Imagine a national anthem playing in the background and the majority doing their part standing and reciting that anthem by heart. Do you see someone deviating from the norm? If so what are they doing? Are they sitting? Kneeling? Standing in silence? Did you imagine the last round of sports stars inspired by Colin Kaepernick? Did you imagine a person standing in silence? Did you judge them? Can you see their face? Who do you see?
If you said you see me. You’ve gotten the point of this entry. The person standing in silence is me, but I’m sure before you read that line you were thinking about somebody else and how unamerican they are.
Over the last few weeks there has been a big uproar over patriotism and reflecting on the national anthem in my home country, America. I know plenty of people who serve my country to this day, including close family members. On many fronts I understand why people get angry and why people are up in arms over what it means to be respectful to our nation, our flag and our anthem.
I’ll be the first to admit I wouldn’t go fight and die for my country. Simply because I’m terrified of death. But I do admire those who have and continue to put their lives on the line for my rights and freedom. They make sacrifices that most of us are not willing to in this day and age. And if at the end of the day you are that patriotic, but you do not serve the country…are you serving others? Are you trying to make your country better? Or are you engaging in the negative and claiming those ideals to be American? Because we all can play a role in making our country a better place.
I’m the person who at my 8th grade graduation didn’t know most of the words to our national anthem, along with a slew of other people in my class. I wasn’t proud of the fact, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know it by heart as embarrassing as that may be. What does it mean to be respectful to your flag? I’ve always wondered what people consider proper etiquette. Is a true patriot who loves their country only someone who dutifully stands at attention to the flag with their hand over their heart? What about those who are mute? Are they at fault for not reciting it? What about those who are unable to stand? Are they disrespectful? Some people may view those who sit as, Colin Kaepernick, has done as disrespectful. He has since changed to a kneeling stance during the anthem which is not disrespectful rather it is a respectful submissive stance.
There are people who view kneeling as just as disrespectful as sitting. Kneeling is a stance that most of us have taken at some point in our lives or have seen it used as a sign of subservience, respect and offering. Every watch a period drama? People kneel before a king or queen in their presence to show their respect or when they take an oath. Masses of people everyday around the world head to their church, mosque, or temple kneel, bow, or prostrate themselves in reverence. Kneeling is in many ways is a form of showing respect, it just isn’t showing respect in an ‘at attention stance.’
When I was younger I never really liked or understood a moment of silence. Mostly because most people weren’t really quiet. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized silence is very powerful. It can make you reflect on sacrifice and lives lost. It can also make you aware of the amount of respect that is shown by how quiet the room is. I always found it disrespectful that people would continue yammering on when someone requested such of an audience, but maybe to some a moment of silence doesn’t mean much.
I’m a fan of silence. I’m a silent patriot. I will stand at attention and be respectful to my flag, my pledge, and my anthem. However, I won’t put my hand over my heart and recite it. Some people will say I’m not a proud American or I don’t respect our troops by doing that. However, that couldn’t be further than the truth. When I was in high school during my freshman and beginning of sophomore year we never said the pledge until after 9/11 happened. For me the amount of fake patriotism that abounded was wrong. If you are proud of your country and want to wave the flag and sing the anthem loudly why haven’t you been doing it all along? I felt like that at school and it annoyed me.
I remember one day during study hall a teacher yelled at me for walking to the vending machine during the pledge of allegiance. It annoyed me, but I understood when he said, “You don’t need to say the pledge, but you should be still during it.” I’ve kept that with me for a long time. I will stand during the pledge, but I rarely recite it. I respect and love my country, but I don’t agree with a lot of the forced patriotism after the fact. I love my country in my own way and I stand in silence, I’m also among those that believe the pledge should be rewritten to how it was before “under God” was added in the late 1950s because of the threat of communism. Though there are plenty of people who will say that it isn’t true, I suggest you start reading and educate yourself on the many variations of the Pledge. It didn’t even mention the ‘United States of America’ until much later!
Our pledge before that added phrase was better. I’m agnostic. I don’t believe in God and I don’t want to pledge to him while pledging to my country that has a separation of church and state. I can love my country without loving God. I can love my country and stand in silence. I’m a fan of powerful gestures that provokes a country into conversation. I’m proud to be an American despite the troubles we have back home, because we have such amazing rights. I’m a proud American when I tell people America is not as scary as you think it is based on what you see on TV. The fact that Americans are some of the friendliest people you can meet when we are at our best. That our country is so large and diverse that we have so much to overcome and yet through that process we will become an even more dynamic country.
Countries are meant to evolve along with the woes and critisms that citizens present to their governments. We can rewrite and change things to reflect, protect and create a more just society for everyone. I might not be a patriot that recites the pledge of allegiance, sings the national anthem by heart, or goes to fight for my country. However, as a citizen abroad I represent my country on a daily basis and I truthfully answer we aren’t a perfect country. We have a lot to work on, but we are an open society. We can have discussions and I can tell you about the good and in what ways I am proud to be an American. I can tell you what I think needs to be fixed to make America even greater in my opinion, but I’m not going to sugarcoat it and tell you we are the best country in the world. Everyone wants to love their country and have a place to call home that they are proud of. We all know each place has its advantages and disadvantages, but we look to the future and envision a better future and reputation for our home country. As a proud American, I stand in silence when I pay attention to my flag. I also stand in silence to respect another country’s if it is requested of me.
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me and give me shit. But it’s a free world and I’m lucky enough to have that right to have the freedom of speech. So thank you to those who have fought and continue to protect that right. At the end of the day education is power. That doesn’t mean you need a higher education it means you need to involve yourself with the world, read more, and question more.