1. It’s Tuesday, October 10, 2017.
2. It’s the 60th anniversary of President Dwight Eisenhower’s apology to the finance minister of Ghana, Nobla Gbedemah.
While visiting Dover, Del., Gbedemah and a companion stopped at a Howard Johnson’s for an orange juice. They were given the juice in paper cups and told to take them outside, that the restaurant would not serve them.
Gbedemah complained. Eventually, Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard Nixon, invited Gbedemah to the White House for breakfast.
Now, there are indications that Gbedemah was a bit of a character. According to accounts, he had a falling out with Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah, who suspected Gbedemah of plotting a coup. He won a parliamentary election in 1969, but was denied his seat by the nation’s highest court and quit politics.
But you can’t fault the man for raising a stink about how he was treated at Howard Johnson’s.
You can’t fault any man or woman for complaining about being denied service or fair access or any kind of justice on the basis of their race.
3. Here’s a reminder: The power of how the NFL players and others are protesting racial injustice is driving their opponents crazy.
If they really wanted to disrespect the flag, the national anthem or veterans – as Trump, Pence and others who have wet their pants over this thing scream – there are more graphic ways to do it. They could shout invective or sing some other song while the anthem is playing. They could desecrate the flag. They could shun veterans.
They have chosen a gesture, kneeling, that a normal world wouldn’t see as wrong. That a normal world would see as reflective on the anthem – rather than just standing there wondering what plays the offense is running on the first series of downs.
By being respectful, they have given more power to the point – that there is racial injustice in this country that needs to be addressed. That the solution to the flap over whether police conduct toward African-Americans isn’t some mindless demand for worship of cops by people losing their reason to trust them.
Pence has no desire to solve any problems. If he did, if he actually had the wherewithal to be a leader instead of a sanctimonious leech, he would have met the players in Indianapolis and discussed why they were doing what they were doing.
Instead, the miserable Trump puppy did what the owner told him to do, and walked out of Sunday’s game. It was a political stunt, pure and simple, and if it didn’t backfire on this joke of a human being then the joke is on those who fell for it.
There’s a grievance. That’s what these players and thousands of others in society are saying. It doesn’t go away like a head cold or a zit. Trying to browbeat it away – or, worse, questioning the Americanism of the people expressing it, only seeks division to exploit and make political capital.
There’s a lot of pressure on these athletes – who, let’s face it, would be in politics and not sports if that’s what they did best. Their ability to make a living on their skills is extremely limited – by both the degree of their talent and their age. So protesting civil injustice can’t be an easy choice, even for the most radical among them.
If Pence was a man and not a squealing Republican hamster, he’d apologize for what he did last Sunday. The NFL players are protesting, respectfully but sincerely. In the process of kissing the boss’ ass, he disrespected not just the players, but the flag and the anthem being presented.
I know. Fat chance.
But solving the nation’s problems requires teamwork, not a bludgeon. And certainly not stunts or insulting tweets. Here’s to hoping.