Kneeling for the National Anthem: Trump Shoots Himself in the Foot

The last time I was exposed to the Pledge of Allegiance, I sat through it as my protest. Kneeling for the National Anthem is a cousin to refusing the Pledge. Kneeling began with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on September 1, 2016. He is quoted as explaining “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder…” This was a clear reference to police brutality that has caused needless deaths. The evidence of a terrible change in policing in many locations is overwhelming.

Kaepernick is black. He was soon joined by other black players in a variety of body-language protests. Seth DeValve became the first white player to kneel or sit during the anthem on August 21, 2017.

As long as kneeling and related actions are maintained as symbolic gestures in search of remedies to government evils such as police brutality, they are a good thing. They are a step in the direction of stopping the State in unopposed fashion from piggybacking patriotism and blind support of wars onto highly popular sports contests. It’s very good that Kaepernick began his protest while Obama was president and explained his general grounds. He’s the first mover, and the reasons for his protest should be maintained and respected. These protests should not be shifted over to the narrow ground of being anti-Trump.

The problem with keeping the symbolic meaning pure is that Trump has now made inflammatory comments about kneeling for the Anthem, so that kneeling now becomes not only a protest against police brutality but also against Trump’s extreme position. Trump is a blindly one-sided supporter of police, the military, the State, and government. He reminds us of Nixon, who could see only “bums” on college campuses protesting. Trump doesn’t recognize either the police brutality issue or the legitimacy of public protests against government evils.

In this matter, Trump is stupid, rash, ignorant, a bully, lacking in grace and lacking in sensitivity. It’s stupid for him to interject himself to defend State power against these body-language protests by calling for firing and boycotts. He is seeding greater protests and his own isolation, which undermine his own political pull. He’s elevated a relatively small matter into a big one. He’s rash for leaping before he has looked into the reason for the protests. He’s ignorant for not knowing the reason and for misusing his position. He’s ignorant for not knowing the many roles of a free people in this country. He’s a bully for attempting to control something that is more in a private domain than one that directly involves government. He’s a bully for placing the State and himself above Americans with whom he disagrees and condemns when they have a legitimate complaint and way to express it. He could have made any number of graceful observations had he been so inclined, so that what he actually has said is totally lacking in grace. I do not know whether or not Trump realized that he was making a comment more about black players than those of other races. He should have known. He should have been sensitive to the racial side of this matter, but he was not.

Trump is the man right now, but before him were Obama, Bush and Clinton, and there could have been Hillary Clinton or John McCain in that position. The point is that they’re all ordinary human beings with weaknesses and limitations and with outsize ambitions to whom the system either gave or might have given enormous power. They all misused it or surely would have misused it had they been elected.


2:24 pm on September 24, 2017