BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 01/21/2021

Thiel: Post-insurrection, Pete’s idea in new light

At the heart of the Capitol insurrection was racism. Pete Carroll in August had some strong words about who’s accountable for that in our culture. Time for a re-visit.

In three consecutive Wednesdays, the U.S. Capitol has seen an insurrection, an impeachment and an inauguration.

As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.

— Journalist H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun, July 26, 1920

Wednesday was a day when we weren’t primarily sports columnists or sports fans, or athletes, coaches, children, spouses or parents. We were Americans first.

Many of us had spent parts of the previous two weeks bent over, peering into the abyss. I don’t know what hurt more: My back or my heart.

From Jan. 6 to Jan. 20, a profound civic perversity played out: An armed insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, incited by a president, to stop the official conclusion of a federal election by intimidating, injuring, kidnapping or killing federal officials, to aid in raising funds from supporters for the president’s personal use.

Feel free to read that sentence aloud a time or two, in order to never forget it.

On a campus surrounded by 25,000 National Guard members and razor wire sufficient to cordon off Rhode Island, the continuing intense threat wound down Wednesday afternoon in a remarkable moment in Senate chambers.

Kamala Harris, the newly sworn-in vice-president, a Black woman of South Asian heritage, swore in three new Democratic U.S. senators: A Black minister and a white Jew, both men from Georgia, and a Latino man of immigrant parents from California.

As much as the day’s rhetoric was reassuring and inspiring — hell, I was thrilled with sentences that had subjects, verbs, objects and periods in familiar order — the concrete action of flipping the Senate with a rich mix of Americans signaled, in the same room the rioters defiled, the failure of the insurrection and its leader that Mencken had called out 100 years earlier.

Mencken’s oft-quoted understanding of the contradictory American character speaks to the fact that the obscenity perpetrated in the Capitol, on the Constitution and against their defenders, was not invented by Trump. He merely exploited a long-running toxicity to a degree shocking to those of us so long unwilling to confront it.

The toxicity is rooted in racism and sexism that have been part of America far longer than the Constitution, something its creators did a poor job of addressing (the year Mencken shared his observation was also when the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women for the first time the right to vote in all national and state elections).

As I watched the Capitol desecration roll out with a nearly all-white mob bearing Confederate, white supremacy and anti-Semitic symbols, I flashed back to an unusual sports moment last year — the remarkable, unexpected Zoom conference Aug. 29 with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

Following the shooting in the back by police of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wis., Carroll canceled a preseason practice and let players spread out on the field’s berm. He asked them to tell their stories of race in America to him and each other.

After the session, Carroll offered up to local reporters a passionate, spontaneous monologue about the racial ignorance of white America. At the time, with the NFL season imminent, COVID-19 playing havoc, and tense confrontations nationally between police and protesters seeking racial justice, Carroll’s potent words on a Saturday had a short national life.

Now, on consecutive Wednesdays in January, we have had an insurrection, an impeachment and an inauguration. We have seen that the mechanism of democracy has prevailed, in a severe test. Less certain is whether anything has changed in America’s inner soul, as Mencken called it, because there has yet to be an accounting among the insurrectionists and their supporters in the administration, Congress, police and military.

So a re-visit of some of Carroll’s strong words about America’s inner soul from that day seems a little more timely now (edited for length and clarity):

This is about racism in America that white people don’t know. They don’t know enough and they need to be coached up. They need to be educated about what the heck is going on in this world.

Black people can’t scream anymore. They can’t march any more. They can’t bare their souls anymore to what they’ve lived with for hundreds of years, because white guys came over from Europe and started a new country, with a great idea, and great ideals that (had) great writings and laws (about) democracy and freedom and equality for all.

And then it ain’t happened.

