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Trump’s Authoritarian Understanding of Patriotism

Authoritarian Leanings

Donald Trump, the failed owner of the New Jersey Generals and the person who caused the U.S. Football League to collapse and be forgotten by all, spent a weekend on Twitter attacking the NFL, its owners, and its players, all while 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico suffered without power, food, and water.  His tweets, riddled with ignorance and infused with racism, show Trump’s sinister nature.  At heart, he’s an authoritarian, a wannabe tyrant.

The NFL protests started to bring attention to racial injustice, especially police brutality and the killing of unarmed black citizens.  Not once did these protests seek to impugn the United States as a whole or the values true patriots espouse.

Instead, the likes of Collin Kaepernick and other politically engaged football players used their positions of power to stir a national dialogue and raise attention to issues that plague their communities and stain America’s greatness.

Ignoring Purpose

But Trump decided to ignore the purpose of the protests – pursuing justice, equal for all, regardless of race – and wrongly accuse NFL players of disrespecting the flag and national anthem as if freely speaking about issues of grave injustice somehow violated American norms or deviated from the country’s founding proclamation that “all…are created equal with certain unalienable rights” including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (none of which are possible when juries fail to hold police accountable for wrongly murdering black citizens).

Trump’s ignorant twisting of the protest’s meaning expose himself as an aspiring authoritarian.  He wants to use the state’s coercive powers to force United States residents to pledge loyalty to a nationalistic symbol wholly removed from the country’s values, in which Trump himself clearly does not believe.

Fighting for Values, Not a Flag

Courageous patriots – those who didn’t run away from the Vietnam draft because of “shin splints”; those who risked capture and torture and we now recognize as war heroes even if they were prisoners of war – fought for American values, not the American flag.

No one fights for a piece a cloth.  People fight to protect that for which the flag stands.  In America, that means a liberal democracy in which all have the equal opportunity to, among the many rights guaranteed by the Constitution, freely speak.

And that’s exactly what we see black athletes doing: Speaking.

They embrace the values our military defends – the values and rights for which too many Americans have died.  We don’t risk the lives of our youth to fight tyranny only to see it imposed here under the transparent guise of patriotism.

We should also note the obvious authoritarian tendencies of a man who uses the presidency to (attempt to) bully private organizations into conforming with his foolish notion of patriotism and loyalty.  Trump believes all must follow his word and, if they don’t, feel his wrath and perhaps that of the federal government.

Perhaps most shocking, Trump believes black athletes “have the privilege of making millions of dollars,” as if he or his like simply handed to them the gift of athleticism and the blessings of money.  It’s a bizarre concept: Black athletes never earned their money – earning and working for something largely takes away its privilege as privilege connotes an undeserved or unworked for blessing.

This coming from a man who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from his father and who relied on daddy to guarantee loans and prevent a casino (a casino!) from going bankrupt.

Obviously, these tweets show Trump’s racism.  He has never spoken about white athletes – or white businessmen – in such a way, calling them privileged for their position and demanding certain action, behavior, and an altogether submissive and grateful attitude for their perceived privilege.


In the end, Donald Trump should learn from Antonin Scalia, who decried laws that prohibited protests of the flag.  “If I were king, I would not allow people to go around burning the American flag,” Scalia told CNN in 2012. “However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged ― and it is addressed in particular to speech critical of the government. That was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress.”

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