The Flag, Football, and Our Failure to Listen

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By the end of August 2016, America had seen two consecutive summers of police shootings pasted in the headlines. Names like Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile became commonplace as both opinions and hashtags erupted across social media. Colin Kaepernick would add his name to the list for an entirely different reason.

The NFL launched its preseason with a matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Prior to the opening kickoff, Kaepernick sat alone on the bench during the performance of the national anthem, which set off a firestorm of controversy. Kaepernick explained his protest saying, “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’s quiet dissent also came less than two months after the shooting of five white police officers during a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas. Tensions were high—and for good reason.

By week one of the 2016 season, eleven other NFL players knelt during the pre-game anthem, a number that continued to fluctuate throughout the remainder of the schedule. The silent protests drew a slew of reactions from both sides of the issue. Some praised Kaepernick for placing racial injustice on such a visible stage while others questioned his commitment to the country and accused him of disrespecting the flag.

Fast forward to 2017. A new NFL season, a new president in the White House. During a speech at a rally in Alabama on September 22, President Trump remarked, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired’?” The following day, he doubled down with numerous tweets reiterating his insistence that protests be made a fireable offense and urging Americans to refrain from watching the games.

Naturally, this drew some attention…

*You can read the rest of this article at Fathom Magazine.

Illustration Courtesy of Abigail Keenan.

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Romance, Refugees, and Magical Doors

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Mohsin Hamid has earned a reputation for writing with his finger on the pulse of the future. And his latest novel is no exception. Exit West tells the story of a young couple forced from their homeland by the threat of civil war to begin a new life. Though Hamid began writing the novel a few years ago, amidst recent headlines of nationalism, societal upheaval, and travel bans, Exit West reads as eerily prescient.

Set in an unnamed supposedly Middle Eastern country, the book begins by introducing Saeed and Nadia, natives of “a city swollen by refugees, but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war.” They meet during a night class and begin a series of dates that turn into a tender, playful relationship in contrast to their bleak surroundings. All the while, the effects of civil war creep closer to their doorstep…

*You can read the rest of this review at Fathom Magazine.

Illustration Courtesy of Oumaima Ben Chebtit.

The Commute

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The train arrived at 5:10, like it did every day on my way home. I claimed my usual seat and watched as the car filled with familiar faces of the public transit’s frequent riders. I used the rail service during seminary as a way to save money. The trip took an hour each way and required two connecting bus routes, but it helped with the bills. I normally spent the commute lost to my headphones or focused on Hebrew flashcards, but today I opted for the window, gazing drowsily through the rain-streaked glass.

On the nearby freeway, traffic crept along. Office buildings and public parks raced past my view. About halfway through the route, the track crested a slight swell where a number of billboards were strategically placed. One in particular caught my eye. It was for a waxing salon.

…I know, stay with me.

*You can read the rest of this post at Jen Pollock Michel’s blog series, “Home: Musings and Memories.”

Illustration Courtesy of Charles Forerunner.