I thought of two men last week when reading a story about a protest involving four high school basketball players in Barberton, Ohio, a city of 26,000 near Akron.
Before a game two weeks ago, one of the Barberton players took a seat on the bench as the national anthem began to play. During the next game on Tuesday, he was joined by three teammates.
The teen-agers were trying to draw attention to what they believe has been cases of police brutality. One instance reportedly involved a shooting.
The protests were non-violent. They were young people taking a stand, trying to send a message … trying to get people to understand the things they see, the things they feel, the need for change.
As you can imagine, the Barberton community is struggling with all of this, just like the nation struggled to understand Colin Kaepernick taking a knee as the national anthem was being played before a National Football League game.
As for the two men I mentioned above, they both were World War II veterans who passed away within a week of each other this month. One was 99 years old, the other just two days shy of his 98th birthday. I had the honor of interviewing them before they left us, learning more about the sacrifices they made and getting a firsthand account of what they, their families and the country went through nearly 80 years ago.
We talked about many things, including Kaepernick.
“I understand a person’s right to protest, but my goodness, do they really understand what they’re doing? Couldn’t they find a better way,” one of the men asked.
The question is a legitimate one.
Those two men, like so many others, were put in harm’s way when they weren’t much older than the Barberton teens. One of them fought during the deadly Battle of the Bulge, turning back an enemy who was led by Adolph Hitler, a white supremacist bent on ruling the world. The other soldier said that to this day there were things he saw and experienced in the Pacific Theater that he still could not fully talk about. “There are a lot of things that I just needed to forget so I could get on with life,” he explained.
My guess is the Barberton students never meant to be disrespectful to veterans who fought and died in wars.
We can only hope they understand today why the method in which they protested actually overshadowed the message they were trying to deliver. War is not a video game and the national anthem is not just some tune that a bunch of old people get choked up about. It represents real sacrifices made by men and women of all ages and colors.
On the same token, “understanding” is a two-way street.
People need to open their eyes and ears to the message the teens were trying to send, especially on a day like today when our nation honors one of its great civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Barberton teens aren’t asking to be treated special. They just want to be treated with dignity and respect. That shouldn’t be too much to ask. Is it?
ROSES AND THORNS: Some quiet time in the rose garden is in order for a few Lima musicians.
Rose: To Dane Newlove and his cohorts with the Lima Symphony for allowing children to bang on the symphony’s drums during a special program at the Delphos library. All the smiles were worth the headaches.
Rose: When two masked men carrying guns entered Hermies Party Shop in Lima, they called off their robbery attempt and ran out of the store after seeing the cashier was also armed and waiting on them.
Rose: To Missy Page, Sgt. Nick Hart, Zac Carpenter, Kelly Ricker, Bryce Garman, Justin Wireman, Latricia Nebrida, Christopher Lemke and Logan Patton of the Lima Police Department. They received commendations last week for disarming a man who fired a gunshot in a hotel lobby and was threatening people.
Rose: To Lima police officers for their quick action in evacuating residents from the historic Argonne Hotel following a small fire on its sixth floor.
Rose: To the staff at the University of Northwestern Ohio, who have put together a year’s worth of activities to celebrate the university’s 100th anniversary.
Thorn: A Shawnee man handling a gun not only managed to shoot a bullet through his hand, but he also shot his wife’s leg.
Thorn: A distraught customer threatened to shoot up Spectrum because he didn’t like the way his bill was figured.
Thorn: Following a dispute over drugs, a Lima man hid in the shadows of darkness, then leaped out when he saw his foe and swung a baseball bat at his head. Fortunately, he was no Babe Ruth as he swung and missed.
PARTING SHOT: “We, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.” — President Barack Obama
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.