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Paul A Duginski
Paul A Duginski
Paul Duginski is a political cartoonist and veteran newspaper staff artist. He enjoys reading history, literature and going bodyboarding whenever he has time.


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Posted in Politics / Elections / National

The Knee Jerk

Sep. 25, 2017 2:25 am
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Our so-called president has chosen for his next distraction to make a political football out of the kneeling protests by some professional football players.

Knowing that the next few days may spell doom for the latest transparently sleazy Republican legislative attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Trump returned to his base to create a diversion and recharge his reservoirs of malevolence.

He went to a campaign-style rally in Huntsville, Ala. The reason why he keeps needing campaign rallies even though he reminds us ad nauseam of his election win (in the Electoral College, anyway) is probably best left to a psychotherapist.

In Alabama, Trump called on owners in the National Football League to fire players who take a knee as a form of protest during the playing of the national anthem.

Such protests first appeared during the 2016 preseason when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, declined to stand during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner as a protest against police shootings of African Americans.

A few other players followed suit, but taking a knee during the national anthem had not become a particularly big issue.

Until now.

Trump recognized that it can be a handy wedge in the hands of a white supremacist president who revels in dividing Americans. It’s a sure-fire appeal guaranteed to evoke a knee-jerk reaction from angry older white men and those people that Trump admires so much: people who carry tiki torches and chant Nazi slogans such as “blood and soil.” [Blut und boden was a slogan that neatly expressed the ideology of Nazi Germany about racial purity.]

Trump challenged NFL owners to fire or suspend players who take a knee in protest, profanely suggesting that they ought to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”

Naturally, this is red meat for Trump’s seething base, and overtly sends the racist message that those participating in such protests hate the flag and are detestably un-American.

In reality, dissent and protest couldn’t be more American. We have the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect our freedom of speech.

I personally may not like it when people refuse to stand for the singing of the national anthem, but I recognize their constitutional right to do so. And it gets my attention — they make their point. It’s a non-violent form of expression, unlike driving a Dodge Challenger into the crowd of counterprotesters, as the Nazi dude did in Charlottesville.

Some people might say, what does a rich, privileged professional athlete have to complain or protest about? I say the same thing about billionaires who weaponize their money bags in the post Citizens United world. They’re usually trying to wheedle their way to more wealth for themselves when they practice their form of “speech.” Guys such as Colin Kaepernick are drawing attention to and giving voice to poor and powerless people in our society.

As the Los Angeles Times reported today, some of the NFL team owners were major backers of Trump. The Rams’ Stan Kroenke, New England’s Robert Kraft, Washington’s Dan Snyder, Jacksonville’s Shad Khan, Houston’s Bob McNair, and Woody Johnson of the New York Jets each contributed $1 million to his campaign.

These are natural friends for Trump — his kind of people — yet today some of them expressed solidarity with their players in opposition to Trump.

Trump tangled via Twitter with Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Assn., and ultimately disinvited the Warriors from the traditional visit by championship teams to the White House.

It seems to me that opening a new front with professional athletes is simply not a battle Trump can win. In doing so, he is attacking all-American free speech protected under the 1st Amendment.

Remember the quaint old days when Lyndon Johnson said of Gerald Ford, “Jerry played football too many times without a helmet”? It was said as a way of suggesting that Ford was a blockhead, when he was actually a smart and good man.

How far we’ve come. Now we have a genuinely megalomaniacal, orange-haired blockhead in office who plays at being president as if it’s a game without a soul.

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