It’s not what happened, because we went down this other road, followed economics, in which white guys made money, and they put together a system of slavery. And we’ve never left it. Really, it’s never gone away. The really amazing thing that I’ve learned is Black people know the truth. They know exactly what’s going on. It’s white people that don’t know. It’s not that (Black people) aren’t telling us; they’ve been telling us the stories, that we know what’s right and what’s wrong. We just have not been open to listen to it.

We’ve been taught a false history of what happened in this country. It has not been about equality for all. It has not been about freedom for all, not been for opportunity for all. And it needs to be, because this is a humanity issue that we’re dealing with. This is a white people’s issue, to get over it and learn what’s going on. To figure it out, and start loving everybody that is part of our country, and that want to come to our country, wherever they want to come from.

Our players are screaming at us: Can you feel me? Can you see me? Can you hear me? They just want to be respected. They just want to be accepted, just like all of our white children and families want to be.

There’s no difference, because we’re all the same. There’s a lot of people that don’t see it that way, but there’s a lot of people that do. I’m hoping that from this point forward, maybe there’s a new door to open for us, and we can we can walk through it together with the thought of doing what’s right.

Carroll doesn’t have the leverage of a politician, but he has experience in one of America’s two high-profile industries with majority Black talent (the other is the NBA). He knows his material and his truths, and his point of view will certainly get some light after the Biden administration changes things.

But after Trump was fired, the presidency is no longer where the problem is. It remains with the rest of us. Even after an insurrection was put down, I’m skeptical the door is open yet. If it happens, it will be America’s greatest achievement.


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YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    Beautifully written. (I think Jacob Blake is still alive, though paralyzed.) This is why I love to read your take on things. As I hear/read people allowing the public at large to “exhale,” I ask everyone to remember to inhale and build the pressure to act. Nothing has changed, in a way, because over a third of the country is still a group of white supremacists. Or more. They don’t go away; they just cower in the shadows, but they’re like the smoldering embers that exist after a wildfire has destroyed the forest and can wreak havoc at a moment’s notice.

    • art thiel

      Fixed. Thanks.

      Many smarter than me have hoped and tried to find a way forward. But to attempt nothing is worse.

  • Tim

    Spot on. Great column, Art. As a teacher, I have to acknowledge that a big part of the problem lies within the education system which, as Noam Chomsky accurately states, is a system of indoctrination for the young. Shortly out of college, I remember my outrage after reading Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and the fact that growing up I never learned any of those gruesome stories of Native genocide up taken directly from the National Archives. I wonder how many Cleveland Indians’ or Washington Redskins fans would scream accusations of political correctness were they to have grown up learning the the awful truth about mass rape, murder, biological warfare, thievery, and mutilation that occurred throughout North America during colonization.

    It’s not even that kids grow up brainwashed with whatever generally agreed upon myths are considered suitable for the governing classes; it’s the lack of critical thinking learned through the process if inquiry. We, as adults, then cherry pick information that suits our already formed ideals and opinions without reflection.

    Pete’s words are powerful not just because of their content and truth but because of the love behind them. He makes me all the more proud to be a Hawks’ fan!

    • Seattle Psycho

      I wholeheartedly agree about the “indoctrination of education”. Having been born in the 70s growing up in the 80s i grew up with the threat of a nuclear WWIII ominously hanging over our heads, and being taught that everyone behind the Iron Curtain was our enemy and must be beaten whenever the time came; be it said world war or the Olympics. It wasn’t until the last decade, when getting the opportunity to travel to these countries freely (Poland, Romania, Latvia, etc) that I grew to understand that the vast majority of these people were not our enemies and never wished to be. Amazes me now to see how much hatred and intolerance I was taught in school all in the name of Pledging Allegiance to the only country in the world that, for some reason, God should bless.

      • art thiel

        My world view was greatly enhanced by covering nine Olympics. I’d like to think that anyone who experiences an Olympics comes away with views that may evolve as yours have.

        One of my saddest learnings was the fact that Americans are best together when we are against something. When we no longer see threats from outside (although they are plenty), we turn on one another.

