I have a beef with Colin Kaepernick, the newfound activist who occasionally dabbles in quarterbacking for the San Francisco 49ers. It’s got nothing to do with his dopey public protests of late, which have seen him take a knee during the National Anthem at two preseason NFL games. I’m furious because football was supposed to be my refuge from this year’s insufferable politics, and then Kaepernick had to go and merge the two. I think I speak for everyone sick of watching the nonstop Donald Trump phantasmagoria when I say: keep your CNN off of my ESPN!
But alas, Kaepernick was the biggest cultural story of the past two weeks. Syria is being obliterated and the national debt is north of $19 trillion, so let’s hone in like a laser on the guy who adopted the wrong back posture during the National Anthem. That was all it took for Tomi Lahren, the conservative host for The Blaze, to flamethrow her way through three different online rants on the subject, and when I say “flamethrow,” I mean that literally. Imagine Dennis Miller, without the smarminess, cranked up to 11, and then afterwards you look in a mirror and realize your eyebrows have been singed off. A week after sampling her videos, I still open doors gingerly, in case she’s sitting there and starts screaming.
One of the first sentences from her original diatribe against Kaepernick is this: “So let me go ahead and eviscerate this mouth diarrhea for you sentence by sentence!!” If the mental image you conjure up is that somatically disgusting, you might want to rummage around in your bag of metaphors a little longer. But the bigger problem is that Lahren never actually went “sentence by sentence!!” choosing instead to call Kaepernick a “whiny, indulgent, attention-seeking crybaby,” before spiraling into a tangential conflagration of straw men about how high black unemployment and school dropout rates are. “When will those in black communities take a step back and take some responsi-damn-bility for the problems of black communities?!” she howled.
Forget that Kaepernick had said his protest was about police violence against blacks, which Lahren never mentioned, and just consider this: why does anyone need to spew bile at one QB hugging the bench during the anthem, when league players are more than two thirds black and almost all of them stand when they’re supposed to, many with hands on hearts, some with tears in eyes? Who hears about a mildly dumb demonstration by a quarterback who as of now isn’t even starting this season, and not only feels uncontrollably angry, but goes home and writes an entire rant about it, and then somehow sustains her fury through her show’s closing statement? Kaepernick is one aberration in a patriotic league, not an official emissary from the black community. Who the hell cares? And who’s going to have his mind changed by someone as uncomfortably indignant as Lahren?
Lahren is emblematic of too many conservatives, who sit around and wait for a pretext to be outraged so they can spit dilophosaur venom at the camera. That probably sounds familiar: it’s exactly what the far-left social justice warriors do, lurking on Twitter, waiting for someone to say something remotely offensive so they can throw a tantrum. About them, Liberty Laura writes, “The new breed of progressive fascists that Trump is in-part responsible for cultivating is just as emotional as the militant left.” It’s ironic, isn’t it? Conservatives have long prided themselves on prioritizing fact over emotion, yet today their most popular personalities are rage merchants like Lahren and their most shared experience is angry catharsis against left-wing perfidy. They’ve somehow let their most discredited opponents define them, imitating the tactics of SJWs and channeling their whininess.
Conservatism’s public intellectuals used to be sunny sorts like William F. Buckley, who gleaned great joy from life and understood that a smile or a witty rejoinder was far more effective than screaming one’s gullet into one’s throat. That optimism wasn’t just a choice of style; it was a component of conservatism itself, which was comfortable in the present and understood that a man was so much more than just his politics. Ronald Reagan and even Rush Limbaugh shared Buckley’s optimism. Yet somehow we’ve arrived at a place today where we can’t take a walk without seething over a benched NFL quarterback. Hence the bellow of Trump. What’s wrong with us anyway?