The Story Which Is Not A Story That We Keep Talking About Because It's So Not A Story, Thereby Making It a Story: When Corn told me he had written about Josh's little video escapade, I prepared myself for an onslaught of comments that would strip the skin from my bones and leave me begging for mercy. So when it turned out that I not only agreed with his position, but was impressed with his tact and approach, well... my universe fell apart a little bit. Of course, this didn't stop the race discussion from boiling up from the ground and making me saunter back and forth over the 'delete comment' button. What stood out, and I totally expected this, was that so many people missed the point. And I can't speak for Corn, but to me the biggest issue is not what Josh said, it's how he said it and where he said it.
When I was in ninth grade, my 'girfriend' (can you have girlfriends at 14?) was going to break up with me, I had heard through the grapevine. As I sauntered into first period Algebra in my nice, safe, clean, unfathomably white classroom (and I don't mean the walls), I was full of teenage angst. Screw the world. So when we were instructed to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance, I hesitated. I didn't feel like it. When prompted, my little angsty white teenage self got uppity and whoop! Flipped off the American flag. Yeah.
In the vice-principle's office, coming to quick terms with the inordinate amount of trouble I had landed myself in, I was penitent. The Vice Principle quickly asked me the requisite questions to avoid a lawsuit. Was my act of unbelievable disrespect part of any political statement? No? I'm sure? No? Okay, then you're suspended for a week. That didn't bother me as much. That's not bad for hyper-conservative Arkansas. "Oh, and I'm calling your father. He was in the Navy, wasn't he?" That's bad.
I've done some dumb things in my life. That one sticks out there at the top. This became painfully clear to me when my dad drove me to the nearby war memorial and gave me a twenty minute lecture without looking me in the eye. I've felt lower than that in my life, but not very freaking often.
Josh Howard and I have nothing in common. I've never faced racism against me, though I saw it a lot in Arkansas towards other people, particularly two of my best friends who were Korean. I haven't had to rise up from poverty, I had a nice stable family environment, I've never been in legal trouble (*knock on wood), and I have absolutely no idea what it means to be black or African-American. I don't know anything about it. I can't empathize, sympathize, or relate. If you ask me if there should be reparations for slavery? I say yes. If you ask me if I support affirmative action? I say yes. I can see the arguments on both sides, that's just where I end up on the matter. And if you ask me if there's still enough racism both in our history and existent in today's society to justify a black person having negative feelings towards this country and a song written nearly 200 years ago by a slave-owner? I'll emphatically tell you yes.
But to me it seems like that has little to do with Josh Howard.
Josh Howard said something on a camera held by someone he knows during a charity flag football event. He didn't go on Dateline. He didn't go on ESPN. He didn't elaborate on his feelings, beliefs, or perception of reality. He just said something on tape. Is there probably some truth in regards to how he feels about this country in that ten second clip? Yes. Is it enough to weigh his opinion in the court of public values and determine his understanding of patriotic sacrifice or the beneficial freedoms that America has provided him and his family, despite the hardships he's encountered? No. He popped off on videotape. "I'm black" isn't an answer to the question "Why do you have an issue with the national anthem?" It's just a guy popping off because he doesn't think the entire world is going to hear him say it.
He got blasted on local radio today, which was predictable. The unfathomably droll host even used the awesome phrase "Love it or leave it." If there was ever a statement more contrary to the foundation of this country's principles, that one is both the most popular and more outrageous. But it goes to show you how we react to such a small and pointless statement. This doesn't mean Josh hates America. It doesn't mean he has a deep urge to stand in defiance of a past rife with bloodletting, cruelty, and human rights violations. And it doesn't mean that he fails to recognize the respect due to those that gave their lives for the protection of our freedoms and way of life, or those that continue to do so (albeit in misguided campaigns they have been drug into by poor leadership). It just means he needs to learn that anything that goes on camera is probably going to end up on the internet, and he should react as such.