        • Husky73

          Very interesting touchstone of the Olympics. Could you elaborate?

          • art thiel

            Briefly, an Olympics gathers more than athletes. There are journalists and spectators from all over the world, who work and play together around an understood language of times, distances and feats in competition. Most everybody is curious about each other, and their places in their homeworlds. It’s far more exhilarating than annoying to make connections, however briefly, with people from other cultures. I dare a Proud Boy to spend two weeks at an Olympics and remain racist/nationalist.

          • juliusvrooder

            I have always been in awe of the Olympics. My wife as well, as her father was an alternate on the 1960 team. When the Olympics came to Vancouver, my best friend asked me to go with him to the cross-country final. I never dared dream to see an Olympic event in person! The whole experience was magic. All the way up, and all the way down. We parked at the airport, and took trains, boats, and buses from there to Whistler and back. This truckers kid from Burlington has never felt more a citizen of earth, than that day, and a decade later, I still feel it. Twain said it best: The best cure for racism is travel.

    • art thiel

      The notion of critical thinking is so important, Tim. I’m glad you as a teacher will be an advocate. If Americans understood the role that genocide and slavery played in creation of the empire . . . well, that’s a whole ‘nother column.

  • bevdog

    Simply superb writing… perhaps one of your best ever!! We have a long ways to go and the journey will not be easy.
    A wise 97 year old women who was a nurse that assisted doctors in postmortems said it best to me a few years ago ” when you peel off the skin of a black man and a white man they are exactly the same.” .

    • Janis Gillard

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    • art thiel

      Thanks, bevdog. I hope sports can have a role in advancing the discussion.

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  • Will Ganschow

    I think many, many people miss that point that all the hoopla is because what’s his name is deeply, deeply in debt.
    I’ve had the good fortune as a white man from my teen years on to enter work situations where people of color were the majority, where who they were opened my eyes some to who I wasn’t. I just as easily with a few different choices could have gone down the road that led good people who have been trained to hate (almost always in childhood before they have the ability to see what is being done) to attack our nation’s capitol. Cherishing each and every individual while abhorring their exclusionary tendencies requires a deft hand. Is this the task for forming a more perfect union?

    • art thiel

      His debt is a one-off driver for him, not the root cause of his sociopathic contempt for people.

      Yes, it is a task for a more perfect union, but I don’t know that there’s any governance model that can reduce sufficiently people’s perception of threats to their welfare.

      Those leaders that do succeed temporarily in changing behaviors are called dictators, because they seek power for its own sake, not for a greater good. Most electeds don’t see benevolence as a money-maker.

    • Husky73

      He’s not in debt. He has loans coming due (some or most of which he will reorganize), but his equity holdings are far more than the $421 million reportedly owed. He also has monthly income (mostly rents) that exceed his monthly expenses. His net worth (which, of course, he inflated) is probably between one and two billion dollars. By comparison, Elon Musk’s net worth is $200 billion.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Mr. Art
    Best ever.

    One request from your boy Archangelo Spumoni: don’t ever quit. Please. Never thought I would read this on a sports press site.

    • art thiel

      That’s a lot of pressure, AS. What if I aspire to do other things?

  • Brent Hannon

    let’s fix the police problem. that’s the flash point. the heart of it is accountability. According to John Oliver, America has more than 18,000 separate police forces. I grew up in Wenatchee: we had 5 separate police forces within two square miles (WSP, Wenatchee police, East Wenatchee police, Chelan County sheriff, and Douglas County sheriff.) with the exception of the WSP, they were answerable only to themselves. A lot of them (this was years ago) were real a-holes. multiply that by 18,000, consider that a lot of police are relatively uneducated, and add America’s history of racism and legacy of slavery, and you can see the extent of the problem. Myself, I would make it a Federal issue: establish a U.S. Department of Policing as a neutral arbiter, and hold these police forces completely accountable for their actions. They obviously can’t police themselves.

