Belonging, Football, and the National Anthem
September 29th, 2017

To be a U.S. citizen requires critical thinking and a grasp of history.  To explore the turbulence in our society demands multi-dimensional awareness of many cultural threads: religion, immigration, politics, and power among many others.  Family Constellations can provide a particular lens that can help you look deeper into conflict: belonging.  Who defines belonging, who confers it, and who feels it are essential questions to consider in any conflict.

In looking through some resources in preparing to write this essay I found some notes I made in August of 2016 when I was first struck by Colin Kaepernick’s protests against what he perceived as unequal treatment of minorities in the US by police forces.  I made a list of the many groups I speculated he might consider he belonged to, including the NFL, the USA, his birth and adopted families, his current team, etc.  I didn’t get much farther than that, but I was beginning to explore what might have been challenging for him in his decision to sit out the anthem, and what values may have given him support.  All speculation, of course.

I don’t propose any answers, or intend to put forth my own positions on the current conversations, arguments and polarization happening in the US.  (I’ve made plenty of comments on Facebook.)  I think it’s good that justice, inequality, race and history are up in the national discussion, because they always should be made conscious.  For now, I propose questions to inspire reflection:

Is it natural that someone who has experienced the death of a soldier in their family would feel an extra affinity for the flag and the anthem?

Does it make sense that an African-American would feel conflicted or repelled by the playing of an anthem that was written by a slave-holder and ardent anti-abolitionist?

Is it natural that an indigenous person whose ancestors lived on the land before any European colonists came would be conflicted about having U.S. citizenship?  Would it be hard for them to feel loyalty to their ancestors if they allowed themself to feel like they belonged to the U.S.?

Is it natural that someone who trusted in the promise of the “American Dream” and worked hard to build a good life for their self would be less open to hearing protests and complaints of inequality?

Does it make sense that a police officer with extensive training, dedication to a very stressful career, and an outstanding record of service to their community would be anguished over the ongoing attacks on their profession?

In the healing approach of Family Constellations, we look at who belongs, and who has been excluded, as clues to where an imbalance lies in an overall system.  In each family, there is a stream of life force that has come through those who have gone before, and which has been passed on to new generations.  All members of the family are intimately connected to that stream such that, when anyone is excluded, it creates a disorder that will need to be rebalanced by someone in the family- sometimes a member of a later generation that doesn’t even know about the original dispute.  I’ve seen many times that love flows best when every family member honors the others as having a place, and when everyone keeps a good place in their heart for those who came before who have passed the life force on.

It’s clear there is great fragmentation and deep change coursing through the consciousness of the U.S.  I invite you to sit with the questions above and even make up your own, to help you to stand in the shoes of someone with whom you feel in conflict.

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