“So, Cope, don’t you think that Colic Coppernickel feller oughta stand up while that Star Sprangled Bander is playin’?”
(Yes. It’s Red. The very same Red that made four, five or more appearances in my Boise Weekly column every year for 20 years. I told you in the very first post to this blog that he might show up here in Mr. Cope’s Cave.
I also told you he is an imaginary character, sprung whole hog from the brow of this author way back on a night when I needed someone to talk to, if only in my mind. Yet, after living with him for two decades, I admit I’ve grown very attached to the li’l feller. And when you love someone, even an imaginary someone, does not that make them, in a sense, real?
Really, isn’t that why we speak of Sherlock Holmes as though he had actually lived? Isn’t that why Bilbo Baggins, Winnie the Pooh, and Falstaff resonate in our souls like an undiagnosed heart murmur? They are dear to us, yet not a one of them is real.
Okay, Red is no Winnie the Pooh. And he is about as far from Sherlock as a character can get. He has none of Falstaff’s jolly charm and the only likeness he has to Bilbo Baggins is that he likes to go barefoot in public more than a grown man perhaps should.
But he’s my friend, and I’ve missed him. Especially during controversies such as the one he and I will be addressing in this episode of Mr. Cope’s Cave—being, the ado surrounding a football player’s small gesture of protest against the injustices still directed inordinately towards black Americans. Red is the ideal advocate to represent the side opposite me whenever a major brouhaha arises, particularly when the major brouhaha is as trivial and meaningless as the Colin Kaepernick major brouhaha.
I suspect that some of my carry-over readers (from the Boise Weekly days) will not be pleased I have resurrected Red. Over the years, I’ve heard the complaint often that his dreadful enunciation and generally shabby grasp of English was irritating and hard to read. I can certainly understand that. If you think his dialogue was hard to read, image how hard it was to write!
So I have made adjustments to Red’s language controls that hopefully will help his words fall easier on the ear. And if that’s not enough—if you still resent that I’ve brought this irascible old reactionary crank back—please keep in mind that decent people do not cast their crazy Republican uncle out of the family, no matter how many Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties and reunion picnics he may spoil with his constant bitching.)
“Yup. Who else would I be? Been wondering when you’d get around to inviting me over to yer new digs.”
“Well gee, Red. I’ve been awfully busy. There’s been a lot to learn about this blogging stuff and I just haven’t had time to … ”
“Yew ain’t gotta make no excuses fer my sakes, Cope. I already knows yer embarrassed to be seen with me. But that ain’t never stopped me from showing up before, has it? Not any time there’s so much liberish horsepoop going on.”
“And what, specifically, is the ‘liberish horsepoop’ that brought you around this time, buddy?”
“It’s that Coppernickel joker, Cope! And how he won’t stand up when they’re playing the national ditty. If you ask me, he oughta be desported back to wherever the heck he came from.”
“I believe I heard he came from Milwaukee, Red.”
“I wouldn’t wanna be desported back to Milwaukee. Would you?”
“Look, Red. I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to that whole thing. Just looks like more jock crap to me, and you know I’m not the guy to ask when it comes to jock crap.”
“Wull yew know a act of traitorism when yew see one, don’t ya, Cope?”
“Protesting injustice and officially-sanctioned violence that’s happening in your own country, and to its own citizens, is not an act of traitoris … er, treason. In fact, if it’s something as damaging as what Kaepernick is protesting, then as far as I’m concerned, it’s a bit unAmerican not to express your opposition to it.”
“Gull durnit, juss cause there’s a few black folk getting treated rude … ”
“Getting gunned down in the streets by trigger-happy cops is how some people would characterize it, Red. It goes considerably beyond ‘getting treated rude.'”
Yuh, yuh. Whatever way yew wanna correcterize it, Cope, it still ain’t right to not show respect fer our national tune. Next thing ya know, he’ll be turning his back and mooning when they raise the holy flag. That’s the thing you dang liberals never understand, Cope. Being a patriot ain’t got nothing to do with whether yer happy bout what yer country’s doing! Standing up and putting yer hand on yer heart when they play that anthymum is all about love fer yer motherland, no matter how much yew hate what might be going on in it!”
“So how is a person expected to show this love for his motherland when the worst things happening in it are happening to him and those like him?”
“Uhhhhh … huh?”
“And that’s the thing you conservatives never understand, Red. What to some may be a symbol of liberty and justice and opportunity, can be a symbol of oppression, cruelty and perpetual denial to others. Think about it. How much love and respect for America’s national anthem are native-Americans supposed to feel when they hear about the ‘rocket’s red glare,’ eh? … when the glory of an America victory all too often meant another village or tribe was being slaughtered. The point is, everybody loves their homeland, Red. Only, different people love different things about it. It’s that simple. I suspect this Kaepernick fellow very well might be showing his love of country by exercising one of its most precious liberties. And to try to force everyone to feel the same way about a stupid flag or a stupid song is maybe the lamest, most anti-American way to show your ‘love of country’ there is.”
“Oh yeah? Wull what about the vets? How do yew think them vets feel when ever thing they fought and died fer is getting disrespected!?”
“Among the many, many things veterans fought and died for, pal, I seriously doubt standing up for the national anthem was first on the list. In fact, what they fought and died for most nobly is precisely what Kaepernick is demonstrating. Not the option of speaking out, but the right to speak out. And if he isn’t allowed to do what he’s doing without getting a ton of stupid, petty shit for it, then perhaps those vets fought and died for a lot less than they expected out of their sacrifice.”
“But he ain’t got nothing to gripe about. He gets millions and millions of dollars fer throwing a ball back and forth. Where else could that happen but here in America!?”
“Red, maybe that’s what has all the knuckleheads so upset that Kaepernich is daring to act on his conscience. I think a lot of people take it for granted that certain activities belong in the same column, and others don’t. For example, patriotic fervor, extravagant wealth, conspicuous consumerism, football and all the idiot hype that goes with it, they are all in the same category. And whenever something is introduced from the outside … from another category … an act of protest, maybe, and the general awareness that not everything is hunky-dory in Americavburg … then they feel their little world has been violated. In a way, it’s like our society is one big Venn diagram, with this sub-set intersecting that sub-set only in certain, limited and acceptable areas. Like it’s okay for black people to make millions of dollars, as long as they don’t object to what may be happening to other black people. And anything that crosses the line is almost un-natural to those who insist there should be lines. Get what I mean, Red? It’s like … football equals happy, protest equals sad. And when they mix, watch out! DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE!”
“Did you say that society is one big Vin Diesel?”
“No, no. I said ‘Venn diagram.’ Vin Diesel is something else.”
You got that much right, Cope. That Vin Diesel sure as shooting is something else! And I’ll tell yew something else, Cope. Yew’ll never catch Vin Diesel making no dumb protest in none of his movies, would ya?”
“Well … no. Probably not. But that’s not the same thing, Red.”
“It ain’t? Wull how ain’t it!? Vin Diesel is getting paid to act like he’s kicking butt and driving fast, not to be showing off his dag nab conscience! And Colic Coppernickel is getting paid to throw the ball and give us something to do on Sundays. NOT TO BE SHOWING OFF HIS DAG! NAB! CONSCIENCE!”
“You know what I just realized, Red. It’s like you and I are two Venn sub-sets. Only the circles are made of some volatile goop that doesn’t mix with whatever volatile goop the other is made out of, see? And every time we intersect, a fire breaks out. Get what I mean?”
“Cope … honest to Gawd … I ain’t never got what you mean.”