The Flag, Protesters, and You Know Who

1. Lots of ink has been spilled over Trump's recent "remarks" about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. There is a lot to be said, but the most fundamental thing is this: Trump is an asshole. A world-class asshole of the kind that other assholes think is an asshole.

2. I mean what kind of president personally attacks private citizens acting out of conscience? Recall how when it comes to white people protesting in favor of the Confederate flag and Confederate statues (while chanting stuff about Jews, naturally), we are supposed to recognize that the issue is complicated and that many good people are involved, but when the protesters are largely black and trying to draw attention to the extrajudicial killing of black people, they are "sons-of-bitches." Maybe Trump isn't just an asshole, but also a racist.

3. It is true, however, that someone is a disgrace to the flag here. It's the draft-dodging guy with the big mouth and empty brain who likes to bully people and cheat them on business deals, all the while playing footsie with Putin and the corrupt Russian oligarchs.

4. The weakest critique of the protesters is that they are multimillionaires who think they are somehow victims. A moment's reflection shows that this is the opposite of the truth. Though it actually is true that a wealthy black man can get thrown to the pavement by police and get a knee in the back, just like what happened with the tennis star James Blake a couple years ago.

5. And when did it come about that the flag only stands for our military?

6. The real issue at the core of this is the conflict between those whose bias is toward loyalty and those whose bias is toward justice. The Vietnam series running on PBS now shows that that was the divide then as well. This is a tough one. Both sides have a valid argument. The way to deal with this is through a process of what John Dewey called "adjustment." In this model, one is always toggling in the direction of one pole or the other depending on the needs of the situation and your own particular goals. In this process there is steady attention to weighing and balancing options, and a wariness of extremism. I think the actions of the protesters qualify as reasonable, far from the outer more extreme pole of what many might deem appropriate given the sorry state of law enforcement and criminal justice system, especially in its treatment of black people.

7. UPDATE: 9-30: This point about about reasonableness is key. Whether you agree or disagree with the players' mode of protest is beside the point. The point is whether a person is acting sincerely, thoughtfully, and nonviolently about matters of conscience. I think this much should be granted before moving on to criticism, including vigorous, heartfelt criticism.


  1. Outstanding. You had me at the beginning of the third line. Thanks for distilling the noise.


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