    • art thiel

      There is a problem, and it gets worse because of the cultural reluctance to take on serious reforms. Many officers already are leaving active duty because they resent increasing restraints on behavior. I also get their resentments when they see daily the degradation of society that they are often helpless to influence.

      Unfortunately, bad policing is something of a symptom and not a cause.

      • Brent Hannon

        yes, bad policing is a symptom, but it is also an issue that could be addressed through specific policy solutions, unlike some broader topics like systemic racism. It would show the Black community that the country is serious about pursuing change. it has to start somewhere. without policy, without laws, without real applicable institutional change, it is tempting to dismiss conversations about race as just talk. also Art: I would like to add my voice to the folks in this thread who appreciate your passion and perspective on broader issues beyond the playing fields. cheers!

        • art thiel

          Agreed that reforms must be attempted, because there can be successes. And we need the help.

          Thanks for indulging my forays beyond game outcomes. It’s about all of our lives, y’know?

  • 1coolguy

    Art, you are such a Blue, MSM stooge. As you have taken a free hand condemning “everything Trump”, along with your heroes Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, Waters, Schumer, etc, I will take equal license to point out Dean Man Walking Biden’s foibles, some of which he has already begun.
    I suspect you will not read the attached, BUT, if you do, you may learn some things, as the MSM, whose altar you knee before, had Trump on a 4 year blackout.
    https://issuesinsights.com/2021/01/21/trumps-top-10-triumphs-a-final-look-at-a-remarkable-presidency/

    • Tim

      Why do you resort to lowball character attacks against Art Thiel or anyone that criticizes Trump? Better yet, why do you take it so personally? It does not offend me that you despise Democrats as long as you stop advocating for violence like you did several months when you advocated for killing Democrats and specifically Nancy Pelosi. You know Art leans blue so at the very least, this was a passive aggressive shot at him and anyone that disagrees with you.

      If you hate the fact that Biden is president, you should place the blame sorely where it belongs…in the lap of Donald Trump. I don’t think there was a way he could have lost this election without the way he responded to the pandemic and BLM protests. Then again, personally accountability isn’t Trump’s strong point. Rhetoric have consequences. Maybe Sportspressnw.com isn’t a good match for you. Just a thought.

      • Tim

        I do always appreciate your insightful comments about sports, though, and know we both share in common a passion and love for the Seahawks.

      • art thiel

        I accept that some readers disagree. But I’m not fond of name-calling, like stooge. Rudeness is the hammer when logic fails.

        • Bruce McDermott

          Logic isn’t even tried, Art. In its place is simply reflexive sloganeering from the Echo Chamber. Mindless drivel.

    • Husky73

      “We love you. You’re very special. I’ll be there with you.”

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      Looks like you made it back from DC after the Jan. 6th debacle. You weren’t the one wearing the Viking outfit were you? Nothing says insurrection like dressing up as a Viking while living with your mom.

    • art thiel

      Whataboutism, coolguy. I’ve mentioned before how it doesn’t work. Try to apply critical thinking skills to your guy, then tell me what you think.

    • Archangelo Spumoni

      Mr. Guy

      I clicked on your link and there is a problem. The first one actually trumpeted the tax cut; the 2nd one is false, the 3rd had nothing to do with him except he did NOT order enough doses from Pfizer, etc.

      One of your subjective “successes” is “Reformed immigration and built the border wall.” Objective and subjective points exists. Moving to objective points, and this is where one of the nation’s problem exists.

      His last fiscal deficit pre-virus was $984Bn, slightly skewed by $70Bn in tariff revenue, so you proudly ran a trillion dollar + deficit in a growing economy.

      Point blank: do you think trumpeting the tax cut with the trillion dollar deficit in a growing economy is good? Will you acknowledge a trillion dollar deficit in a growing economy?

