Colin Kaepernick, the onetime San Francisco 49ers quarterback who kept his seat during the playing of the national anthem and made the National Football League infamous, probably thought he was just taking a rest. Now “taking a knee” is the one play that every NFL player can master.
The gesture, now widely established in the league, is a marker of the red vs. blue divide in the nation, and worse, it bodes ill for the prospect of finding common ground on which everyone can stand. The political implications are obvious. Not a single Democrat in Congress voted for the tax-cut legislation adopted and signed into law last week — just as Barack Obama’s health-care scheme was imposed by Congress seven years ago without a single Republican vote.
Some fingers point to social media for exacerbating the partisan divide, and support for this view was offered lately from no less voice than that of a former executive at Facebook, the giant of social media. Chamath Palihapitiya, the onetime vice president “for user growth” at Facebook, now feels “tremendous guilt” for helping make Facebook a powerful influence in the culture. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Mr. Palihapitiya faults not just Facebook, but social media generally, in the account of TheVerge.com, which first posted his remarks. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, citing online clicks driven by posted “hearts,” “likes” and “thumbs-ups.” These gestures, he said, are marked by “no civil discourse, no co-operation, but misinformation and mistruth.” Mr. Palihapitiya might have added “fake news.”
A poll conducted for the nonpartisan, nonprofit American Culture & Faith Institute bears that out. “While most Americans consider themselves to be suitably patriotic, they do not have similar feelings about the patriotism of many well-known individuals or organizations,” the pollsters concluded, “and the divide between liberals and conservatives once again revealed itself.”
Fifty-seven percent of conservatives responding to the survey say the National Rifle Association is “patriotic,” and 43 percent say the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, known for its chicken sandwiches, for keeping Sunday a day of rest and reflection, and for it’s owners’ support for traditional marriage, is “patriotic,” too.
Other organizations deemed patriotic by conservatives include the Republican Party (by 42 percent), Fox News Channel (39 percent) and Hobby Lobby crafts stores, known for the successful legal challenge to the Obamacare requirement that employers had to provide contraceptives.
Liberal respondents cited as “patriotic” the Democratic Party (39 percent), the U.S. Supreme Court (36 percent), Planned Parenthood (34 percent), and The New York Times and the NFL (both at 30 percent).
Some of this sentiment can surely be traced to Mr. Kaepernick and other NFL players who followed his lead to take a knee to protest the national anthem and what it calls racial and economic inequality throughout the land.
Other findings are similarly troubling. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans say they can’t tolerate abuse of the American flag, but only 55 percent of Democrats say they can tolerate flag-abuse. Seventy-eight 78 percent of Republicans say America always comes first in their pride and affections, but just 55 percent of Democrats do. The great gap abides.