No one ever mistook Donald Trump for a religious chap. Even his devoutly Christian supporters scarcely argue that he is a churchgoing man of God. They're in it for the judges! But even still, his display after military police violently cleared the area near St. John's Church in Washington, D.C. last week was particularly grotesque. His daughter-slash-senior-adviser produced a Bible from her thousand-dollar handbag, and he brandished it like the weapon he believes it is. He has repeatedly declined to cite a favorite Bible verse, because he doesn't have one. Because he's never read the thing. He proudly admitted, prior to millions of Evangelicals voting for him, that he'd never asked God forgiveness for anything. Does he even claim to be a C+E guy?
Related Video: A Timeline of Colin Kaepernick’s Fight for Racial Justice
Still, it was surprising to hear the White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, declare his opposition to "kneeling in general" on this fine June Monday. It is impossible to imagine this guy kneeling in a pew, but you'd think they'd want to keep that one under wraps! We're just joshin', of course. Well, not about the idea the president does not do prayer. That's legit. But what McEnany was really referring to was the president's strident opposition to NFL players kneeling. He doesn't like it! He really doesn't like it now that the Do Nothing Democrats did it before introducing some police reform legislation. Did she mention he doesn't like it?
Kayleigh: The President is very much against kneeling umm in general.. pic.twitter.com/HWeq2Qpn4x
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) June 8, 2020
It's here where we might remind you that, despite his recent lip service to George Floyd—which was itself short-lived, after he shared a tweet disparaging Floyd's character this weekend—the president has a long and storied history disparaging the movement for racial justice in policing and the criminal justice system. It was just a couple years back that he was screaming for NFL players to be fired for engaging in peaceful protest, calling them "sons of bitches."
This was predicated on the false notion that Colin Kaepernick and others were attempting to disparage the military, despite Kaepernick's clear statements otherwise, and despite the fact that Kaepernick moved to kneel during the anthem after a conversation with a former Green Beret. (Initially, Kaepernick had chosen to sit on the bench while others stood at attention. Nate Boyer, an NFL player and veteran, suggested kneeling could communicate the same message with greater respect.) Kneeling during the anthem is only a protest of "the flag" or "the anthem" insofar as it is a statement that the United States is currently failing to live up to the values we are continually told those symbols represent. All American citizens are not currently equal under the law. We cannot all claim freedom equally. Some of us have not been granted the full rights of citizenship.
The effort to make the protests about something else—the flag, or the troops, or whatever—was one in a long line of attempts to talk about anything other than the actual issues Kaepernick and other kneeling prayers were trying to draw attention to. It's a lot easier to lean on jingoism and reactionary resentment than grapple with the fact that these children of God have still never been allowed true American citizenship, and that this country has never been a full democracy as a result. Maybe the president can pray on it.
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