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There are several classic definitions of “character” that can be used to describe members of our society:
(1) The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from one another,
(2) The combined moral or ethical structure of a person or group, and
(3) Moral or ethical strength, integrity, fortitude, and reputation.
In the days before the solar eclipse safety glasses sold for $8.95 for a five-pack of certified glasses. The day before the eclipse the price was raised to $59. During Hurricane Harvey some gas stations were charging $20 a gallon. The other day I saw a local supermarket selling a 24-bottle case of water for $6.95. During Irma a Florida store was charging $99. An airline out of Houston was charging $6,785 for an economy seat. A woman who had paid $547.50 for a Miami to Phoenix flight was later told the flight price had been raised to $3,282.50. Do these gougers have character?
I’m going to write about a character who is on the stage as a global celebrity, and about a man who has exhibited character all of his life—and now has become a national figure in the fight over racial discrimination. Colin Kaepernick has become a polarizing figure in American football by taking a knee during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. He has been on the cover of Time magazine. He has been compared with Muhammad Ali, who famously told a draft board during the Vietnam War that “no Cong has ever called me a nigger!” Here was a man with character who refused to be inducted, who gave up almost four years of big incomes to make a point about race in the United States. My other “character” in this column Is King Donald Trump who said about Kaepernick: “Maybe he should find a country that works better for him.” Kaepernick has responded: “I want to have a positive influence as much as I can. I’ve had people write me because of my tattoos. I’ve had people write me because of adoption. I ‘ve had people write me because I’m biracial. I’ve had people write because their kids have heart defects—my mother had two boys who died because of heart defects, which ultimately brought about my adoption. So to me, the more people you can touch, the more people you can influence in a positive way or inspire, the better.”
Kaepernick Is A Pretty Good Quarterback
Colin was recruited out of high school by the University of Nevada and started for four seasons. He became the first NCAA quarterback to throw for more than 10,000 yards and rush for more than 4,000 yards. He scored 60 touchdowns and threw for 82 more. In his final season in 2010 Nevada went 13-1 and finished in the eleventh spot in the final Associated Press poll. I have watched Kaepernick play for the San Francisco 49’ers for several seasons. I have watched him win a Super Bowl and dominate other games. His last pay check was for $16.5 million. But at age 29, with his outstanding record at quarterback, no team in the National Football league wants to touch him with a ten-foot pole.
Having played eight years of high school and college football, after being named as an All-Conference college guard, after being named co-captain of my college team, after watching thousands of football games from high school to NFL, after hiring a number of football coaches as a high school principal, I figure I might know as much as the average football fan about the game. Colin Kaepernick should be playing for some NFL team. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, a talented quarterback in his own right, says: “I believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. I love his skill set.”
There are 32 teams in the National Football league that employ about 85-90 quarterbacks at any one time. Some are very good like Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers, some are mediocre. Kaepernick at 29 is still better than 75% of the currently employed quarterbacks. I have watched him play for years. I watched him beat Tom Brady at New England in the cold of December. I have watched him beat Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers by out-passing Rogers and rushing for 181 yards. His teammates voted him the team’s highest honor “for inspirational and courageous play.” But because of his stand—I should say kneeing—on racial discrimination, the outright murder of black unarmed men, and the controversy surrounding the creation of Black Lives Matter protests, he is on the sidelines with his afro and tattoos. His tattoos, by the way, are of Bible verses. Let’s remember that 31 NFL teams are owned by white billionaire owners, with most of them contributing millions to the campaign of Donald Trump. The other franchise is owned by the citizens of Green Bay.
Kaepernick Combines Ethical and Moral Strength, Integrity, and Fortitude
At the bottom line, Kaepernick is a black intellectual who has schooled himself through his biracial life in his adopted white family. He is a constant reader who has read all of the great black writers, including James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Maya Angelou. He was raised in Turlock, California, where the population is 2% black. When the Kaepernicks went on vacation he was stared at because he was black and the rest of the family very white. Those who stared at him often asked if he were adopted. Did he belong? He was and is an excellent student, earning high grades and graduating with a degree in business management. He was an outstanding baseball and football player in high school, a record-setting quarterback in Division 1 football, and one of the NFL”s most thrilling players. And he is currently without a job because of racism.
John Bender, an offensive lineman who played with Kaepernick, paints a good portrait of him: “I saw him transform, develop, whatever you want to call it. Finding an identity was big for him, because in some aspects in life, he would get the racist treatment from white people because he was a black quarterback. And some people gave him the racist treatment because he was raised by a white family.”
In the end, 80% of NFL players are black. What will 31 white billionaires do if the players decide not to play until Kaepernick is signed to a contract? Will they put on more patriotic shows featuring flags the size of football fields, military flyovers, and uniformed Afghanistan veterans instead of helping the racial problem in the country? The magazine Sports Illustrated has a report of a BCS study that says Kaepernick protests around the country have already hurt NFL attendance. Stay tuned.
And Here Is a Character Without Any
In previous columns I have written that after reading the qualities of sociopaths, psychopaths, and narcissists in the Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association, I have concluded Donald Trump is a very sick individual. After all, I have tended bar for two years while earning a MA degree. I always thought the job was worth a psychology major. Finally, Dr. Lance Dodes, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, has spoken out about King Donald’s mental condition, and has contributed to a new book titled “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental health Experts Assess a President.” Dodes analysis is reviewed by Chauncey DeVega in “Harvard Psychiatrist: Trump is a Sociopath and a Very Sick Individual” published on September 12, 2017. I am going to quote liberally (slightly edited for brevity) from that article about his analysis.
(1) He is a compulsive liar who creates his own fantasy world. He is extremely moody and impulsive. Trump’s advisers have to satisfy his extreme narcissism and nurture his detachment from reality by presenting him—on a twice daily basis—with a file folder fill with ‘good news.’ Fellow Republicans have suggested Trump may be ‘crazy.’