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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
—Declaration of Independence, excerpt, 1776.
Freedom Week started early for me, on the Friday before the 4th of July, with an interview on Free Fire Radio with co-hosts Carl and Linda Bott.
Their show on KCNR 1460 AM/96.5 FM is done in the community radio format with a conservative bent, and I was happy to be invited back for a second time, since Carl and Linda had treated me fairly the first time and it was an enjoyable experience.
The subject I was ostensibly invited to discuss was, once again, Bethel and the separation of church and state. It’s kept me quite busy the past year-and-a-half, including my past two columns.
As a Navy veteran I’m granted some cache by Carl and Linda, and Carl surprised me by asking on air if I had a problem with Bethel practicing their peculiar (my term) form of Christianity, as many of my critics have suggested.
Absolutely not, I told him. The free exercise clause in the First Amendment guarantees Bethel the right to be as whoo-whoo as it wants to be. It’s only when Bethel seeps through the picket fence separating church and state that I get interested, which is the truth.
That was good enough for Carl, and we went on to different subjects, for which I was grateful.
But what really stuck with me throughout Freedom Week was a question Linda asked me during a commercial break. More or less, she asked what I think about when the national anthem is played at a sporting event, me being a veteran of the armed services.
My military service rarely occurs to me when the anthem is played, I told her.
She then asked what I thought about Shasta County native and women’s soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe’s comments that she wasn’t going to the “fucking White House” if United States Women’s National Team won the World Cup in France.
The comment, said months ago, had gained a new life online as Trump supporters attacked Rapinoe, who joined Colin Kaepernick’s “bend the knee” national anthem protest in 2016, as a traitor to her country and a hell of a lot worse.
I answered that Rapinoe probably shouldn’t have used the F-word, I only use it rarely myself. But Kaepernick, Rapinoe and the hundreds of athletes who’ve been taking a knee have legitimate grievances, and the First Amendment permits such free speech.
That was good enough for Linda, and the subject didn’t come up on air. Again I was grateful, because her question — what do I think about when the anthem is played — rang in my ears for the rest of the week and I didn’t really know the answer to it.
Hate Rears Its Ugly Head
Sports are the opiates of the masses in the 21st century, so when a sizable number of locals turn their backs on a homegrown sports superstar with the magnitude of Megan Rapinoe—who as I write this just led the USNWT to victory in the World Cup finals several hours ago and was awarded the tournament’s Golden Boot, and the Golden Ball —the rest of the country takes notice.
Have these naysayers discovered a drug more powerful than professional sports? Anyone objectively examining the hundreds of negative comments made about Rapinoe on the Facebook pages of the Record Searchlight, KRCR Channel 7 and even A News Cafe.com would have to conclude they have: hatred of the LGBTQ community, wrapped in the false flag of Christian nationalism.
I will be blunt: this is a direct result of the influence of right-wing evangelical Christianity on Shasta County. It’s not just Bethel—in a sense, Bethel joined the club late. In this club getting raped by your cousin and having the baby is a blessing, being gay is a curse and openly lesbian hometown hero Megan Rapinoe is a threat to our children.
Needless to say, the club has thousands of chapters nationwide.
How else to account for hundreds of local posts denouncing Rapinoe as a he-she, a man, a rug-muncher? Sure, some of this hateful rhetoric came from out of the area, but it’s quite clear the Shasta County family values coalition, or what passes for it, has been flooding local social media pages with their misogynistic, homophobic rants. Who else teaches people to do this?
I know of only one source, and it’s killing any progress in Shasta County. No one outside of religious zealots will want to come here if this continues. Perhaps that’s the plan.
Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave
So, what do I think about when the national anthem is played?
If I were standing in the stadium in Lyon after the USNWT’s 2-0 victory over the Netherlands Sunday and the anthem was playing, I’d marvel at the freedom in this country that permits a scrawny little working-class kid from Palo Cedro to rise to the heights Megan Rapinoe has attained.
I’d thank the Founding Fathers, who knew they touched off a revolution 243 years ago when they wrote “all men are created equal,” some of them with the grim understanding that their white male privilege would one day be usurped by this universal human value.
I’d think about President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America,” which I forced myself to watch on the 4th of July, and his proclamation that “we’re all made by the same almighty God.”
It was one of the few bones thrown to his right-wing evangelical base in a rather dull speech that also managed to mangle the “Star-Spangled Banner’s” War of 1812 origins with the American Revolution sparked by the Declaration of Independence.
As the anthem continued playing (it’s an intolerably long song), I’d think about this almighty God of the right-wing Christian evangelicals, who in the Old Testament condemns one-third of the USWNT to death by stoning, and I’d thank my lucky stars I live in the country that invented both freedom of speech and the separation of church and state.
This is the land of the free, the home of the brave, the song finally concludes. This week, Megan Rapinoe raised the bar on that standard.
Winning means everything in America’s cultural wars, and Rapinoe, under global-wide scrutiny due to her outspokenness, virtually willed the USNWT to victory in the World Cup. In doing so, she cemented her status as not just one of the greatest soccer players of all time but as a cultural icon who transcends her sport, a social justice warrior who’s beaten the bullies at their own game.
You want to know why Rapinoe isn’t going to the “fucking White House” to celebrate?
I suspect it might have something to do with the unholy and un-Constitutional alliance Trump has made with right-wing evangelicals, who seek to justify discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community under the guise of religious freedom. They are succeeding beyond their wildest expectations.
That’s why Rapinoe refuses to sing along with the national anthem. That’s why she doesn’t place her hand over her heart. It’s a warning that something has gone horribly wrong, be it unarmed people of color getting gun-downed by police, religious-based discrimination against gays or unequal pay between men and women.
Whether or not we heed her distress call will determine if we all are truly created equal, or if some of us are more equal than others. That’s the very essence of the project the Founders began so many years ago, and this week, freedom and equality has a winner.
Her name is Megan Rapinoe.