      • Jimmy_John67

        I can’t say that I have ever received that message before. I don’t think it is Ed Beem stalling your posting though. As poor as I think his character is I don’t think he would censor a comment like that. In fact, Ed himself had some of his comments deleted about a month ago across two articles. Not sure if he deleted them himself due to certain “familial pressures” or the editor deleted them but even Ed seems to be subject to comment moderation and limitations in certain instances.

        Who knows though, perhaps whomever has moderation power over the comments thinks Beem is a hypocritical bully as well 🙂

        • Aliyah33

          I’ll go with the “bromance”, lol. And a caveat to others; censorship occurs regularly at The Forecaster, and particularly in The Universal Notebook. You and Ed (this’ll probably be censored now because I typed his name) have a regular go at it, and it’s rather funny by this point. Bromance 🙂

          • EABeem

            I have no control whatsoever over other people’s comments. I have had that Hold On message pop up many times and had my comments deleted on a few occasions.

          • Aliyah33

            If I could copy and reprint what I’d written, I would (and tried), but the system won’t allow it. Seems to me “they’d” allow you to see it. If not, why not? Very disturbing censoring is occurring and, in this case, simply for repeating facts. What’s going on with this publication, Ed?

          • EABeem

            I think editor Mo Mehlsak explained elsewhere in these comments that it is Disqus and not The Forecaster that decides whether posts are appropriate. I somehow imagine that there are certain trigger words that prompt a review, both obscenities and potentially hurtful words. I have also occasionally gotten Hold On notices when I have tried to paste a link to something or when I have copied and pasted text or when my comments ran extremely long. Bottomline, no one should expect to have anything and everything they write published.

          • Aliyah33

            Bottomline, I didn’t write (nor do I write) anything remotely as obscenities nor potentially hurtful words. Therefore, bottomline, Ed – is censorship, and totally at odds with freedom of speech. For what reason? Now that’s something to think about.

          • EABeem

            Freedom of speech only prevents the government from censoring what you write. It does not mean a newspaper, magazine or employer can’t.

          • Chew H Bird

            Actually, all comments go through an automated filtering process and those that are discarded are placed in a queue to be reviewed by each individual newspapers assigned person. because comments are a low priority at all newspapers sometimes they are not checked in a timely manner. I have had several comments placed in this queue (for multiple newspapers) because of automated filters. I have found certain words, (often the correct and non-inflammatory words) may cause comments to be placed in the spam queue.

            I know this because I have administered and moderated message boards for almost 20 years and have spent the past 30 in the IT industry. It is “censorship” in the purest form but it is not intended to be personalized or censored based on regular content. No automated system is 100% all the time. I remember seeing things like “Crystal Pepsi” being censored, or “albino deer” being censored. It is just an automated system…

          • Aliyah33

            Thank you, Chew. If you’ve not read a recent interview with Clint Eastwood re same political correctness, specifically words, you may find it interesting (although Eastwood is very blunt in calling us currently in a “-ussy generation”) … isn’t it still necessary for human input in flagging such words? I wonder also if, given your IT background, do you find it disturbing it appears our internet will be handed over to the UN, Oct 1st? (some U.S. legislators may be able to postpone the handover by a few months). Freedom of speech may be lost…

          • Chew H Bird

            Default word and phrase censorship was created many years ago, based on words and phrases. Now the tweaks are on algorithms and some minimal human input. The internet is global so there are many languages to monitor and many automated protocols that sometimes screw up.

            As for Icann, the USA already censors stuff. I have no idea how the UN and whatever commission will change, or not, the censorship of the public internet regarding the ability to access… DNS is what makes the internet work, but search engines are what allow most of us to find things even of they are only in the background. Censorship has been growing since the first web page was created. Much of the internet has to do with DNS and nothing to do with the WWW. I have no idea how it will play out.

          • Aliyah33

            I truly appreciate your expertise. Definitely, I’ve had to input various questions, phrases to access information, and understand the problems…control of access to information through search engines. It’s difficult to find much re Icann and switch of U.S. internet to private corporations outside the U.S.A. as it’s not a focus of mainstream media, and not on the public’s radar. But the fact it’s going private, a decision by Obama, and outside our country is a red flag to me. Thanks again, Chew.

          • Aliyah33

            Ed, this is from Disqus: “While Disqus provides many moderation tools, Disqus does not moderate any content (outside of automated spam cleanup). Moderation is at the discretion of each site’s owners.”

          • Jimmy_John67

            Ha ha! Glad you enjoy. I find it fun as well. Unfortunately, like most adult bullies, when Ed is confronted with the truth and some resistance he runs away. Luckily his insecurity will get the best of him eventually and he won’t be able to resist responding for long.

  • Charles Martel

    Just what I expected from a burned out leftover 60’s hippie. Once again, The Forecaster’s favorite Marxist takes the wrong position by agreeing with Kaepernick’s assessment that we’re “a country that opposes black people and people of color.”

    Where on the planet do black people have more economic opportunity, freedom and individual rights than this country? What race is the president, his Senior Adviser, the AG, the UN Ambassador, the Secretaries of Homeland Security or Transportation?

    Fyi, the Average NFL salary is $2.15m and is 68.7% black. (The NBA $4.9m/74.4% black).
    Shall we discuss the entertainment industry?

