When it comes to expressing reverence to a temporal ruler, kneeling has historically been the enforced action, as the image of a man on his knee – or on both of his knees – depicts a type of humbling, submissive gesture towards a certain figure. The action itself has been used in a multitude of ways throughout history, from expressing reverence to kings and emperors, to liturgical action, to prayerful submission to God.
In August 2016, however, quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced his decision to take a knee during the national anthem in order to express his opinion on what he believed was blatant systemic racism in the United States government. “When there’s significant change and I feel like [the American] flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, [and that] this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand,” said Kaepernick.
However, with such a vague disclaimer on how long he expects to continue kneeling during the national anthem, it is likely that Kaepernick is not legitimately looking for any particular change and is simply seeking either attention. His action was, however, a call for conversation. The NFL celebrity held an opinion that he believed needed to be discussed and examined – and President Trump has taken steps to do this exact thing.
During his sensational attack on NFL players who refused to act properly during the national anthem, Trump crossed a conversational line that could not be retreated from, and in response, more NFL players followed in Kaepernick’s footsteps, “taking a knee” during the national anthem that played during the football game.
But it Trump actually playing an elaborate game of 4D underwater backgammon? Perhaps his reaction to the NFL situation, described by many as inappropriate, was an intentional step to invoking his critics and political opponents into adopting the kneeling posture as an action against Trump’s statement. In evoking this response, Trump will have fooled his opponents into striking a position that symbolizes submission and reverence. Everywhere Trump goes, his opponents will be kneeling, thinking themselves to be rebels, but in reality are mere putty in his hand, bowing before the president’s authority.