Yesterday a video started making the rounds. I first saw it on Good Morning America. Josh Flint used it as his “Play of the Day”. At the Boston Bruins / Buffalo Sabres hockey game, the crowd enthusiastically sang the National Anthem ending with a resounding “U-S-A” chant that came from the gut. Following Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing, singing and chanting seemed to be the right thing to do; the right way to unify our collective voices in anger and sadness; the right way to tell the people who did this that we Americans cannot be knocked down. We refuse.
Post 9-11, the same thing happened. Singing, chanting and being hyper-sensitive to the display and care of the nation’s symbols, for many of us was the only way to contribute. It was the only way to say, “I am American. I am proud of my country and I will not be bullied.” Staging parades and rallies to either send our troops to war or welcome them home became monthly occurrences. The trees in some communities are still wrapped in yellow ribbon.
But it wasn’t so long ago (okay, maybe several years) that I sat on a curb in Kirksville, Missouri for the homecoming parade at Truman State University. The sidewalks were crowded with alumni, students, professors, and community members. Everyone chattering with excitement. It was a gorgeous warm fall day. The big game to come, a week’s worth of parties and campus activity behind us.
Leading the parade, marched the University’s ROTC unit in full uniform carrying the American flag. As they drew near, I stood up. It’s what we did back home when an American flag was presented during our small town’s annual Depot Days’ parade.
A hand grabbed my shirt, pulling me down. “What are you doing?”
With protest, I struggled to regain my footing and glanced around. Those who were perched curbside or in lawn chairs remained seated, chatting away, ball caps firmly in place, oblivious to the flag swaying in the breeze. Just a handful of people had stood to show their respect.
I’ve puzzled on that morning often wondering why so few people stood and have concluded it was a sign of the times. In late 90s, things were decent in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The urgency to raise our voices, remove our caps and make a big deal over the U.S. of A just wasn’t there.
Yet, when challenged and accosted by horrific acts of violence, we glob on to the National Anthem, fly the flag and sport red, white and blue to make us feel better. A few weeks later, it all goes to the wayside.
In my humble, Midwestern, middle-of-the-road opinion, I think our country could use a good dose of Social Studies 101. Recite the pledge to begin each school day. Instead of asking a celebrity to perform the National Anthem, the gathered crowd would actually sing it. Instead of saving our selective patriotic outbursts for times of trouble, we would flaunt it at all times.
Because whether you are a fan of this country or not, it is because of this country, its’ foundation of democracy and its’ belief in freedom, that you have the choice to sit or stand as the flag passes. I choose to stand.
Other thoughts on freedom and patriotism: