Op-Ed: How did we get here? The many reasons Americans need to pause — and take a knee

A man walking in the Capitol Rotunda carries a Confederate flag over his shoulder
A rioter in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6 carries a Confederate flag, a symbol that draws from the worst of American history.
(AFP/Getty Images)

I’m taking a knee for America.

After Jan. 6, when a mob incited by President Trump — that included radical right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and adherents of QAnon — climbed walls, fought police and broke windows and doors to invade and attack the U.S. Capitol, leading to the deaths of five people, I’m taking a knee.

Because a second insurrection took place soon afterward in congressional chambers as 139 Republican House members and eight senators voted to object to certified election results and cited the same lies the rioters used to justify their attack, I’m taking a knee.

Following four years of our country torn asunder by so-called patriots, pro-Americans, far-right Christians and law-and-order adherents — many of the same ones who decried the mostly peaceful protests and rallies of millions of people after the killing of George Floyd in May — I’m taking a knee.

In honor of football’s Colin Kaepernick and all of the athletes in youth leagues to professional sports who took a knee to peaceably and honorably protest the police murders of Black people, a protest Trump attacked ferociously as “un-American,” I’m taking a knee.

Trump and his “army” of deranged followers have shown themselves as the hypocrites and cowards they are. I’ve always known that, and no dishonest attempts to blame this on antifa will change what the whole world witnessed during the Capitol attacks. It’s time we exercised mature discernment when it comes to determining who really is for this country and who isn’t.


Hate, fear and lies — what Trump uses as fuel — characterize the rot growing everywhere in our social and political arenas. Trump’s most reliable base is entangled with white supremacy, the Confederate flag and nooses for a reason: The symbols and beliefs draw from the worst of our history, one that involves genocide, slavery and exploitation. While Trump uses his followers for his own narcissistic and monetary aims, it’s also true the radical right wing used Trump. They never really cared about Trump. They cared only that he was a disrupting and emboldened player who could create enough chaos so they could take over.

A German American sees the attack on the Capitol, and so much else in the Trump era, as embodying the worst of 20th century Germany.

Jan. 10, 2021

The chaos will not go away even when Trump is discredited, gone from office and rendered ineffective.

Just the same, there have been justice-minded Americans throughout U.S. history who have helped end slavery and enact civil rights laws and policies. There are Christians who adhere to Jesus’ teaching of “love your neighbor as yourself,” of blessing the poor (not just with prayers, but with the “loaves and fishes” that an abundant economy should and must provide). There are Americans who truly love this country, helping it become the healthy, secure and embracing place it should be.

Not for the good of only one race, one class or corporate profits, but for the shared well-being of everyone.

Just because someone claims to be for America, or a Christian or one of “the good guys,” it does not make them so. No one should be judged by what they think of themselves. The best measure is how they strive to bring more truth, beauty and decency into the world. Trump and his delusional followers failed on all three counts.

Yes, we can take a knee, but it’s also time to rise up, not in violent, hate-spewing insurrection but to build the foundations of a new America with true justice, no more racism and no more poverty — one that lives out its ideals, not just spouts them for convenience or political gain.


We need to remember that no one should be judged based on the color of their skin, language proficiency, national origin, sexual orientation or belief system. Divisions will remain, but going forward it should be about the common ground we can muster to establish what is in the best interest of all of us — to meet the immediate demands of the most vulnerable economically strapped and healthcare-deprived persons among us, and for the full and secured social development of generations that follow.

For that I take a knee.

Luis J. Rodriguez is the author of 16 books. His most recent is “From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys & Imaginings from a Native Xicanx Writer.”