The most recent incarnation of the culture wars have contorted a perfectly legal and Constitutionally underpinned form social activism into a logically maligned attack on Veterans. #TakeAKnee never, ever had anything to do with Veterans and yet using predictable racist dog-whistle tactics groups on the Right have initiated a backlash against protests about institutional inequality in the Justice System by morphing the cause’s actions into an “us-versus-them” conversation about patriotism and by extension veterans.
Vets unfortunately then became caught in the middle of a culture war that had nothing at all to do with their service. Rather, they became a pawn of the right to use patriotism as a cover for bigoted beliefs by pitting one group’s love of the flag and of the uniform against another group’s desires to raise awareness about inequality.
If you aren’t sure how we got to the point where to things that seem to have nothing to do with on another, it’s pretty simple:
A black man protests other black men being incarcerated and killed at a much higher rate than the general population. He, as a black man, uses techniques used by a myriad of protesters, some dating back more than 50 years. He, as a black man, happens to have a fairly high profile position in society playing sports which also provides some financial well being.
Queue the “racists” even if they don’t realize that their responses are racist: There are the Conservatives who dispute the systemic injustice and twist statistics to try and demonstrate how Whites Citizens and/or the Police are actually the victims. There are the White Working Class who dispute social injustice in general, claiming their failing socio-economic state isn’t of their own making and they actually don’t have privilege, but rather minorities are ruining their lives. Then there are the traditionalist football fans who have no choice by to accept some black stars in the league but generally have treated black Quarterbacks different than their white counterparts. And, of course, since the protests are during the Anthem which is part of a Flag Ceremony where white male solders have been the face of American military strength for generations there are some traditionalists who see this as an afront to the foundations of America.
Their responses are typical, predictable and fairly well trod dating back to the mid-last century during the birth of the Civil Rights movment.
Either because they willfully ignore the underpinning of the original protest because of ideological beliefs or they lack the intellectual ability to understand the #TakeAKnee protests for what they actually are, these people reframe their counter-protest position to be about something else entirely.
Knowing they cannot counter-protest #TakeAKnee from the white point of view without proving the protest’s point, and because they actually cannot fight the factual reality of what the protests are about with anything but unsubstantiated opinions of their own, the counter-protest leaders reframed it not to be about injustice but disrespect.
Not just any disrespect either. The specific attachment of it to the humanity of Veterans as opposed to a more amorphous idea Constitutionality and to the physical attributes of the Flag and Anthem rather than the more vaguely conceptual patriotism. This was a very calculated attempt to hijack the conversation and turn the act of black men exercising “free speech,” “freedom of assembly” and “freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances” as it pertains to Amendment 6, for example, which requires a fair an impartial trial by jury rather than death by cop, or Amendment 14 which guarantees due process rather death by cop, or Amendment 8 which guards against the cruel and unusual punishment such as of death by cop, and so on.
This sets up an “us-versus-them” approach leveraging Authoritarian beliefs against the broader idea of protests that challenge the status quo. Continue reading