I didn’t take the pledge of allegiance seriously when I said it in grade school. It was one of those things we did. The words didn’t really have meaning to me any more than the Texas pledge did, or my school song, or the Bible verses I had to memorize as a child. I just said them, because everyone else did.
I don’t sing the national anthem at sporting events. I put my hand over my heart, because that’s just what you do. I pay attention to the person singing, and I look at the flag, and sometimes I get goosebumps because it’s cool to see everyone stop and do the same thing at the same time. But I don’t sing, and I don’t pay attention to whether or not the person next to me does.
I don’t read the news about military activities abroad. I don’t know how many soldiers have died in the past week, or month, or year. I don’t know exactly where our soldiers are, nor do I know how many of them are there. I take them for granted, and I live my life assuming that I am being protected.
This isn’t a reflection of some sort of conscious rebellion on my part. My lack of singing isn’t because I have animosity towards my country; it’s just that I don’t like to sing, especially not in public. It’s also that I really don’t put that much stock in it. I don’t know where this comes from, and I don’t hate my country. I love my country.
I don’t have an American flag hung by my door. I don’t even own an American flag, and I’m not even sure where I could go in person to purchase one.
Does this make me a bad American? Some people will undoubtedly say this is the case. They have every right to say that. I pay my taxes. I don’t commit crimes. I cheer on USA in the Olympics and World Cup. I’m a relatively productive member of society. And, to be honest, I feel as if my lack of singing or my disregard for the pledge of allegiance fits squarely into the norm, at least as far as I can tell. I’m confident that most of my classmates were like me in that the pledge didn’t mean anything, and I’m also confident that most of the people around me aren’t checking the news about our military or wholly focused on the national anthem when it plays.
That is, until recently, when a group of individuals decided to take a knee during the national anthem at professional sporting events. All of a sudden, we are a country full of die-hard patriots that care immensely about the national anthem, about the pledge of allegiance, and about the flag. All of a sudden we are furious that these individuals would have the audacity to disrespect these national emblems that mean so much. How dare they?!? Who do they think they are? Do they presume to live in a country built upon protest, a country founded on individuals speaking out against their own government? Do they think that this is a country where they are given the freedom to express their own frustrations in peaceful ways? Do they honestly think that our armed forces are protecting their rights to live in a place where dissension against the government and against federal programs are protected? Where in the world did they get this idea?
They’ve got it wrong. In this country, you only have the right to protest in ways that are palatable. Salute the flag, sing the anthem, and put your hand over your heart when you say the pledge–once you do this, then you can make your complaint. In this country, you make sure that your protest doesn’t disrupt our Sunday routine of watching football and being affirmed in our beliefs that everything is great here. Don’t disrupt my Sunday with your political agenda and your victim complex–save that for someone that cares. I just want to watch my football and continue to tell myself that everything is fine. Obama was elected president, thus racism doesn’t exist. Cops don’t single out minorities. Prisons are full of African American men because African American men are more inclined to commit crimes, not because the system has problems. The playing field is fair for everyone, so stop complaining. And, for God’s sake, stand up and respect our flag.
No one seems to care about being patriotic until his or her idea of what it means to be so is challenged. The NFL has been hiring and abetting people convicted of manslaughter, assault, domestic violence, and all sorts of substance abuse issues for decades. Did this bother us? Not at all. In this sense, we’ve been rather gracious and forgiving fans. We didn’t care about what they did as long as they scored touchdowns and kept their mouths shut. But taking a knee during the national anthem? That crosses the line. Killed someone in a drunk-driving accident? Beat your wife and girlfriend and children? Abused drugs and alcohol? Here’s your jersey. Take a knee during the anthem to bring attention to social injustices in your communities? Go find a different job, you anti-American, military-hating, overpaid, and entitled complainer.
In this country, we may not respect our people or listen to what they have to say, but we sure as hell respect our flag.
I guess I’m just a bad American.