Monday, July 27, 2009

Heroes Are A Rare Commodity These Days

I've been thinking a lot about heroes lately and last night I watched a film called By Dawn's Early Light: Chris Jackson's Journey To Islam.

It's a film about how Jackson, a kid with Tourette Syndrome clawed his way out of poverty and went to LSU to become one of the greatest NCAA players of all time.

He was then quickly drafted into the NBA where he continued to astonish both media and fans.

After converting to Islam and changing his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, he declined to stand for the national anthem before games.

He was not showy. This was not a loud protest.

He respected the fact that the flag did have meaning for most Americans and he wasn't going to try to fly in the face of that. He wasn't on a mission to make a statement.

He just hung back in the hallway between the locker room and the court.

He was so discreet that it took like a year and a half for somebody to notice.

And when they did, was there ever a hissy-fit.

He was suspended indefinitely and America threw a fit. He must hate America.

In a country where one of the ideals we hold dear is the notion that we can't be forced to compromise our religious beliefs, I found it disturbing that nobody stepped back and asked a vital question.

Is it possible that one's religion might forbid standing for an anthem or a pledge or a flag?

Could that be somewhere in the Qur'an?

Could it be a principle found in other religions?

What about Christianity? Should Christians stand for the national anthem? Should Christians pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America?

Is it possible that there are portions of the Bible that could easily be interpreted this way? That a servant of God pledges allegiance to no one but God?

When we get to the other side there are three guys we might be able to ask about that.




So, what happened to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf?

After four games, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon, two fellow Muslim NBA players, spoke with him and convinced him to compromise.

Abdul-Raul would stand before each game, cover his face and pray.

You would think that the hatchet would have been buried at that point.


Abdul-Rauf was traded to the Sacramento Kings where he was essentially benched.

He still kicked ass.

He led the league in points scored per minute, so when they let him on the court, he was still one of the best players in the country.

But when our indignation is wrapped up in the flag we can't see anything beyond that.

The flag blinds us so we don't even ask whether or not this young man's religious objection had any merit.

The flag blinds us to the point where we would rather bench one of the few players in the NBA who ranked up there with Jordan than let someone we dubbed "Un-American" have the ball.

McCarthyism never left. It just quieted down for a while.

The most tragic thing in all this is the lesson that America took from this.

That lesson is: Stand up for what you believe in only if I like what you say.

This is why heroes are so rare.

Courage and moral stands are punished and I don't take any pleasure in saying it, but that makes for a very shameful society.

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