    Kaepernick “obviously believes in what he’s doing.” But, his believing in his protest is not the same as actual knowledge of the facts. Also, claiming that Francis Scott Key’s song had “a suspect racial history” is specious and does not acknowledge that our country brought an end to slavery 150 years ago with 620,000 deaths on both sides while later adding the 13th, 14th & 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    Did you know Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Ness Diab, with super intellectual credentials as an MTV DJ, is a Muslim and has also shown support for Fidel Castro? Muslims were historically the major players in their 1400 year slave trade which was far larger and more brutal than the 300 year colonial slave trade. But, why bother with real facts when it’s so convenient to push a false narrative?

    • Tom Woodruff

      You do bring up some interesting points, which help to show these matters are complex, and don’t respond to simple answers. I like that Mr. Beem states that, ” My guess is most people think Kaepernick has every right to refuse to stand for “The Star Spangled Banner,” but also think there are better ways to take a stand (or take a knee) for racial justice.” This is my feeling, too.
      I don’t think Mr. Kaepernick is protesting his own salary or opportunities; that would seem obvious. I think he means to protest what the Donald might call a “rigged system.” Only not rigged against the privileged, rather against those who were brought to this continent against their will, separated from families, subjected to slavery, and now profiled and (seemingly) killed with impunity. Sure, their are superstars – who doesn’t want to be one? Meanwhile, what of everyone else? That just might be the point he tries to make.

      • Charles Martel

        As you know superstar athletes, entertainers and elite politicians all have various levels of protection. Average citizens usually do not.

        Slavery is historical to nearly every nation not just for blacks. Remember Ben-Hur?

        “Middle English: shortening of Old French esclave, equivalent of medieval Latin sclava (feminine) ‘Slavic (captive)’: some South Slavic peoples had been reduced to a servile state by conquest in the 9th century.”

        Currently, estimates are as high as 30 million slaves still exist to this day – India 14m, China 2.9m, Pakistan 2.1 etc.

        There’s no doubt that some racism exists in this country but much of it is fabricated by paid anarchists operating under front groups such as Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), CPUSA, CCDS, DSA and so on. Google “The Roots of Black Lives Matter” by Jim Simpson.

        All this information is available to the so-called journalists but it’s not in their interest to do any legitimate research. That’s why the mainstream media has little to no credibility or respect.

        • Tom Woodruff

          oh, thank god for fox news!

  • tiresias75

    I found this column fascinating, because I am ashamed to admit that until I read it I had not realized that there were 4 verses – and there is certainly a reason why verse #3 doesn’t get more positive press! So, thank you, Colin Kaepernick, and Ed Beem, for reminding us of the hidden messages in the National Anthem, and that the War of 1812 involved more than Dolly Madison and the Gilbert Stuart portrait!

  • poppypapa

    Eddie: “the land of the free and the home of the brave” also once wrote that
    Africans in America were “a distinct and inferior race of people, which
    all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a

    Let us paraphrase that to describe his beloved self’s words:

    “also regularly writes that those on the right in America are a distinct and inferior class of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

    But don’t worry; we still hear “We love you Eddie, oh yes we do…” playing softly in the fruits and nuts section at Hannafords.

    And congrats on your clever scrambling of four-letter word gutter talk.

    Before you even suggest it, spare me the ‘anonymity’ tripe. You’ve outed me so many times that if your readers don’t remember, is just adds to how memorable they find your words.

    • EABeem

      As is often the case, I have no idea what you are trying to say. Clever scrambling? Do you mean shitpoke? It’s a bird.

  • funfundvierzig

    As a passionate believer in freedom of speech, in my opinion, this hostile quarterback has every legal right, every Constitutional right to express himself in any fashion he wants, irrespective of public opinion, or anyone else’s opinion.

    But that said, his venue was just plain wrong. Families gathered at the stadium for a football game, not for a vulgar and abusive racial protest promoting the police-hating Black Lives Matter movement.

    Something is really amiss when the Hate America First crowd in the media and in the corrupt Clinton Camp brand individuals with deep down pride in their country as “nativist” and “xenophobic” and “bigot”. And the race-pandering Hillary wonders why her poll numbers are collapsing faster than she did at the 9/11 ceremony in 77F temperature?


  • funfundvierzig

    The editors and owners of the Forecaster are to commended for publishing a wide spectrum of readers’ views with very little CENSORSHIP. And Mr. Beam is to be commended for his assiduous responses to all readers, regardless of their bent.

    Contrast the Forecaster with the CENSORSHIP practice of the Portland Press Herald, where at least of a score of the undersigned’s comments critical of Hillary Clinton was summarily CENSORED, deleted without warning or explanation. I dared to question the character and integrity of their pantsuited preference for President. Even mild humour was CENSORED, banned.

    That said, the Management and editors of the Press Herald, a privately owned enterprise, have every legal right to filter and distort news and to engage in CENSORSHIP to advance their leftist ideology and protect Mrs. Clinton. It’s called Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Speech in America. But the Press Herald cannot claim to be serving the full Maine community, only less than half. Nor can they cling to the fiction of journalistic integrity.

    The Forecaster to its credit appears to serve everyone in the community, regardless of his or her ideas and political leanings. Thank you, Forecaster; thank you Mr. Beam.