Image by the great Mike Luckovich, by way of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Colin Kaepernick had every right to kneel on NFL sidelines during the national anthem. He was protesting what he believed to be the oppression of black citizens in America, in particular the inordinately high rate of blacks killed by police (statistically speaking, a black American is about 2.5 times more likely than a white to be shot and killed by police, after adjusting for population.)
Whether one happens to agree with Kaepernick’s views or not, he sure as hell had every right to express them. As does any other professional athlete, as does any random citizen on the street, as do you and I.
Trump’s fevered condemnation of athletes who protest during the national anthem (during a speech in Alabama Friday night), and his suggestion that they should be fired for doing so, speaks volumes about the real heart of the man who occupies our White House. He hasn’t done anything to distance himself from the the shadow of racism that’s dogged him for years, and in fact in recent months he’s done much to reinforce the perception that he’s a genuine bigot.
His reactions to the Nazi/KKK march on Charlottesville were powerfully denounced by everyone from longtime Trump supporter James Murdoch, to virtually every prominent Republican politician (and of course Democrats), to the CEOs of many of America’s largest corporations (who walked off Trump’s business councils), to the heads of every branch of the American military. These weren’t just acid-gobblin’ hippies or extremist radicals who spoke out against Trump’s cowardly equivocation.
After Charlottesville, Trump retweeted a message from Jack Posobiec, who was at the time attempting to organize multiple alt-right rallies similar to the one in Charlottesville, all across the US. Posobiec has previously praised and affiliated with Richard Spencer, one of the most high-profile white supremacists in the country.
Whatever opinions Trump wishes to express, it's telling that he continues to choose methods such as this. Retweeting messages from self-described alt-righters and white supremacists is a big fat message in itself. You have to close your eyes not to see it.And then came Trump’s finkish pardon of Joe Arpaio.
From 1993 til 2016, former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was a hideous piece of work who used tactics of intimidation to silence critics, and who grossly misappropriated funds to maintain a reign of intolerance in Maricopa County. Alongside his buddy Trump, Arpaio was a Reality TV slime ball who created shows and videos based around arrests and jails and other facets of his administration. And Arpaio was a rabid supporter of Trump’s braindead, racist “birther” bullshit.
Let’s revisit “America’s toughest sheriff”:
Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt after intentionally violating a court ruling that ordered his department to end its practice of illegally detaining people based only on suspicions.
Arpaio ordered deputies to target residents based on ethnicity, often detaining innocent citizens without cause.
Arpaio’s office routinely ignored sex crime cases and failed to respond to reports of sexual violence, allegations of rape and assault, etc. Which is doubly creepy, because one of Arpaio’s “sheriff’s posse” was indicted for child pornography. And Arpaio was finally forced to turn off one of his “jail cams” that showed female inmates using a toilet (including pre-trial prisoners.) The toilet cam, unbelievably and disgustingly, was linked to porn sites on the internet.
Several other of Arpaio’s “posse” had criminal records: assault, drug possession, domestic violence, sex crimes against children, impersonating an officer…on and on.
Arpaio created a cruel and unusual “Tent City”, an outdoor detention center which Arpaio compared to a “concentration camp.” Tent City was primarily used for Mexican inmates, and temperatures in the daytimes sometimes reached as high as 140 degrees. At least one Tent City inmate, Marcia Powell, died due to complications from heat exposure in 2009.
Another inmate, Ambrett Spencer, lost her baby due to neglect by jailhouse staff in 2006. Other female inmates described similar conditions and neglect.
Black and Mexican women were often harshly mistreated, denied basic sanitary essentials, forced to keep using sheets and clothes soiled with menstruation.
The water well in Maricopa County’s Estrella Jail in west Phoenix was found to have been infested with mice and mice feces in the mid-2000s. (Incredibly dangerous for the numerous pregnant inmates who passed through.) Rotten, green baloney was sometimes served to prisoners. A federal judge ruled in 2008 that “Arpaio’s current jail conditions violate the US Constitution, specifically when it comes to healthcare, overcrowding, and access to medication.” (Phoenix New Times).
(And before any of you hardliners start shrieking about how “they deserved it”, let’s keep in mind these were jails, not prisons. Short term sentences and often pre-trial detainees. You remember that silly little notion about “innocent until proven guilty”? Not to mention that basic tenet of human decency, and the 8th amendment to our Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.)
On and on…and on. In what has been called “the biggest misspending of state funds in the history of Arizona,” Arpaio’s department misappropriated tens of millions of taxpayer dollars intended to improve the county’s jails, and used the money to increase immigration sweeps, investigate and deter critics of Arpaio, and pay for personal travel. Including partly funding a ludicrous “investigation into whether or not [Obama] was truly born in the United States.” And, comically, flying a deputy to Hawaii to get to the root of said conspiracy.
Yep, that’s right. Like I mentioned before, Arpaio was on Trump’s bigoted birther bandwagon, all through the presidential campaign. And that brings us back to the Donald.
During his speech Friday in Alabama, as has been widely noted, Trump called out protesting athletes as “sons of bitches” with much venom, and it’s interesting to note the difference between his gushing, gleeful hatred toward these mostly black athletes, and his by-the-book, reluctant and detached reading of criticisms of Nazis and the KKK.
And during that same speech in Alabama, when Trump said the athletes have a “total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for”…again, that spoke volumes. Volumes so ugly and ominous and reeking of white privilege, it was hard to stomach and impossible to ignore. When a black athlete is expressing a political opinion, and the president says that athlete is disrespecting “our” anything…that’s all you really need to know. Who exactly is he referring to by “our”? The black athlete is an American citizen, every bit as much as Trump. But Trump is excluding said black athlete, and getting all indignant about the damages being done to “our”.
I don’t know about any of you, but I’m an American, and I sure as hell don’t consider myself to be part of the “our” Trump references. I think a whole lot of us, of many skin colors, want to be left out of that particular “our.”
Anyone at this point who doesn’t see the plainly evident white supremacist tendencies displayed by Donald Trump simply isn’t looking. Or doesn’t want to know. Or shares Trump’s contempt for those with different shades of skin, or those with different gender or nationality or professed religion. The masquerade ball is over, ladies and gentlemen. The ugly white American asshole has been unmasked.
Trump has alienated most major American business CEOs, the heads of our military, both political parties, and now most owners, coaches and players of major American sports franchises are denouncing him too. He’s managed to piss off most everyone who doesn’t wear a white hood or a swastika.
While we watch our NFL games today, it’s worth remembering that any of the athletes who decide to express their political and social opinions during the national anthem are well within their rights, and in many cases they’re fine, upstanding citizens.
It’s the “son of a bitch” in the White House who needs to be fired and dragged off the field.