The Spectator
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 by Laramie Boyd
What Does Contentious Mean Today?
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         One Rick Hampson, writing in a section of The Desert Sun, a daily newspaper circulated in and around Palm Springs, asked the question "What does democracy mean today?", and gave a few possible answers. Of course the answer(s) to that question would probably depend on who you asked, whether Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Libertarian, Independent, or whatever other political persuasion. And the number of answers might be countless and of course varying 180 degrees depending on one's perspective. Hampson offered the following as a partial list of possible characteristics of a democracy: the cast of a Broadway show harassing the vice-president-elect of the United States while he was sitting in the audience; alt-righters gathering in Washington D.C. shouting "Heil" during a speech on Nazi propaganda; democrats in the streets shouting "Not my president", while others carried "Black Lives Matter" signs; elected officials caught telling lies or having sexual encounters in the White House and not having to answer for it ; and Colin Kaepernick, a professional football player, kneeling, rather than standing up, on national TV during the playing of the national anthem, and later saying he has never voted because he will not show support for his government's oppression of minorities. (I wonder why he chose now, and not in his early days of his "non-voting", to protest?) Then there is the idea that there is democracy and then there is what Vladimir Putin's supporters call managed democracy. The Financial Times explained that democracy, for one thing, was where the authorities arranged elections, while in a managed democracy, authorities arranged elections, and the results. Clearly, democracy sometimes allows numbers of very unpopular points of view and actions. Democracy is somewhat like child pornography. It's hard to define, but if you look hard you recognize it when you see it.
        Mr. Hampson made this comment in his article: "A record 77% of Americans say the nation is divided on fundamental values, when even one's posture during the national anthem is contentious." Does Mr. Hampson believe, using the word even, that such a "posture" that Colin Kaepernick displayed at a professional football game shouldn't have been noticed, or was quite natural? That statement struck me as going in a similar direction as re-defining words, a popular trend in the socio-political world nowadays. Kneeling is certainly a posture, as standing on one's head would be, say, during taking communion from the Pope, but would certainly be noticed. To say, for example, that "even standing on one's head during communion given by the Pope" was contentious begs the question, is such an act more or less routine, or at the least, reasonable? To imply that there was no cause for Kaepernick's kneeling to be seen as unusual, seemed a much too liberal, even off-base response. To me, Kaepernick's kneeling had some kind of religious overtone, as certainly kneeling is closely aligned with religion. Kneeling certainly has more meaning than just standing. Maybe Colin could have just turned his back, or held up two fists, remember, or perform any number of other "postures", in order to get his point across. But over and above that issue, what struck me about the article was when the writer called the act of posing in that posture contentious.
        For to say that something is contentious, I would guess, to most people would mean that the something would result in much discussion and disagreement. But the meaning of the word contentious also includes a "perverse, wearisome" tendency to quarrels and disputes. Considering that perverse means turning away from what is right and good, or reasonable, the word contentious adds another dimension to calling out Colin Kaepernick's behavior as contentious. To me what it meant was that Mr. Hampson felt Kaepernick's act was not aimed at just hoping it would stimulate rhetoric, but that he was rejecting a good idea, and a reasonable idea it was, that of standing up during the playing of the national anthem. Whether it was true or not, whether many or most people agreed with him that the government was oppressive of minorities or not was not the point. Kneeling was not contentious only because it caused people to disagree and quarrel, it was distasteful to most because standing up for the national anthem is, by the definition of the word contentious, a reasonable thing to do, a right thing to do, in America. And, without a doubt, the vast majority of the good citizens of this great country feel that way, and they "even" resent the venue of the disrespect shown by Kaepernick, and that is the reason he is on the 10 most hated men in America list today. The point here is not whether he has the right to do what he did, and say the things he did. The Constitution grants the right to peaceably protest, as he did, and doesn't prescribe the venue, but also grants the right of the reaction of those in disagreement with the manner in which the protest is made.
        It's the old story of some people enjoying the freedoms and rights of expression in our country, and then those same people condemning the country that gives them those rights and freedoms. Democracy isn't easy, for sure. Our current president once said, "Democracy, in a nation of 300 million, can be noisy and messy and complicated." Bill Dayton from Sevierville, Tennessee added, "Democracy is a fragile process that cannot be taken for granted". And former president Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower, in writing to his wife Mamie way back in 1942, said, "If we believe in democracy, to justify that, we must fight like dogs." And, as his pious mother would have added, and pray like saints. Would it be sanctimonious if we all knelt and asked God to bless America? Maybe more Americans need to bless America, or their democracy may be doomed to failure.