Our Misdirected Attention

While offering a speech in Alabama eight days ago President Trump called NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem “sons of bitches” and said they should be fired.  I have  expressed my feelings about President Trump’s uncivilized behavior in two previous posts, so I’ll just let it go. Since I asked readers to defend his actions and nobody was willing to do so I must assume his behavior is indefensible.

I’ve read all the posts, memes, and comments on both sides of this issue that I can stomach at this point. Like it or not, the bottom line is that the football players are legally and peacefully protesting racial injustice, and that injustice is real. Numerous studies confirm that fact, but this piece from the Constitutional Rights Foundation offers a brief summary.

And yes, I know the players are protesting while “on the clock” because I’ve read that argument dozens of times this week, but that is between the players and the teams’ owners. If the owners want to take action that is their prerogative, but it is a labor issue (and it seems that most owners are supporting the protests). And if you don’t like the players interrupting your football game with a form of protest that you find offensive you can choose to watch Andy Griffith reruns instead. That is what freedom is all about.

But prior to President Trump’s Alabama proclamation the protests were a very minor part of Sunday afternoon football because only a handful of players participated. Thanks to his comments the protests are now widespread and growing. I’m pretty certain that was intentional because it diverted a large portion of the public’s attention from the breaking news that the President’s son-in-law and other White House officials were using private email to discuss public business, the removal of Sudan and addition of Chad and Venezuela to the restricted immigration list (for reasons the President was unable to articulate), the fact that the investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence last year’s election is intensifying, the continued war of words between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, the pending failure of yet another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and other bad news coming out of the White House and Washington.

And it worked!! News outlets and Facebook conversations have been focused on football players rather than things that really matter.

Here are some things you might have missed while our attention was diverted:

  • Since the Alabama proclamation a three year old in Philadelphia accidentally shot his uncle,  a toddler at a Detroit daycare found a handgun and accidentally shot two children, a little two year old boy in St. Louis accidentally killed his father with a gun, and a three year old boy in Ohio accidentally killed himself while playing with a gun. Sad statistic: American children accidentally shoot others or themselves about once each week on average.
  • Approximately 175,000 children have starved to death in the last eight days even though there is enough food on the planet for everyone.
  • After reaching historic lows in 2014 the American murder rate reached 25-year high rates in 2015 and has increased the last three years. Most, but not all, of that increase is a result of murders in a few large cities, especially Chicago.  An average of 44 people are murdered each day, so that’s about 350 Americans dead by violence since the Alabama proclamation.
  • On average about 160,000 American kids stay home from school each day because of fear of being bullied. That means there have been about a million absences since the Alabama proclamation.
  • Every 25 minutes an American baby is born with severe withdrawal symptoms, usually from heroin, cocaine, meth, or pain killers. That means that more than 375 addicted babies have been born since the Alabama proclamation.
  • Since the planet is suffering about 80,000 acres of man-made deforestation each day,  we’ve lost almost 900,000 acres of forest since President Trump’s Alabama proclamation. Since we also destroy about 135 plant, animal, and insect species each day …. well, you can do the math.  And, by the way, coral reefs are dying faster than are rain forests because of the CO2 being released into the atmosphere.

I could continue, but if you are still reading you are certainly depressed by now.

So for goodness sake lets focus on athletes taking a knee or locking arms rather than discussing life and death issues that impact real people. And, by the way, it is precisely life and death issues that are at the center of the athletes’ peaceful protests.

Our attention to things that really matter is being diverted by politicians and the media. When President Trump gets us to focus on symbolic issue such as the flag that means we are ignoring issues of substance. My classes have heard me make this argument for almost four decades. We are led to focus on red meat issues such as gun control, abortion, and crime so we forget about other things that matter. President Trump has taken such misdirection to a whole new level.