      Point blank: do you acknowledge that us peons’ tax cuts have expiration dates in the last tax bill while our “superiors'” do not. Did you know this fact? So it’s a de facto tax increase soon.

      Finally, point blank: do you believe he built “the” border wall. “The” is important here, in context of the length of the border with Mexico.

      Awaiting answers, please.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        Unless you look good in blue in the face, please by all means don’t hold your breath. Just like his Messiah that’s no longer relevant, he’s an arsonist. Retreats to the shadows to watch it burn.

    • Bobby Cobb

      Say no to drugs, 1coolguy, and yes to school. It’s never too late to become a full-fledged adult.

  • Husky73

    As a student of the past, there is a history of racism long before America came into being. On six of the seven continents, slavery and racial extermination were practiced by all colors and tribes. I am unaware of discrimination within the penguin community. Our narrow American viewpoint leads us to believe that the black/white issues in the US are today’s only racial struggles. However, there continues to be 21st century racial divides within the human species in many or most (perhaps all?) of the countries on our blue marble. As a realist, and having now lived in eight decades, I have no hope that “America’s greatest achievement” (or the world’s) will ever come into being. I expect my great grand children’s grand children– even in a more homogenous society– will still be dealing with racial (and national, and religious, and gender, and other) divisions which date back thousands of years. Ironically, the solution is simple- “treat others as you wish to be treated.” Sadly, humanity does not and will not embrace that concept.

    • art thiel

      I wish I could argue, but I’m not sure I can. My fear is that increased demand for scarcer resources (like water rights) will make things worse. We can at least slow things by not electing dysfunctional personalities.

      • Husky73

        50 years from now, perhaps California’s largest export may be water from numerous desalination plants dotting their post earthquake damaged coast.

      • Howard Hart

        Back in the 60s, as an HS student in a U.S. History class, we were taught by a man (he survived 25 missions in a bomber over Europe during WW2) that future wars would be fought for water.

        • Husky73

          He was close. They were fought for oil.

          • Howard Hart

            The water wars are not far off…

  • ll9956

    Well spoken, Art. Mr. Mencken most likely had no way of knowing that his prediction, at least part of it, would come true in a little over 100 years. I hope this column gets more visibility than the usual readership of your publication.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Feel free to share. It takes a village.

  • Tman

    Is Art Thiel Journalisms’ Roy Hobbs..The Natural..”The best there ever was.”?

    Who might be his peers?

    • Kevin Lynch

      Once upon a time there was a guy named Jim Murray. But that was a long time ago. Arthur is king now. Wait! King Arthur!? Make him pull a martini out of the stone!

    • Husky73

      Thomas Boswell and Mike Lupica.

  • Roger Donahe

    Thank you Art. I was moved by Pete’s comments at the time and I love your post bringing them to light against the backdrop of the past few weeks.

    • art thiel

      Carroll’s directness from a high-profile coach seemed to me unique. Tragically, so was the insurrection. Both were about the same topic, and the connection was worthwhile. Thanks.

  • DaveinSeattle

    Thanks, Art, for revisiting Pete’s amazing comments from that volatile time (it seems like a year ago, but it was less than half that time). I remember reading them from where I was living at the time (in Costa Rica), and being blown away that the guy that said them was a legendary football coach who is nearly 70 years old. He has a way of crystalizing complex social issues like this country’s history of racism in a way that everyone can understand. And the fact that he is willing to come out and say them while still being at the top of his game… it made me proud to be a fan of this franchise. And your juxtaposition of these comments about the protests of the time with what happened on January 6th is spot on. We must deal with cancer of racism in our society, or we are doomed as a nation (I think MLK said something like that). Great stuff here; appreciate the words.

    • art thiel

      Carroll didn’t have to step up; he probably garnered as much scorn as admiration. I admire people with the courage of their convictions.

  • Kevin Lynch

    There is one thing left for dear old Donald…thinking of Mencken….he can ‘Inherit the Wind’. Specifically, the wind breaking from millions of backsides as Mr. Trump slides into obscurity and from there to that land from whence no man ever returns.

