While Puerto Rico has faced its worst natural disaster in over a century; Trump has once again used trumpfoolery to distract his base from his failed action in assisting Americans in crisis by starting a fight with the NFL. It seems a fitting plot for the reality show television host turned fake politician/president.
People are dying in the streets with no access to water or medication. It is expected to take four months to restore power to the island and everyday mothers take their children to stand in line for a minimum of twelve hours to get two packs of ice – hopefully, a few more if their children are allowed a share as well.
Rather than mobilizing efforts to bring aid to Puerto Ricans, Trump has diverted attention from his failure by ranting that NFL players should be fired for disrespecting the American flag by taking a knee during the national anthem. It is no surprise that our fake president is unable to make the connection between the peaceful protests and lack of rights for every American – he likely thinks that Rosa Parks was protesting the transportation system. Even so, this is a low point for Trump. Ignoring a national crisis, the death of thousands, and continued life-threatening conditions for Americans so that he can rile up his base and avoid acknowledging his failure is deplorable, to say the least.
Interestingly, Trump’s base who claim patriotism as a reason to silence “the other” and ignore the massive crises that exist for so many Americans at the moment, includes the 81% of Evangelicals and 65% of Catholics who voted for him.
While the conversation is ridiculous, I find it necessary to address the inability for so many to think critically – especially white Christians – about the issues at hand. To begin with, we must ask, what is a reasonable form of protest? The Black Lives Matter movement has been condemned in favor of the “all lives matter” retort. Sadly, so many do not understand that all lives will never matter if black lives do not matter too.
Trump has also been highly critical of celebrities who have spoken out and challenged his damaging rhetoric. He threw another “trumper tantrum” when Steph Curry declined his invitation to the White House. Acting like a spoiled child who didn’t get his way, Trump took to Twitter to say that he disinvited Curry. Of course, he could never acknowledge that anyone would not want to share space with a fake president who promotes violence on the basis of bigotry, sexism, and xenophobia.
So, organizing, stopping traffic, speeches, and now taking a knee and peacefully acknowledging the human rights violations that exist in our nation are not acceptable form of protests. But carrying tiki torches while spewing hate – well, that is not only acceptable, it is the practice of free speech by those who are fine people.
And let’s be serious about the many reasons to protest the NFL. Perhaps because of the high rates of domestic violence, rape, murder, and animal abuse? Seemingly not. Of course, women and animals are barely acknowledged as having rights in our society. But finally, the NFL – an organization known for violence against women – is participating in feminist action. We cannot uproot one oppression without uprooting them all – and thus, feminism is deeply concerned with racism and all forms of systemic injustice. Taking a knee to expose police brutality, white nationalist violence, and a racist presidency is not unpatriotic – it is an invocation for justice, for reconciliation, and a call for atonement for a legacy of slavery and racial injustice.
Rather than acknowledging it for what it is, our fake president divided our nation in an effort for self-preservation disguised as a call for patriotism.
And if we are so concerned with disrespecting the flag, why not take a stand against wearing the flag as an article of clothing – particularly a thong or boxer shorts. Or perhaps using napkins decorated as the American flag to wipe our dirty and germ-infested mouths. How about a stand against wiping our asses with American flag toilet paper? These seem far more offensive than taking a knee.
Many argue taking a knee is disrespectful to our veterans; yet isn’t the attempt to silence African Americans a blatant exploitation of our military members’ service? Perhaps we should be more concerned about the lack of healthcare for veterans rather than individuals taking a knee to protest systemic violence and injustice.
We exploit the flag in so many ways and yet when an African American male peacefully protests the ongoing oppression and violence committed against people of color in our nation, masses have quickly gathered behind Trump to call for a lynching. It is disconcerting that so many who blur the cross and the flag, lack awareness of the many ways American society exploits patriotism and Christianity as a means to marginalize “the other.”
In the US we have claimed an American Jesus – an icon who carries guns, watches football, demeans women, supports Trump, and like a good patriot, values the flag over human rights. And yet, if the historical Jesus lived today, many would be surprised find that he would stand against all that they hold dear. Jesus would take a knee on the field, organize the oppressed, and demand social justice in a nation corrupt by power and greed.
Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, author, and activist, and is Co-founder of FeminismandReligion.com. Her new book Jesus in the White House: Make Humanity Great Again, called “needed antidote to current anguish” by Sr. Simone Campbell, is now available.