(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — On Tuesday, a number of scientists who coordinated on Twitter will take a knee in support of the protest movement started by Colin Kaepernick. From a blog post by Melissa Bates, a psychologist at the University of Iowa and the woman who first suggested the idea:
“Whether you’re alone, or with a group, I encourage you to stop for a while on Tuesday and to take a knee. You can take a picture and post it to Twitter or other social media.
“Let’s show the world that scientists stand in solidarity with our fellow citizens against discrimination and in support of our right to protest mistreatment of American citizens by our government.”
As Bates makes clear in her post, the scientists are protesting what Kaepernick originally intended: police violence against the African-American community. But whether she realized it or not, the psychologist moved past a singular issue and touched on the core of the movement when she urged her colleagues to back those “bravely exercising their right to challenge their government.”
It’s all over the news that #TakeAKnee is spreading, from professional athletes on down to high school football teams, celebrities, and even a group in Congress. Now, the scientific community has joined, as well.
The movement is spreading for the simplest of reasons. It’s become a symbol. More accurately, a symbolic act. A physical act of silent, peaceful protest. It’s not marching in the streets or writing a letter to your elected official. It’s simply taking a knee.
Are we to believe that each of these scientists will play the national anthem from their smartphones before snapping those shots and posting them to social media? Of course not. Because it isn’t, and never really was, about nationalism or the flag. As “Dirty Jobs” star and “Returning the Favor” host Mike Rowe said on Facebook on Sunday:
“In my view, the real controversy here isn’t about patriotism, social justice, racial inequality, or free speech. It’s not even about the flag or the national anthem. It’s really only about one thing — what we will tolerate, and what we won’t.”
As Bob Cook astutely pointed out for Forbes on Tuesday, through his insistence on engagement, the American president has shifted the focus onto himself:
“As Trump has done with so many things, he’s turned a simple, powerful protest about race played out during the anthem — a short statement in full view, not interrupting anyone but something you can’t ignore — into something all about him.”
So as the #TakeAKnee movement spreads across diverse sociological demographics that aren’t often asked to stand for the national anthem — such as the scientific community — how long will it be before taking a knee is a protest directly against Donald Trump the man?
If Rowe is correct, and I believe he is, then the movement is really about tolerance — and how much we’ll put up with. Certainly, Kaepernick was originally stating that he will no longer stand — quite literally — for racially-motivated police abuse.
If Cook is correct, and a quick glance at current headlines suggests he is, then the president has transformed the movement by thrusting himself into the discussion. It’s no longer about protesting police violence. As Melissa Bates wrote, it’s about challenging the government.
The fact is that #TakeAKnee marks the first push of any heft against the Donald Trump administration. The anti-Trump Washington establishment and their partners in the mainstream media — all still sore that The Donald beat the system and gained the White House — continue to bark about Russian collusion in the election.
It’s a tired strategy that has gotten them nowhere but, quite honestly, they probably don’t know what else to do. All the rules went out the window when Trump entered the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, people are taking a physical stance against their government. The power of a symbol is that it speaks without words. And the symbolic act of taking a knee in protest, in defiance, says more in mere moments than anything uttered on Capitol Hill ever could.
If the movement survives and continues to be shaped and reshaped by Trump’s comments, then he shouldn’t be surprised when the symbolic meaning behind taking a knee gets reshaped along with it.
Mike Rowe says the movement is all about tolerance. If things progress on their present course, one day soon the real question behind #TakeAKnee will be…how much will we tolerate from Donald Trump?