Hey, Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler of Harford County: Can I have your Ravens stuff? It would be a shame to burn it because you suddenly hate the Ravens for allowing some of their players to take a knee during the National Anthem.
I don't know what you have in the way of merchandise, but I know some kids in Baltimore who'd probably like to have it.
I understand why you're upset. And if you really want to burn all your Ravens stuff and boycott the NFL because they allow players — mainly black players — to take a knee to show solidarity with Colin Kaepernick's protest of police brutality and injustice, that's your choice.
It's a free country. In 1989, the Supreme Court said a guy could burn the American flag as a form of expression, and even Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with the majority.
Sheriff, you did not like what happened in London on Sunday. Neither did I. The Jaguars completely outplayed the Ravens. What a stinko game for our team. Ruined my brunch.
Your real problem, of course, was with Terrell Suggs and other players taking a knee. This is what you posted on Facebook: "Ravens join the nonsense of taking knee while on the soil of the Country we gained our independence from."
What's your point there? Were you embarrassed? Did you hear howls of derisive laughter coming from Wembley Stadium? Did you hear a British commentator named Nigel say: "Silly Americans. Fought for their independence from the Crown so they could diss their own country! Good luck with that!"
Not likely, right? Most non-Americans who saw this display and took time to understand it probably regarded it as an example of what the country stands for: freedom. The right to protest. The right of redress. The right to challenge authority. The right to use your stature and power to bring attention to problems — from breast cancer to police brutality, or whatever you think needs public focus.
Non-Americans seem to have more appreciation of our freedoms than Americans do.
But I get it, Sheriff. I understand where you're coming from. You're in law enforcement. I know you supported Donald J. Trump because you liked his tough stands on enforcing immigration laws. Your agency in Harford County is one of only two in Maryland that has agreed to take part in what Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh called an illegal immigrant roundup being pushed by the Trump administration.
You probably have little patience for complaints about the conduct of police or challenges to authority — and we've seen a lot of that during the last three years, with public demonstrations over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers across the country.
And while you believe that the National Anthem is not the time for protest, it's probably the protest itself that most irks you and others who think a player who takes a knee is wrong — so wrong, says Trump, that that "SOB" should be fired.
I understand the view. Many white people hate the protests and automatically take the side of police. There's a real divide on this issue. In Baltimore County a couple of weeks ago, jurors who acquitted an officer of assaulting a suspect went out of their way after the trial to thank the officer for his service. The Goucher Poll last week revealed that nearly half of whites in Maryland thought police treated people of all races fairly while only 20 percent of African-Americans did.
And then there's the economic gap between blacks and whites. Recent census data shows that African-Americans are the only racial group in the country making less in wages than they did in 2000. A study from Yale University showed that wealthy whites think blacks are doing much better financially than they really are despite major gaps between black and white households in hourly wages, assets and income.
So it's the nature of the protest, based on the grievances of black Americans, that most irks people. Many white Americans are tired of hearing about it, which is one of the main reasons racism persists.
Regarding the thing itself — kneeling during the singing or playing of the National Anthem — it strikes me as a mild form of protest given the complex problem it seeks to highlight.
Sheriff Gahler: If you want to watch something besides the NFL on your large-screen television, I recommend "The Vietnam War," the 18-hour film series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on PBS. Maybe you've already been watching.
If so, you know that the film attempts to provide perspectives from all sides, including those of the scarred veterans of the U.S. armed forces and the North Vietnamese army, as well as Americans who protested the war at home. It is a story that overwhelms with facts and provokes profound emotion. I found myself getting angry and depressed all over again, particularly at the staggering loss of life that occurred well after the White House and Pentagon knew the war could not be won.
If not for protests at home, which included flag-burning, the Vietnam War would have gone on even longer and even more Americans and Vietnamese would have needlessly died. Certainly there was a lot more to it. Shocking news coverage, for instance, ultimately made it clear to Americans that we were engaged in a horror that had to stop. But the anti-war demonstrations, as divisive as they were, made people pay more attention than they otherwise might have.
The Burns-Novick film makes you appreciate two major things about this country, relevant to the current controversy: the bravery and patriotism of those who served in the military, the dedication and patriotism of those who protested the war to bring about its end. Both deserve respect.