    • Husky73

      That land is….Eugene.

      • Kevin Lynch

        I don’t see Eugene as a massive problem. We’ll just find ourselves another Sixkiller. Speaking of which….any contacts among the Ho-ho Kam? The Hopi? The Navaho?

        • Husky73

          Baffled.

    • art thiel

      Great movie reference. I recommend “Inherit The Wind” to anyone curious about about how demagoguery has been with us always.

  • DJ

    Amen, and thanks Art! Pete Carroll is a wonderful human being. You are as well, my friend. With the voice that Trump gave all of those creeps, just sitting in their miserable holes, waiting to come to life, thoughtful messages like that are lost in the noise.

    I’ve got a t-shirt that says “Make Racism Wrong Again”. I wear it whenever I can to get the message out, make others know, that it’s OK, I believe, they aren’t alone, and I want to help. Even in these bent times that we’re experiencing, it has gotten a positive reaction. Just in Home Depot the other day I got more than a half dozen compliments on it – from both whites and those of color. It really felt good. Always does. People want to change the system.

    Let’s make America great again – well, right now we can only go up, huh?!

  • Paul Sherman

    What a wonderful, inspiring piece, Art. you truly redefine sports reporting, as Pete Carrol redefines sports managing. If it could be, it could come from our sports heroes, in part, but really it all begins in kindergarten. We have to teach and emulate tolerance. I’m not sure its an evolutionary trait, and if it is, it will take a 1000 years or so. Worth waiting for. I feel for my kids and what they will have to face.

  • Coop

    This country’s recent turmoil is a reaction to white America finally removing veils (they and their ancestors put in place) to see WHAT they really are. The reaction from the Jan. 6 crowd is of a group who doesn’t want anyone adjusting their distorted (white) world view.

    Look at the fight this country is in for the WHAT. It hasn’t begun to touch the more difficult question of WHY. Racial harmony in America has a long way to go.

    • art thiel

      Yes, but there is no choice but to hammer away, a day at a time. As Carroll did.

  • David Freiboth

    Bless you Arthur. I posted Mencken’s quote on my office wall the day after The Donald was inaugurated. I appreciated that it spoke of those who put that “downright fool and … complete narcissistic moron” in office. He was a combination of the institutional backlash of electing the first black president and the institutional bias against the prospect of electing the first woman president. We came so close to avoiding this decent in 2016. But descend we did. So the question is before us … can we climb out?

    • art thiel

      I wish I had an answer. But I can’t forecast a football outcome.

      Thanks for the good words, Dave. I agree about the rare combination of events that allowed Trump to reach the bully pulpit. My concern is that the alt-right has ownership of the R’s, and next time they will select someone with the same agenda who is not a boob but diabolically clever. That’s why Cruz and Hawley are doubling down.

  • 1coolguy

    It’s already begun – Obama’s divisive identity politics are once again front and center with Dean Man Walking Biden.
    I look forward to all of you true Blue sports fans opine and surely defend his EO on transgender rights. Please read:
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-bidens-first-day-began-the-end-of-girls-sports-11611341066?mod=hp_opin_pos_3

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      “Dean”man walking? Come dude, step up to the plate. Say it. Dead man walking, you know you want to go way beyond that term and use those real hot iron words. Did you get your pee pee whacked on this site for calling for Democrats to be killed in previous posts? Or are you just some chicken scatology hiding behind a computer screen trying to pretend to be someone who would like nothing more than to say what you “really feel” about those that you are offended by. You know, the common decency folks.

      • 1coolguy

        Another absurd, Blue comment, as expected.

    • tor5

      I’m not sure how it’s possible, after all that’s happened, that someone could conclude that “divisive identity politics” have just “begun.” It’s hard to know what more Trump could have done to pit people of different identities against each other. It was the bedrock of his entire campaign.