aNewDomain — My son is in a cross-country running club. I went out today to support him and the other aspiring runners. Before the event, the Emcee had us all rise for the National Anthem.
She didn’t invite us. She ordered us to our feet and demanded everyone doff their hats.
This is America. Nobody has the right to order me around. And here’s the thing: I would have stood up for the anthem anyway.
We’ve all seen the memes going around about the soldier who says it’s okay for you not to rise for the anthem, but he still wishes he could. And then there’s the “under God” in the Pledge, triple-underlined as though that weren’t just a McCarthy-ist relic to ward off the Commies.
Sometimes I think about not standing for the anthem. There are lots of folks who would choose not to if it weren’t for peer-pressure, for the nature of the public eye. Once or twice, I’ve even sat through it for them, for all the people for whom America just doesn’t work out. There are millions of them, millions of Americans who are left behind and sitting on the shoulder. And there are millions more who silently watch #BlackLivesMatter getting crossed out and replaced with #alllivesmatter — by people who erroneously think we all have equality or, at the very least, equal opportunity.
This isn’t a place where everyone can make it. We never wanted it to be that way. But it isn’t even the meritocracy in our delusions, the land of freedom and bravery.
Welcome to the Land of Cowardice, where you focus on getting your own and forsaking the rest, where you don’t stand up for the oppressed. We make heroes out of the Kim Davis’ of the world and never mind the Bree Newsomes. Freedom for some isn’t why I came here.
It’s a great aspiration but, until we’re honest about the differential opportunities we all get, isn’t it a little disingenuous to lionize ourselves in song?
And about that pledge.
Is there a good reason to ask six year olds to pledge life-long allegiance to a flag? Isn’t that the same kind of nationalism that Hitler used to create Nazis willing to do awful things to people? Indoctrination.
Six year olds are unable to contemplate the nature of things like allegiance.
At a Thanksgiving party, I heard a seven year old girl say she was thankful for Jesus, that Jesus was her best friend and she loved him deeply. And my heart broke for her. Children are not capable of this sort of certitude. She was a victim of brainwashing because she was unable to decide freely whether to believe in Jesus, God, or the Bible. Her parents demanded that she do this. Her faith isn’t faith at all, an open, free commitment. It is slavery.
I didn’t say faith was slavery, settle down. I said she wasn’t given a chance to choose, to know anything other than this, to know there was anything else to know.
Look. If you want people to be Christians, I think you have to start making Christianity desirable. Laudable. It isn’t enough to picket same-sex weddings and parrot the 700 Club’s interpretations of Revelations.
If you want people to pledge their allegiance to the Flag, then you have to start making it a flag worthy of that allegiance. Maybe start by ensuring equal opportunity within our own borders.
A little nation-building would go a long way. Maybe finish by revamping our political system so that we have the representative democracy constituting “the Republic for which it stands.”
And if you want people to stand for the National Anthem, how about we make sure that everyone feels proud of our nation?
I was asked recently if I thought we shouldn’t vote for Ms. Clinton because most of the rest of the world would not accept a female leader. They wouldn’t deal with her. The only sane response to that is, I think, that we are supposed to be leading rather than following. We should elect the best candidate for the job and if that is Clinton, so be it. If the rest of the world don’t think women can be leaders, well, tough shit. That’s what leadership means: doing the right thing regardless of what other people think, and then teaching them around those choices.
We could start with that – with an electoral system that doesn’t just encourage cranks and hosers. We could acknowledge the genocide we’ve perpetrated against the native peoples of the Americas. We could admit real culpability in slavery. Commit to integrating neighborhoods. Start making decisions based on data rather than prejudice.
If we were a country that worked for everyone rather than for a few privileged people, why, when the national anthem came on, everyone would doff their hats and stand and put hands over hearts. Nobody would have to order it. We would want to.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: by Staff Sgt. John Bainter , via Wikimedia Commons
Image one: ForeverInHell.com, All Rights Reserved; image two: FineArtAmerica.com, All Rights Reserved.