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The Power of Symbols: Donald Trump and Colin Kaepernick

Mike has a keen interest in the effects of politics in our culture. He has a unique way of simplifying complex concepts.

Symbols have been used by humankind since the early cavemen to communicate and represent ideas.

Symbols have been used by humankind since the early cavemen to communicate and represent ideas.

All About Symbols

Humans have always used symbols to represent things. Even the early cavemen used symbols to represent their subjects and topics. Symbols were used to tell stories and record history. However, symbols don’t always mean the same things to everybody. The cave painting below can be interpreted in many ways, but the originator knew what it meant.

Interpretation of Symbols

Symbols, such as flags and gestures, can be interpreted to mean different things to different people depending on their values and belief systems. The Nazi swastika and the gesture of raising one’s arm in salute to Hitler were signs of unity and allegiance to Hitler and the Nazi party. But to his enemies, they meant something very sinister and evil.

Gestures as Symbols

The act of lowering one’s knee to the ground is a gesture of respect and worship when passing the blessed sacrament in the Catholic church. It was used in both the past and present during knightings as a means of showing reverence to a monarch. In sporting events, however, while the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem are playing, it can be considered by some as a sign of disrespect to the flag, the National Anthem, and the country.

In the context of a knighting process, kneeling is generally seen as a sign of respect.

In the context of a knighting process, kneeling is generally seen as a sign of respect.

Colin Kaepernick

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. He said he did it to protest the injustices dealt to Black people by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

There are many who have said that a national sporting event is not a place to protest. This raises the question: Where is a good place to protest the injustices perpetrated against Black people? This was a peaceful protest and it reached millions of people. The problem is that this protest's true intent was lost in all the chatter about why he protested and how he should be punished for protesting.

Trump's Interpretation

Donald Trump has stated that Kaepernick's protest is not about race, but is an act of disrespect towards the flag, the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, the military, and the country. Trump suggested that the owners of NFL teams should fire the "SOBs" who participate in the protests. Many people think that because football players earn so much money, they should just be quiet, not protest, and be thankful that they are earning megabucks for what they do.

Trump Changes the Narrative

Trump has changed the narrative surrounding Kaepernick's protest. Currently, the NFL players, coaches, and owners have all come together to support this protest. Trump doesn’t acknowledge that most of the players on NFL teams are Black. The word “team” here is very important. Trump, by his very nature, is a divide-and-conquer type of person. He is not a team player. He did it with GOP candidates, and the intelligence community, and now he is dividing the country into two camps: those who think this protest is about disrespect of the country and those who think it is about racial injustice.

In typical Trump style, he will stick to his interpretation of the protest and continue creating tweet storms, even though his interpretation of the protest is false. There is no telling what his real motivation is for doing this. It could all be a big distraction to take the focus off of health care, tax reform, North Korea, and/or the Russian investigation.

Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance at NFL games in 2016.

Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance at NFL games in 2016.

The Hypocrisy of Trump's Opinion on Kneeling

It's okay for some people to pay reverence and praise to the confederate stars and bars and to Robert E. Lee, who was a traitor and a slaveowner. It's okay for Trump to place the blame for white supremacists' riots and actions in Charlottesville on both sides. But for some reason, Trump thinks that athletes who participate in Kaepernick's nonviolent protest by taking a knee are problematic.

Stakeholder's Analysis Summary

Let's look at who the stakeholders are in terms of rights, responsibilities, deficits, and benefits.

Trump has the right to say whatever he thinks the reason is for Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel at football games. He also has a responsibility to tell the truth based on why Colin said he was kneeling. The harmful results of Trump sharing his opinion are the division of the country and its people into an "us vs. them" mentality. The benefit for Trump is that he is playing to his base and gaining their support without understanding what the real issue is about.

Kaepernick has the right to peacefully kneel in protest of injustice towards Black people. He also has the responsibility to promote why he was kneeling, so that it is not open to interpretation. The fact is that Kaepernick began protesting in this manner in 2016, and his reasoning was not properly presented, explained, or understood until roughly a year later. Trump revived the issue when he played to his base's feelings. The benefit of this whole situation is that it does make people aware of the injustices that plague Black communities.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.