Reading Blade Runner Backwards
And right into the NFL of today
I should mention right now that my engagement with football is superficial. I root for whatever team my brother roots for, as compensation for my not caring and have done this since I was a child. If I am on the road and find myself in a place where a game is playing, I root for the local team of wherever I am, as long as they’re not playing against my brother’s team. That’s the extent of my loyalty to the game as far as teams or fandom go. The game doesn’t get much of my attention, because tickets are high, players often go unpunished for crimes against women, and the whole field reads like a play where generals send out able bodies to be pummeled into slow but sure brain damage.
I am one of those people who has sat silently by, watching football develop from a regularly televised sport into a genuine spectacle with the stakes going higher all the time. I have watched it become a type of petri dish of what is growing in American culture, and maybe not my favorite parts of it. So, now you know how much I do not care about football, except, I do care about my brother and America. I also like studying culture and staying in the mix because nobody can sit in the woods all the time. So, here are a few comments from the little sister in the room, the kind who came for the snacks, and the touchdown dances of the old days.
Now, how does this relate to Blade Runner and how in the world does it relate back to players taking a knee in protest against social injustice? Alright, let’s not dawdle.
Blade Runner was all about a time in the near future where advanced robots were going rogue. Their human overlords were making them truly sophisticated and capable of free thought, but limiting their lifespans and controlling their free will, their right to self determination. The robots were designed for service to humans, but their capacities were eclipsing their rigid, limited rights, and so, there was trouble.
The reality is, the NFL is a lot like Blade Runner because some of us want the players to check their rights to free expression at the door of the stadium. Although I get the desire to not have the entertainment stopped, the entertainment value was simply shifted to one of confrontation. The genuine sentiments of players have been turned into a power play. This is not about the flag or the anthem, this is about the symbolism of going rogue. In an age defined by media this is about taking legitimate dissent and diverting the argument away from one of basic human rights.
This is Blade Runner because the sports celebrities, the reality television show personalities are bigger than life and so we feel pulled into the fray, personally, emotionally, even when we’re not. We get so pulled into the emotion of fear and defensiveness that we fail to see how we are denying the rights granted to all of us through our US Constitution. Some of us want the players to be no more than robots of the most obedient kind.
Now is not the time to contract away from our rights. You don’t have to agree with the players to grant them this respect. The flag and the veterans stand for the Constitution and this land, for its people and not for some single minded idea of what that is. There is no right to punish the player for not agreeing, peacefully, for resisting his representation as less than human, as only a player. Citizens are citizens and humans are humans and in no job do we give up these rights.
If we sacrifice the rights of the players to our fears or our desire for order and for orderly entertainment then we surely risk being ruled by fear and not by law. We must work with the basic human rights of our society and we need to expand, not rescind them because we find it too gray, too troubling. We need to let go of the anger that attends fear and be OK with people expressing opinions, using their free will as they see fit, in a non violent way.
Perhaps the AI in Blade Runner should have been grateful for their ten good years of life granted to them by the humans. Maybe the people who make millions of dollars should be grateful to the even richer people and companies who profit from them. Maybe we should in fact all be more grateful, but that does not mean we engage in silencing. Forced silence is not genuine agreement, it is intimidation, coercion and wholly un American.
You don’t have to agree or care about the Take the Knee initiative, but by condemning it you just might find yourself or your future grandchildren being told to be grateful for the years they’ve had when some corporation decides to revoke their access to a life saving drug or cyber enhancement that allows them to inhale CO2 rich air into their lungs or something along those lines. These are days of rapid change in our environment and we need to tend to our human situation not in a divided anger over “How dare they?” but in a way that allows for disagreement, dissent and for dialogue. Without dialogue someone else is pulling our strings and we are all just puppets. We know that’s too sad to be true, so we need to push on with dialogue, and the cornerstone of society, respect.