A big part of where we are today started with nine little words.
“Get that son of a bitch off the field.”
After starting his political career on a lie that Barack Obama wasn’t “American” — thus creating the birther movement — Donald Trump understood that he needed something else. Another moment, or target, that would fire up his base, causing a wave that he could ride throughout his “presidency” that would include a long battle with the NFL.
Enter Colin Kaepernick, a proud Black man that had “gotten too big for britches” and was daring Americans to wake up and pay attention to one of its longest and greatest sins — racism — as he challenged the country to digest the fact that police were killing Black people at will. And so he sat, then kneeled, during this country’s song — which has a racist third verse — before this country’s favorite sport is played, and is still paying the price.
But instead of people realizing that the police should be defunded at worst and reformed at best, Kaepernick became something that Trump could use as a symbol for more “law and order,” as he and his supporters believed that civil and peaceful demonstrations to challenge what this country was supposedly built on were somehow unpatriotic and un-American.
Well, if things haven’t changed.
Last week, the Justice Department announced that it had returned Trump’s passports — a move so mind-boggling given that it may be the first time in American history that a former President needed his passports confiscated. It all stems from the fallout of everything that’s happened since January 6th, and when the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, with some of the leaders that he picked investigating him. And as the speculation grows about what could be, couldn’t be, or what probably is in those important secret documents that were seized from Trump’s property, the goalpost-moving that he and his supporters have been doing has been fascinating to watch.
But not in a good way, as it’s been a testament to how dangerous a man and his followers can be when they don’t believe that they should be adherent to rules, protocols, or decorum.
“We haven’t seen this level of real mobilization to potential violence since the mid-90s,” Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and a former senior counterterrorism official at DHS recently told USA Today. “This is really disturbing, and I know firsthand from my colleagues back at the FBI that they’re taking this as seriously as they should be — it’s very upsetting to them.”
Just last week, a man crashed his car into a barricade at the US Capitol and fired a gun in the air before fatally killing himself.
What happened to “backing the blue?”
Aren’t these the same people who supposedly stood for law and order and the support of police, the military, and those in uniform? Because a few years ago, Kaepernick was supposedly the bad guy that was disrespecting the flag and our country. But yet, just a few weeks ago Republican senators were fist-bumping in celebration after a vote that held up aid for veterans, as GOP members like Marjorie Taylor Greene posted upside-down American flags on social media and tweeted things like “DEFUND THE FBI,” all because the walls are closing in on their leader, as they’re learning that choices have consequences.
While dangerous, unethical, and sad, the theatrics that Trump’s supporters have put on over the last few weeks have been the epitome of irony. People are either caught in a display of mental gymnastics as they bend their words and ideologies to conform against the facts and evidence that are being provided, or they’re slowly trying to distance themselves from him.
“The country, I think, is so exhausted,” FOX News’ Laura Ingraham recently said on a podcast. Yes, Ms. “Shut up and Dribble” seems to be a little concerned about how things are going for her friend of 25 years. “They’re exhausted by the battle, the constant battle, that they may believe that, well, maybe it’s time to turn the page if we can get someone who has all Trump’s policies, who’s not Trump.”
But, that’s the thing. This was never just about policies or legislation. It was about Trump being a symbol of someone that millions of people could get behind and vote for because they knew he would say what they feel out loud — political correctness be damned. Stacking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade (and other possible cases that could lead to the outlawing of things like interracial marriage and affirmative action) were all calculated moves powered by a man that wasn’t afraid to campaign on hate. And at the heart of that was the tax that this county had to pay for having the audacity to elect a Black president twice, and a quarterback that dared to remind white America that everything from their beloved football games, songs, and police departments are founded on racism.
Next month will be five years since Trump said “Get that son of a bitch off the field,” about Kaepernick and other Black players that were kneeling. And although the discussion about kneeling isn’t the same as it was then, the conversations that it sparked are still taking place. And while Colin Kaepernick is still being blackballed from the NFL, it feels like Donald Trump could be getting closer to being in handcuffs.
And if that day ever happens, it will be clear who was truly unpatriotic from the beginning. One man challenged America to be better, while the other was always trying to sell this country out for his gain.