Her name was Layla. She is my daughter’s age, and I didn’t even have to ask. I knew there was a Clapton connection, her parents being of my generation.
It’s a complicated story. A Persian love song; unrequited love; George Harrison’s wife; a friend converting to Islam; a rock version and the unplugged version linked to above. And that line – You’ve got me on my knees. There are the wonderful progressions; the guitar intro; the smooth vocal line – and of course, the lyrics.
Every knee shall bend, says the Bible.
Colin Kaepernick has the nation reeling, and some of us kneeling. When the National Anthem is played prior to San Francisco 49’s football games, the quarterback drops to his knees. And the debate that is raging has to do with the nature of his devotion. He has inspired athletes from the pro’s to the pee wee’s, from footballers to volley ballers – dropping to their knees when the nation’s theme song is played, sung or performed in whatever way fits the venue. Kaepernick is protesting the way people of color are treated in this country. His kneeling is, according to some, a reverent way of calling visible, albeit peaceful attention to the painful gap between our professed civil religion of equality and the prejudice that black men in this land are subjected to every day. It’s a prejudice that costs many of them their lives.
The Persian love song is about a man, madly in love with a woman whose father refused to let her marry him. There is a woman in my life. I was permitted to marry her – she gave me permission. Our love for each other still makes my knees buckle. I didn’t do it the first time, but I have subsequently fallen to my knees and renewed that proposal. “Proposal”, not “protest”. Can you kneel in protest? Can you assume a posture of humility, of devotion and reverence in such a way as to take a stand?
Straight up, with hand over heart, eyes lovingly directed to a piece of cloth waving in the wind … Is that what makes one a “patriot”? Is that what it means to “honor a Vet”? Another Black Man was killed on Tuesday by Police in El Cajun, California. He assumed a posture that was interpreted as threatening. He was mentally unstable, and the officers knew that going in. If he had been kneeling and suddenly taken his hands out of his pockets, would he have been shot?
What exactly is the posture that we expect people of color to assume, a posture they have a right to take without fear of recrimination or lethal response? They can’t kneel in protest; those who are mentally ill can’t stand in a position suggesting aggressive intent. They can’t sit in the front of the bus; they can’t drive a car on our highway; they can’t walk in an alley; and now they can’t kneel.
It’s looking more and more as if, whether we want to admit it or not, “white” people can’t decide what posture people of color have the right to assume. Racism lives and continues to run rampant.
You’ve got me on my knees – to propose my love, to beg for your affection, to protest your indifference. Colin is not a hero for me; I’m not that “in” to football. And the connection between America’s sporting events and the cost of democracy is more about capitalism and profit than patriotism and fan allegiance. But I say let him kneel. There have to be ways to vent our anger, our disgust, our hurt and pain. As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t many better ways than to do so on your knees. I will join him down there … except I’ll be praying.