children of an idle brain

The power of symbolism (and how to neutralize it)

The defining symbol of the Colin Kaepernick/NFL protest is that of dropping on one knee while the US National anthem is played or sung before the start of a game. It’s a powerful image and it obviously riles a whole lot of people, but in its essence it’s a very passive action. Kneeling is connected to submission, pacifism and closely connected to the Christian faith, so what’s the issue here?

Indeed it’s more about NOT STANDING than the kneel image (Kaepernick began his silent protest in 2016 by sitting on the bench while the music was on, only later did he adopt the knee pose). Taking a knee isn’t a proactive image, it’s a default one but my stars, it gets under people’s skin.

But the latest move, since last weekend when the Divider In Chief decided to make it part of the populist soapbox, is most interesting. Now we have team owners, coaches and bosses miffed with the President, but also aware that yes, the kneel protest does incite anger among the fans. The solution? They’re trying to change the symbol. They interlock arms to show solidarity. They kneel before but not during.

And that’s how the protest loses. Once the protest becomes acceptable, it can be shuffled off to the back of the minds of the populace. It doesn’t irk. What’s more, those players who continue to use the incendiary image will get punished because now they have (what ball team owners will insist) is an acceptable alternative.

Removing the symbol eviscerates the protest and that’s what is happening now. Donald wins, Colin loses, the owners of the teams and the people continue with their reign.

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