Back in February 1980 Chicago suffered through the City's 1st and only Firefighters strike. Chicago's residents were suddenly left with minimal fire protection and ambulance service. Chicago's Mayor Jane Byrne and the City's Firefighters Union played a game of chicken to see who would blink first. While running for the office of Mayor of Chicago ,Jane Byrne promised the Firefighters Union what was considered at the time an innovation, a written contract but had not fulfilled her promise. The strike lasted 23 days, during which 24 people died in fires. In the end Rev. Jesse Jackson nudged the two sides back to the bargaining table. Ultimately the strike ended and the Firefighters Union got their written contract. However the strike left an unforeseen consequence. Some Firefighters chose not to strike with their fellow Firefighters, and Mayor Byrne had hired over 300 replacement Firefighters to try and bridge the gap. All these men then were assigned back to the various firehouse's to live and work together. My only words to describe it was "IN YOU DREAMS"
Being a Chicago cop and living and working in the City my entire life, hundreds of fireman and their families were by friends, several relatives were also fireman, neighbors included, and to say it was a difficult time would be a monster understatement. Soon it was father against son, brother against brother, life long friends, against friends, scabs against strikers. The situation was so caustic, and toxic, it was impossible to be on the outside. Demands were made, me or him, us or the scabs, entire families were split, friendships ended, even 20 years later the vitriol continued. One fireman told me a while back that his daughter married the son of a scab and he could barley look at him at the wedding.
Which brings me to todays latest rage of choosing sides. A few weeks back Nike sponsored an add featuring Colin Kaepernick the ex NFL quarterback who led a protest before NFL games of kneeling during the National Anthem.The reasons varied from kneeler to kneeler, some said to bring attention to injustices on Minorities in America and some said to call attention to Police Brutality. Kaepernick himself wore socks as part of his uniform depicting Police officers as "pigs." A protest calling for respect took a tad off of his message in the minds of thousands. That battle has been raging for about 2 years. People were so incensed that the calls for a boycott of NFL football were a constant drum beat. Some people called him a hero, some people called him a traitor, but rest assured his stance was a lightening rod. Now we jump ahead to the present and we have the Nike Corporation joining the frenzy. A few weeks back Nike featured an add adding to their "Just Do IT" campaign. The add shows Kaepernick's face with the slogan "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything." In my opinion giving new meaning to the word "EVERYTHING."
For disclosure purposes, I was a former Marine and City Cop in Chicago for 33 years,I'm not an expert in a lot of things but I do know the meaning of the words "sacrifice and everything". I have walked behind far to many coffins of friends bearing the flag of the United States and the City of Chicago flag to not know what sacrificing everything is. However to deny the kneelers, is to deny the sacrifice that so many Americans made for the pursuit of freedoms, and that includes those who would make us sick to our stomachs with disgust. Lots of sunshine Patriots will say there is a time and place for dissension, and during the National Anthem is not the time. As hard as it is for some to accept, that's not America talking, the United States Supreme Court in 1989 invalidated the prohibitions on desecrating or burning the American Flag, then enforced by 48 of the 50 States, we have gotten beyond that almost 30 years later. We have to somehow come to respect the rights of others no matter how vile or distasteful it may be to some of us. E pluribus Unum which appears on the Great Seal of the United States whose meaning is "out of many, one" may very well be a pipe dream, but as corny as it may sound, all men are created equal, but all have different opinions and ideas.
I mentioned the Firefighters strike because it so echos whats happening today with the NFL, Nike, Kaepernick, and of course those Patriots who are outraged by their stances. The calls for boycotting the NFL are still raging on, the calls for boycotting Nike products have taken over so much space on social media it's hard not to see it. Folks burning Nike apparel (as if Nike cares if you burn something you already paid for) Colin has been called a cancer, no matter how you spell it, but he's not the NFL, the NFL is made up of 100s and 100s of great people, coaches, players, owners, and executives. I know it's hard to see the kneelers and the constant complaining from millionaire athletes, but keep in mind 1% or 2% of any organization most especially those of us in Law Enforcement dose not define who we are and what we stand for. If somebody was to list the good deeds by the NFL, as well as Law Enforcement officers across the country it will fill the Library of Congress. Why should we as Americans boycott a game we obviously love to watch because of a few we find offensive, why should we view all cops as pigs because of the actions of very small percentage?
My opinion is, unless we want to wind up like those striking Firefighters in Chicago where the hate and vitriol caused so much pain for so many years ,we should move on and ignore what we want and embrace what we stand for. Perhaps we should try and remember, history is littered with dissent and America was founded on dissent. Keep in mind that great Voltaire Saying. "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to to say it."
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