If there’s one thing Donald Trump is good at, it’s throwing gasoline on our country’s divisions and lighting a match. He relishes in it.
It serves two major purposes for him.
First, it keeps the country distracted from his already-long list of failures since taking office.
Without such distractions, we’d all be talking about his winless presidency – an unconstitutional Muslim ban, an explosive Russia scandal, failed health care bills, broken promises about his stupid Mexican wall, his inability to pass a single substantive piece of legislation, and his nack for repeatedly embarrassing the United States on the world stage – and on and on.
Second, it ensures that his supporters will always be angry and emotional about something.
Anger and fear give this president oxygen, after all. It certainly powered his campaign. A strongman like Donald Trump cannot be successful without constantly reminding already-frustrated Americans who is to blame for their troubles. This time it’s professional athletes protesting racial injustice in America, other times it has been immigrants or Muslims or refugees.
Trump can’t win a war of ideas, so he gins up phony wars against underrepresented groups of people and convinces enough angry white folks to join the fight. Anybody who takes an opposing stand isn’t patriotic.
This weekend, the human embodiment of a YouTube comment section we call our president was at it again. He decided his failing presidency was in need of a fresh jolt of anger to mobilize the 35 percent of the country that still supports him.
After all, the ten millionth version of Trumpcare all but died in the Senate, thanks to that “not a war hero” John McCain.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that the noose of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia continues to tighten around the president, with Air Force One phone records now under scrutiny and indictments ready to fly.
Oh, and if you didn’t already have enough questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s victory last fall, it turns out that voting systems in 21 states were hacked by Russia during the election.
So the spray-tanned, game show host president dropped into Alabama, dove feet first into a vulgar and incoherent rant targeted at African American athletes, and has spent much of the weekend continuing his stream-of-consciousness ramble via Twitter.
And what are we all talking about now? You guessed it: NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
Let me say it as clearly as I can: The anger being expressed by many (white) people over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem is transparently phony.
Many of the same folks angry today about the American flag being “disrespected” were throwing pity parties when the Confederate Flag was removed from certain public places.
Many of these same people were silent or defensive as deranged Nazis and white supremacists marched through an American city carrying torches. I certainly didn’t hear this type of uproar when one of those scum decided to drive his car through a crowd of people.
And now you want the rest of us to listen to your lectures about honoring the flag? Thanks, but we’ll pass.
To my up-in-arms, Trump-supporting friends: You know what would be a good way to honor the stars and stripes? Support people who exercise their First Amendment rights in a peaceful, nonviolent way.
Other good ways to honor American values? Speak out when neo-Nazis take innocent life, or when your dear leader stands behind a podium with the presidential seal and calls them “very fine people.”
Here’s another novel way to show your patriotism: Force the intellectually bankrupt man in the White House to, I don’t know, learn about issues that have a real impact on your life – health care, jobs, the environment, a foreign government waging a cyber war against our democratic process.
Those are easy, meaningful ways to honor this country and advance the cause of perfecting our union. Crying about the pre-game behavior of professional athletes will do none of those things.
Sadly, I have a feeling that people who continue to defend this president will take me up on none of those suggestions, because as deranged and unfit as Donald Trump is for this job, he picked up on something very early on in his political career, and it has fueled him ever since: Many people just want to be angry. They want to blame their troubles on somebody else, and Trump repeatedly gives them the scapegoat they crave.
It’s hard to tell when they will see through this stunt. Sure, as Trump continues setting fire to everything his tiny hands touch, his support is fading – but too many spineless leaders in Washington are standing by him and most of his supporters have sheltered themselves inside of the alternate universe he has given them.
Until something breaks through, we will continue wasting our days chasing whatever squirrel Trump points at. Our divisions will deepen and the pressing issues that need solutions will be ignored.
The widespread condemnation of Trump’s behavior today – with many NFL players taking a knee or locking arms – is an important, symbolic display of patriotism. But more needs to be done, and fast, to stop this dangerous and unstable reality show president from doing more damage.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.