Colin Kaepernick, The Flag Fetish, And Conservative Virtue Signaling

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Over the past few years, charges of “virtue signalling” in the political sphere have become increasingly common. It is almost always used in a pejorative manner, and almost always directed at liberals. The idea behind virtue signalling is that many liberal opinions are professed with the primary goal of increasing one’s social standing within their particular liberal in-group, rather than a sincere belief in what is said.

Ascertaining potential motives of individuals who publicly state their views can be difficult. It is certainly possible that people say things in an attempt to climb some virtuous social ladder. It is also possible that people simply believe what they say-despite how ridiculous it may sound to others. The only way to gauge the likelihood of virtue signaling is by weighing the statements of an individual against their actions and behavior for disparities.

Case in point, the President of the United States. Trump is a person who often contradicts himself within the course of a few minutes. He is also a man who has led a very public, high-profile life for decades. Given the fact that he believes he is simultaneously solving the nation’s domestic problems while pacifying international threats, Trump felt it pertinent to voice his disdain of NFL players who don’t stand for the national anthem.

Last year, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to take a knee during the national anthem to protest what he believes to be racial injustice in America. His protest was polarizing, as one might expect, and he has paid a professional price for his actions. He is currently a free agent with no team willing to sign him. Regardless of one’s personal feelings towards Kaepernick, he is free to protest in the fashion he sees fit, just as the NFL and team owners are free to respond in whatever way they see fit. This is not an issue that warrants interference from the President.

Last Friday, while holding one of his wannabe strongman propaganda rallies in Alabama, Trump decided to raise the issue of athletes not paying due respect to the flag. These rallies are generally attended by Trump’s most loyal and possibly lobotomized followers who eagerly await a lecture from their newfound leader. Trump’s speech was in typical, Castro-esque style, marred by rambling, incoherence, conspiracies, and a truly pitiful mixture of self-aggrandizement and victimization. Trump declared that any “son of a bitch” who disrespects the flag should be taken off the field and fired. He has been fanning the flames of this foolish issue via Twitter since the rallies conclusion. If this does not constitute virtue signalling, I don’t know what does.

I do not believe for a moment that Trump cares whether or not an athlete “disrespects our flag” by taking a knee during the national anthem because I don’t believe that Trump cares about America. As difficult as it may be to ascribe underlying motive to a statement, Trump’s own rhetoric throughout the campaign was telling, be it his claim that “we are like a third world country” or that “our country is going to hell.” While still a young man, he refused military service through multiple draft deferments during the Vietnam War, yet felt confident in viciously slandering Senator McCain, an American war hero, and lifelong public servant. Trump’s incessant admiration of dictators, as well as his own dictatorial ambitions that result in anger and rage when quelled by the Judicial Branch, are hardly indications of a patriot who believes in the American experiment and honored to serve as President. There are endless examples of such repellent behavior.

One thing is clear about Trump-the only thing he cares about is himself. The manner in which his confused supporters struggle acknowledging such, while forcefully arguing that Trump is a man of conviction with a deep love of country is perplexing given the immense evidence suggesting otherwise.

Despite Trump’s contempt for America and its values, he is keenly aware that the American flag is a sensitive issue among his base. Just weeks after his electoral victory in November, he took to Twitter asserting that those who burn the American flag should be jailed and stripped of citizenship despite the Supreme Court ruling that flag desecration is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment.

Due to Trump’s lackluster list of achievements and growing list of embarrassments since taking office, it is not difficult to understand why he is employing the supposed liberal tactic of virtue signaling to rally his base. America is facing numerous challenges at home and abroad-all of which far exceed Trump’s capabilities. Be it international issues such as potential war with a nuclear North Korea or domestic issues like healthcare, everyone is discussing football and flags-even the Treasury Secretary.

It is a shame that so many Americans struggle to understand that love of flag, or even country, cannot be forced-nor should it be. America is unique in regards to the First Amendment of the Constitution, and the American flag deserves respect, ironically, because respecting it is optional. Forcing Americans to fetishize the flag, be it through legal means or intimidation by a hyper-jingoistic, virtue signaling mob led by the President is disgraceful.

Conservatives, as expected, are forcefully ordering liberals to leave the country if they refuse to conform to sufficient levels of flag-worshiping. However, it is worth noting that conservatives are also free to move to a country where flag adoration is mandatory if they are unable to maintain their emotional composure over such an issue. Going forward, as a nation, we must do what we always do-protect freedom of expression regardless of the potential offense it may cause. It is now time for the President, along with the country to focus on more pressing matters.

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