Donald Trump spent the past weekend using his Twitter account to add fuel to the fires of controversy surrounding the decision by some NFL athletes to take a knee during pre-game renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as an act of protest against police brutality. The way Trump instigated the story can be taken as a preface to the way he will approach that time-tested issue in the culture wars: the “war on Christmas.”
Trump kicked off his football-centered media blitz last Friday with a speech in Alabama in which he told the crowd that he would like to see NFL owners fire players who choose to protest the singing of the national anthem, according to the Hill.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners,” Trump said. “When somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired.'”
Trump followed up his statements in the speech with a series of tweets over the weekend which took aim at NFL players who aren’t meeting Trump’s patriotic standards.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues,” Trump wrote. “He or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Of course, Trump’s decision to focus on the players’ protests has nothing to do with the issue they’re protesting, police brutality. Trump avoided any mention of that issue in his speech or during his Twitter tantrums. Instead, what Trump was doing was wrapping himself in the flag in an effort to appeal to the segment of the cultural divide who place immense value on superficial displays of patriotism. Trump, by spending the weekend attacking players who choose to make a political statement, was able to cast himself as a great champion of patriotic virtue.
Trump has done this sort of thing before, and he will most certainly do it again. According to the Washington Post, already in July of this year Donald Trump hinted at his coming focus on the “war on Christmas” during a speech.
“Our religious liberty is enshrined in the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights,” Trump said during a speech at the Kennedy Center. “The American founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleague at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer. I remind you that we’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
The “war on Christmas” is an idea popularized by Bill O’Reilly which functions as a dog whistle for the cultural right-wing in the United States. The idea is that there is a left-wing plot focused on destroying Christmas that manifests in such seemingly benign ways as a cashier at a store wishing guests “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Allegedly, such signs of creeping secularism are not simply indicative of a business wishing to use inclusive language to accommodate the greatest number of customers, but an insidious attack on all that is good and pure about American society.
In other words, it’s exactly the kind of thing that Trump will latch on to in an effort to cast himself as the paragon of moral, right-wing, Christian virtue leading the forces of good in an existential fight against liberal, left-wing, secular evil. In fact, Trump did use “war on Christmas” rhetoric last year on a number of occasions after the election but before the inauguration, according to the New York Times. This year, he will certainly be looking for any perceived slight against Christmas to amplify in order to position himself on the “virtuous” side of the cultural divide in the eyes of his cult of followers.
Brace yourself. The Donald Trump “war on Christmas” circus is coming.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]