It has become a standard trope from the media: patriotism is racist. And, although USA’s Damnation takes place during the Depression Era, it's not a stretch to think a racist group calling themselves patriots is supposed to parallel liberal fears of Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other bigots of today.
Throughout the season, the show has built up the threat of a local vigilante group known as the Black Legion, a real-life racist organization that splintered from the Ku Klux Klan around the era of the Great Depression. They patrol the roads in the second episode, rough up plenty of the characters in the third, and even have the lead member run for sheriff of the local town.
Everything comes to a head in the January 4 episode “The Goodness of Men” when their real plan is exposed. The Black Legion has been hired by wealthy entrepreneurs to end the farmers’ strike, and they’re willing to kill for it.
In this scene, the Black Legion threatens a deceased strike member’s son and demands proof of his allegiance to the country and flag.
Man: Unless the farmers renounce their strike, we will be forced to take matters into our own hands. And since Sam Riley Jr.'s family started it all, it's only fair that we allow him to set a good example. As the Grand Master of the Black Legion, I command you to prove your patriotism and kiss our great national flag. All we ask is that Sam Jr. confess to murdering Pete Collingsworth. Renounce the strike so that Holden can return to being the town it once was. Sam Riley Jr., will you make this pledge?
Here we have the brutal, racist bigots forcing a man to kneel in front of the symbol of patriotism, the American flag. It’s almost an ironic twist on the “Take A Knee” movement from the previous year (which is also likely when this episode was filmed). Furthermore, the idea of someone demanding to “prove your patriotism and kiss our great national flag” doesn’t stray too far from the caricature liberals paint of what those who oppose the National Anthem protests want.
Vox once referred to this show as “the latest show or film to feel accidentally timely in the wake of the 2016 election,” so I guess this whole scene could have just as easily happened today! Never mind the fact that since 1931, our nation has had two Civil Rights Acts, several political movements, and an African-American president - nothing has changed!
Our nation has made fantastic strides for the sake of equal treatment under the law and with each other. Instead of celebrating how far we’ve come, liberals only seem focused on where we’ve been. That is why their shows will never truly be “timely.”