The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Mary Honrud
Sowing Notions 

On Patriotism


Several weeks ago, during the Olympic Games, a Facebook friend weighed in on the flap over Gabby Douglas’ mistake of not putting her hand over her heart during the playing of the National Anthem. He saw it as a “WAH!” lament for some unspoken reason. She’d already apologized and said she’d thought she was showing respect by standing at attention. That apology was rejected by this friend. He still saw her lapse as a whiny, poor-me statement.

I innocently commented, amongst all the others scorning her, that I hadn’t seen what they saw. I went on to explain that when I was in fifth grade, my career Air Force father was stationed near Sacramento, Calif. There were students in my class who neither recited the Pledge of Allegiance, nor did they put their hands over their hearts during the national anthem. Mr. Miller, our teacher, explained that it was okay, as long as they stood respectfully and were quiet at these times. He went onto explain that some religions forbid the showing of allegiance to anything other than their God. I accepted this, as what fifth-grader questions the wisdom of one of their authority figures, the teacher?

Since then, I’ve been made aware of the proper protocol for the “Star Spangled Banner,” which is under Title 36 of Patriotic and National Observances, Ceremonies, and Organizations, in Chapter 3, Section 301: “... during a rendition of the national anthem where the flag is displayed, (a) all present should stand at attention facing the flag with their right hand over the heart; (b) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, with the hand over the heart; and (c) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and (d) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the manner they would if the flag were displayed.”

One site I checked claimed this was enacted into law in 2008, but most sites say it was codified during the presidency of Roosevelt. However, no legal punishments were ever introduced for those who fail to follow the code. And the wording is problematic. It says “should” instead of the more forceful “shall” or “must.” I find this to be a toothless law, more of a suggestion than an absolute.

In the ensuing Facebook discussion, I asked where is the outrage over the professional athletes who also fail to stand at attention or place their hands over their hearts? I’ve seen many people who don’t stand: they continue their discussions, they don’t remove their hats, they distract others, and they continue to consume their snacks and drinks.

The response I got to that was, “She represents her country not her paid job I could care less if pro players or people at a rodeo or setting in their home watching tv don’t stand and put their hand over their heart but representing our country at an Olympic Games accepting a gold, that’s America and the coming together of nations and people” (sic).

Then I was told that 90 percent follow the code. When I questioned where that number came from, I was told to open my eyes. I have opened them, and I still don’t see that percentage. My conclusion then was that my friend had his anger directed at the wrong target. I think Gabby not putting her hand over her heart was learned here at home, from the many sports players who also don’t. These professional athletes are greatly admired for their prowess. If they, who are so greatly compensated for their skills, and televised into our homes weekly, don’t bother to show respect, why should the rest of us?

Since then, an actual “WAH!” lament by Colin Kaepernick has been much ballyhooed. Many seem to feel he should have found some other way to protest his perceptions of the imbalance in race relations and of police brutality. However, after the initial anger at his “lack of respect” that dialogue is starting to happen.

Many seem to feel that Colin doesn’t appreciate this country, the sacrifices others have made for the U.S., or the many advantages he’s had. There are even those who feel he should leave the country if he doesn’t like it here.

I feel he does appreciate his rights, and is exercising them. He is specifically exercising his right to speak his mind; his right to protest in the hopes of improving the lives of others here; the right to peacefully protest injustices. These are rights all of us have been granted in our Bill of Rights. Certainly those protesting his form of protest are exercising the same rights: they are speaking their minds without fear of retribution.

If I remember my history lessons correctly, this country was founded by a bunch of malcontents, a motley bunch who protested their treatment at the hands of the British. They were discontented with the status quo. They chafed under the British rulers. They protested. They performed illegal acts. They even went to war in their attempt to improve their lot. Ensuing generations of immigrants came here to enjoy the many freedoms and rights we have because of those protests.

To those saying he should just leave, I ask: isn’t staying and fighting to improve things here a much better response than running away? And if you don’t realize there’s a problem, how does it ever get fixed?

Who of us hasn’t had quibbles with the way the country is run? All you have to do is watch the politicians bicker and fight. They all have their own ideas on how to improve our country. In fact, the Republican nominee repeatedly tells us this country isn’t great, though it once was, as he wants it to be great “again.” He’s not leaving for greener pastures, is he? So why should anyone who can see areas that need improvement, and verbalize that sight, be told to leave?

I don’t see the need for laws enforcing patriotism. Certainly, there should be no test to “prove” your patriotism, any more than there can be a test for which religion is right. Love of country comes in all forms, including protests. And hiding behind the flag is often the sign of someone doing wrong. The actual quote comes from Samuel Johnson, who on April 7, 1775, said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”


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