The point is that I have severe issues with how America has treated and continues to treat its racial issues, gender issues, gay rights issues. I have a certain disgust for how we gloss over our rampant violations of human decency that pepper our past. I also have a deep, heartfelt love, appreciation, and respect for all those that have given or dedicated their lives in defense of this country, and want them to be provided the respect and support they deserve. None of that has anything to do with what an immature 9th grader did one morning over a girl that wore hoop earrings. Nor do any of Josh's thoughts or feelings have to do with a YouTube clip from July where he's on camera for less than a minute. You can't sum up a person's relation to their country in three minutes, be it a YouTube clip, a national anthem, or an act of youthful defiance.
And even then, for us to take Howard to town based on our interpretations of his thoughts and feelings is, as Corn pointed out, unnecessary and socially clumsy. If the guy in the cubicle next to you felt that way, but didn't go out of his way to express it, would it bother you? No, you care about whether he gets that report you need done on time. Same with your investment broker, mechanic, or babysitter. You care about how they do their job. That's what we should care about with Josh Howard. Whether or not he's good at a game he's paid to play. Everything else is self-grandizing so that we can feel patriotic, mature, or socially superior. As beneath Josh as it was to make such an offhand comment with no regard for its implications on camera, it's equally beneath us to have Josh brought to judgment, celebration, critique, or defense over something which has nothing to do with Howard's place in our society, nor our own state of social equality. It's not just that this isn't a big deal, it's that it's not formulaic in a way that even lends itself to the level of discussion it has garnered, nor the vitriol it has created in comment sections, watercooler conversations, and media criticism. If we want to uphold the values this country was idealistically founded on, let's focus on the problems we have, how to solve them, and how to make Josh Howard not as alone as he probably feels at this moment in time.
When Crazy Pills Is Giving You Advice, You Know You've F*cked Up: Ron Artest weighed in on Josh's little proclamation.
"I think josh howards comment is a reflection on education. I think the schools need to teach deeper in the history classes and make the students aware of racism but also teach them that all people are not bad. "I can relate to not feeling wanted by my own country at times but as I dug deeper I realized that America is divided and we need leaders to bring America closer together. An example where I felt unwanted by my country was when I didn't get a chance to tryout for my national team. I believed it was because my history.
I hope he overcomes this.
First off, when I logged on tonight, I thought to myself, "You know, someone should really ask Ron Artest what he thinks about this." And boom. Sam Amick is a Golden God. Family 1st. I love the fact that Ron 1. thinks Josh Howard needs better education, 2. uses this as a platform to complain about Team USA not unleashing him upon China where he obviously would have fought the Great Wall and won and 3. comes off seeming sane and rational. Ron does this, and it's my favorite part about him. He's not like Rodman where everything he says is nonsensical to the point it's boring and predictable. It's like he's fine, he's fine, he's fine, he's fine, BAM! CRAZY PILLS SNAKE EGGS! He's fine, he's fine, he's fine. It's the best part about Ron and why I cannot wait for him to be in the national spotlight with the Rockets.
What's Eating Gilbert's Knee: Do you ever stop and think about how you react to a guy's injury? I mean essentially, we express anxiety, displeasure, or glee over the pain and damage of another human being. Gilbert's a great example of this. Honestly, my big reaction is that Arenas needs to STFU up until he can put together a quality stretch of playing time equaling at least three months. He's a huge star that wanted to get paid, wanted his big pool, loves being in the spotlight, but hasn't actually played for a significant stretch in two years. I mean, at some point, you need to actually play the game, you know? But then I realize that essentially, I'm mad at Arenas for his behavior regarding actual pain he's going through. I'm a Chiefs fan, so I've lobbed around my fair share of jokes about Brodie Croyle's inability to stay healthy. But man, if I had a shoulder injury and people were making jokes about it? That's not cool.
But outside of the social context of injury discussions, this doesn't suck that bad for the Wizards. They made it a year without Arenas last year, they can make it a month this year. The only problem is that they're between a rock and a hard place. If they don't do reasonably well that first month, it could cost them homecourt in the 1st round, which they desperately, desperately need. If they burn the candle at both ends, though, you're going to end up with durability issues like Caron suffered last year, and Caron Butler is the most important player on that team. Jamison is the most productive, but Butler is the focal point, the nexus, the engine for that squad. They need him healthy. Pick your poison.
Arenas, no jumping in the pool. Rest the freaking knee.
Make sure you check out Ridiculous Upside for the 2001 ReDraft.