I have spent much of the past few days reading, watching and discussing the feud Trump has recently initiated with the NFL, particularly the players who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem. I have listened to a great deal of mainstream analysis on CNN and read articles discussing the controversy. Trump, who has called the players “sons of bitches,” while referring to the far-right fascist groups in Charleston as “very fine people,” has ignited a debate around whether or not kneeling during the national anthem is disrespecting the flag, soldiers, freedom, and sacrifice that the national anthem purportedly represents.
It has been extremely frustrating for me to see people criticizing the players who are protesting — calling them ungrateful, disrespectful, un-American. People who say they understand the country is not perfect but that “disrespecting the flag” is not the way to go about fixing it. People are calling it divisive, saying sports shouldn’t force people to take a political position.
I needed to take a step back and not operate or analyze the discourse and situation from my initial and often emotional response. By doing this, I hoped to develop a more nuanced and critical analysis of what and why this debate is happening. I wanted to peer deeper into the thought processes behind what people were saying, rather than taking their words at face value.
I have chosen to write about this because I was both furious and disappointed at what the mainstream media has not said. They will say Trump peddled and untruth, instead of saying the nigga lied. They will say he is racially challenged, or that they do not know what is in his heart, instead of saying he is a racist and white supremacist sympathizer. They choose to believe his tweets are irrational and of his own doing, rather than strategic and carefully crafted items used to employ media hysteria and further his agenda.
They will not say his denunciation of freedom of expression, his calls for loyalty and patriotism at the expense of moral consciousness, his purposeful appeal to an extremist and cult-like following are all timeless indicators of a fascist movement.
I am humored by those who despairingly describe Trump as a divider instead of a uniter; who say this is a divisive moment in our country’s history. Not ever has our country been comprised of a united or equal people — Trump has only drawn the line, making quite visible which sides we are on.
Indeed this rhetorical imagery of heroic and sacred symbolism has been tactfully utilized to highjack the discourse of what was initially a call for America to live up to these very values. Such rhetoric implies that for one to criticize an aspect of America is to rebuke her in her entirety. It replaces America’s brutal reality and inherent contradiction with the seductive illusion of equality and freedom — even as we witness these selectively existent values stripped before us.
Those who refuse to adhere to this illusion are told they are unpatriotic and ungrateful; that they are lucky to live in America in the first place.
Trump’s bout with the NFL is a national test of loyalty. He seeks to unify those who will go to great lengths to protect the American fiction. It is meant to demonize American critics and reinstill pride in those who consider themselves patriotic.
The message is both clear and chilling; submit to the symbols of America and its delusional narrative of freedom, sacrifice, and purity, or be labeled a political heretic, un-American, and a “son of a bitch.”