I’m not exactly known as a movie buff and I have not gone to see a movie in over fifteen years, except here in Kalaupapa, but my favorite movie of all time is the classic, “The Court Jester” starring Danny Kaye as the circus entertainer who masquerades as Giacamo, the king’s court jester. His mission is to protect the real baby king from the murderous designs of the king and his henchman, played by Basil Rathbone. It is a barrel of laughs and culminates in Giacamo presenting the baby king’s heinie, highlighted by a flower birthmark, proving him to be the rightful king. Then all present, both faithful followers and scheming enemies, take a knee in loyalty and fealty to their baby king..
As we all know, taking a knee has become somewhat of a controversy in the National Football League since San Francisco quarterback, Kaepernick, took a knee during the singing of the national anthem in a protest against perceived aggrievances in our country. Personally I don’t get ‘all the to do’ over this. After all taking a knee, or both knees, has been a sign of reverence for ages past. So also a profound bow has been a sign of respect or reverence in many cultures. Traditionally those of us who grew up as Catholics take a knee in reverence to the Blessed Sacrament in our church tabernacles in acknowledgement of the real presence of the Lord in the tabernacles of our churches. I still do so myself though my knees are a little creaky and I often place my hand on a nearby pew just in case I have trouble getting back on my feet.
So then, even though standing is the traditional posture during the playing or singing of the national anthem, I do not regard taking a knee to be disrespectful unless it is intended to be so. The important thing in my opinion is that those who do so in protest back up their statement by giving back from their considerable resources to those in their communities whom they profess to champion. Whether they stand or kneel, that is their responsibility.
Here in this land of Saints Damien and Marianne there is no platform for protest except perhaps at our monthly community meeting at McVeigh Hall where on occasion the sparks may fly. Taking a knee here in Kalaupapa happens in reverence in church or at work while tying a boot shoe lace that has come loose. Men and women in their various departments go about their work with dedication, unrushed and unfazed by the limitations of this settlement. Outside opportunities may sometimes beckon them but they are resolute in their commitment. They need to take a bow. I take a knee to them. Aloha.
Fr. Pat Killilea ss.cc.
St. Francis Church, Kalaupapa.