The Anthem and American Patriotism
For proud Americans who might question this author’s patriotism, let us reassure you that this micro-essay is being written while standing.
When it comes to our national anthem, we don’t fool around.
Unlike certain professional athletes, we understand the powerful symbolism in standing for a song about a symbol (a flag, “The Star-Spangled Banner”), a song that symbolically celebrates “bombs bursting in air,” one of our country’s fondest phenomena, and “the land of the free,” one of our fondest myths. When you stand, preferably with hand over heart, for the playing of an ode to an obscure battle – hooray, we’re winners! – you send a powerful message to everyone else standing near you: we’re all patriots at this moment, no matter how much we cheat on our taxes or outsource American jobs to India. We’re all literally standing for the same thing. Especially those of us unashamed to sing the heart-stirring lyrics. And isn’t that what our troops are fighting for?
Seriously, don’t the sitters and one-knee-kneelers get it? Not standing for our national anthem demoralizes our brave boys and girls in Afghanistan and Iraq. What’s the point of their tremendous sacrifice (besides low gasoline prices) if the folks they’re dying for don’t think our flag deserves its own song? With the word “spangled” in the title, if not the lyrics.
Whether or not your agree with the ideology behind not standing for the anthem, we must acknowledge that the current crop of celebrity recalcitrant standers are
successfully drawing attention to America’s ongoing problem with racism, a malady that afflicted our republic at the time of the tune’s creation and that persists until today. Our national dialogue on race is getting redirected for a minute. Thank goodness the latest police shooting of an unarmed black man and the North Dakota pipeline protest and the Clinton Foundation’s graft and outright election fraud during the Democratic primaries and climate change and whatever else is happening in the world have gotten their cycle or two of attention and faded from our national consciousness. Now we can concentrate on the things that really matter, like who is and isn’t standing on NFL sidelines.
Your participation is even more mandatory than before. We need you.
The televised football contest is a kind of war simulation. Therefore, attending a game is itself a patriotic act. Those of us who stand and cheer the warriors – the players – and salute the flag and bellow gustily about watching over ramparts are doing our small part to support the war effort, the one we’re not able to actually participate in except from a safe distance. Other than consume the products and resources we’re told to consume by the kind sponsors of our sports entertainments, what’s the average person to do?
Answer: Sing. Loudly and out of tune if you must. O, say can you see? Because someone has got to show those protester types that there’s nothing so terribly wrong with the Land of the Free that anyone’s patriotic reverie ought to be rudely interrupted for a critical discussion on race.