Hand Gestures for the Ages

DATELINE: Political Humor

glad gladiators

The universal gesture of “hands up” that seems ingrained in cowboy movies and gangster films has now become a sign of political protest.

Peaceful demonstrators now have their hands up in metaphoric solidarity with a young man shot and killed by a policeman. The St. Louis man reportedly had his hands up.

The spillover of gestures never goes easily to the sports world. When five St. Louis Rams players entered their stadium with their hands up, the opponents may have figured it would be surrender on their terms and an easy victory.

Sports gestures are historically infamous. You have to recall the black athletes at the Mexican Olympics in 1968 that won medals—and had the temerity to give a “Black Power” salute.

Not long thereafter, the upraised fist became associated with neutered victory, and lost any connection to angry racial protest. We suspect the “hands up” gesture may be headed back to the last roundup sooner than later.

Of course, we recall fondly the days when gladiators raised their swords toward the emperor and chanted, “We who are about to die salute you.” We always liked to return the gesture with a thumb down.

Now “Hands Up” may be the new mantra for modern males who wish they were gladiators. There seems to be an element of childish games in political protestors as they raise protest to the level of fisticuffs. Young male hormones tend to act that way—and have since Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.

Next time a policeman asks you to put your hands up, or worse, to “spread’em,” we fear the worst. Of course, no police officer has ever asked us to do such things. Our encounters with police have always been polite.

But, we travel in far different circles than your average young male political protestor—and they are grateful for that.

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