You may have heard about the recent controvesy involving a young NFL player's refusal to stand during the National Anthem. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says he refused to stand to protest unfair treatment of minorities. This act of defiance is now spreading to other players and sports. I’m not here to either agree, or disagree with those actions, but rather, to make a point.
I have been in countless discussions over the years with people who strongly believe that the ‘messaging’ of living with diabetes is lost. People who do not live with it—either as a type 1 or type 2 themselves or by way of having a family member or loved one stuggling with the challenges—have no clue what it's like. Sound familiar?
The thinking is that if more people were well versed with diabetes and its complications, more attention, activism and funding would result. Really? I can't help wondering if the result of increased awareness might instead bring more attention to the shortcomings of those living with it.
In all the years of diabetes awareness outreach, ads and campaigns, I cannot honestly think of anything that has been as effective as that young player's act of defiance.
His cause—the oppression of minorities. His protest—refusing to stand, during a song. It was a silent protest that involved no civil disobedience. He did not lay in front of a piece of moving machinery or handcuff himself to the White House gates. He didn't refuse to serve his country, or even interrupt any sort of meeting. What he did do, was refuse to stand during our national anthem. And, unless you've been hiding behind a rock, you know what the controversy is all about. Just about everyone has some sort of opinion about it.
When I began this article I stated that I was not going to agree or disagree with the actions of this young man. Slightly wimpy I must admit. Why? Am I afraid that if I took a stand people would strongly relay their point of view?
But what if I decided to state my feelings to garner attention: “Isn’t that guy an incredibly inspiring young man to do what he did by not standing during our national anthem, and by the way diabetes is killing more people than you know?” Or, “Isn’t that guy a jerk to disrespect the country by refusing to stand during our national anthem, and by the way diabetes is killing more people than you know everyday?”
People have been complaining about ‘diabetes messaging’, or the lack of, for years and years. But, until we get to a place where we are not afraid of offending some, encouraging others, and being clear on a message, we will stay stuck in this exact same spot one, five, or even 10 years from now.
Of course, you could make the argument that any outrageous act could get the attention of many. But, in this case, it's the simplicity of the act in a complex context that is getting people talking.
It's impossible not to wonder if both sides of the controversy are being kept alive because it grabs headlines.
Think about it, all he did was not stand. It could have just ended right there, but it didn't. The media attention was fierce in playing it out. If the goal of that young man was to bring to the forefront something he believed in, he succeeded and no doubt the media attention helped.
Remember the ice-water challenge for ALS? Everyone kept asking what they could do to replicate that success. The answer—nothing. The truth is that unless you're the first, the only or the best, you won't have as much impact.
The hard part is being bold enough, smart enough, or even lucky enough to make a point worthy enough to create a dialogue big enough to foster change, or at least attention. If that was an easy task, everyone would be doing it instead of just trying to figure out how.
I am a DiabetesDad.