What does Patriotism mean to you?

For those who think the “Star Spangled Banner” is sacred, I’d like to remind you that we once had Roseann Barr belt it out during an important sporting event.

Patriotism: Love for or devotion to one’s Country

How do you show love for your country? What does this term even mean to you?

For many it means giving up personal safety to serve in the armed forces. For others it means celebrating and waving a flag on national holidays, and for some, it means standing up for guaranteed rights in the form of protest and marches. But for many the word “patriotic” seems to only come to mind when the national anthem is being played.

I for one find many ways to show my patriotism; through volunteer work, paying my fair share of taxes and not bitching about it, flying the flag on appropriate holidays, voting, and speaking out when I see the rights of my fellow citizens being trampled on. The thing I detest and pushback against is being forced to show my patriotism. America is a free society so it seems damn ironic that there are times when we are compelled to show our respect for the country we love.

I don’t know about the country you live in, but in America spectator sports always begin with the national anthem. Players and spectators alike are obligated to stand with hand over heart while it is being played. As if all need to be reminded that what is about to take place is “American”.

The history of the anthem and sporting events started during what else, war. Before WWII the Star Spangled Banner was only played during the World Series (the finale to our baseball season for my overseas friends), but during WWII the anthem began being played before all sporting events. It made sense for the time. During a time of conflict playing a battle hymn before large crowds of Americans reminded them and the world that America stood strong. As sports writers Luke Cyphers and Ethan Trex remind us:

Our nation honors war. Our nation loves sports. Our nation glorifies winning. Our national anthem strikes all three chords at the same time.

Yet I can think of other ways of showing American patriotism; after all we are a capitalistic society. What better showing of our love of country than by spending our hard earned money on over-priced tickets, and then driving to stadiums built by local tax dollars to support our favorite American teams? Throw in hot-dog eating and beer drinking and you have the quintessential American outing.

Conversely you can argue that the players are also showing their patriotism by believing in the American dream that says, “If you work hard, you too can accomplish great things”. For many of these players the only way they can hope to escape poverty and achieve this goal is to physically work hard and risk their health in order to entertain an American audience.

When we are asked, both players and spectators, to stand during the anthem, we are being asked to contemplate what it means to be patriotic. In other words, when the national anthem is brought to sporting events, the event itself becomes political. And this act of political contemplation seems to lie at the very heart of the issue at hand. What does it mean to be patriotic? And why does your definition have to be someone else’s definition?

Whenever I am asked to stand and listen to the Star Spangled Banner I am moved to think about America and all it stands for. Some aspects are clearly positive; after all I am free to question my leaders, and free to spend my afternoon at a sporting event. But as politics become forefront in my thoughts I am forced to admit that as a country not all is well, and as a nation we could do a lot better. There have been times when I haven’t wanted to stand up, not because I don’t love my country, but because when politics are forced upon me, I want to rebel and remind those around me that there are better ways to show out patriotism than standing silent during a battle hymn.

In this Colin Kaepernick and I have something in common, though he was far braver about it than I. The false reports (fake news) say that Kaepernick kneeled in defiance of the national flag when in fact, Kaepernick took this political moment to show his displeasure with the government’s lack of motivation to investigate police brutality towards black Americans. It was his way of saying black lives matter too. And that as a country, we can do much better when it comes to racial relations. Whether you agree with his views or not isn’t the point. The point is, he is allowed, under our constitution to kneel as a form of patriotism.

Some may argue that he is being paid a lot of money to play sports and so should stand during the anthem. To you I say, there is nothing in a player’s contract that says he or she has to stand, only that they show up for practice and for games. Perhaps the problem isn’t that Kaepernick didn’t stand, perhaps the problem is that by playing the anthem and bringing politics to a sporting event, we are trying to force our idea of patriotism on someone else. And that is about an unpatriotic as you can get.

No, Don. You are the son of a bitch.

Works cited

ESPN The Song Remains the Same.
Merriam- Webster “Patriotism.” Merriam-Webster.com

Shakespeare buffs may be surprised by “Will”

Marlow & Will. Of course they are beautiful. It’s an American show after all

Damn it’s hot; unseasonably hot even by Nevada standards. Normally the west eases into summer with the temperatures slowly rising so that by the time late August rolls around we are acclimated to the heat. But oh no, not this summer. This summer started in the triple digits and there seems to be no sign of cooling down. How hot is it, you might ask? Last night’s thunder clouds didn’t result in any dry lighting. It was as if even the lighting didn’t want to be anywhere near the scorching heat.

Compounding the heat wave issues the air conditioner in our office building isn’t working properly, forcing us to work in stifling conditions. Forget hot yoga, I’m doing hot work. For a woman of a certain age (cough, cough) this is beyond acceptable as I have my own private summer to deal with. The quote “I’m melting, I’m melting”, springs to mind as I do nothing more after work than lay under a large fan and pant. Will this horror never end?

I haven’t attempted to write these last few weeks as my brain is fried by the time I get home. I have tried to do some reading, but this summer’s choices have been duds. I think I will do a book review on what to avoid, later in the week.

I did, however, manage to watch the pilot episode of TNT’s “Will”. Between all the hype & criticism I figured I would keep an open but skeptical mind and decide for myself if this is a series worth watching. For those of you who may have missed the announcement, here is how they are selling the series:

Will tells the wild story of young William Shakespeare’s (Laurie Davidson) arrival onto the punk-rock theater scene in 16th century London — the seductive, violent world where his raw talent faced rioting audiences, religious fanatics and raucous side-shows. It’s a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s life, played to a modern soundtrack that exposes all his recklessness, lustful temptations and brilliance. 

My first thought when I originally read this was, ‘Does TNT know something scholars do not?” How do they know he was reckless and lustful (his brilliance is obvious) and so dismissed it as part of the dumbing down of the American youth. I mean really, is this the best we can hope for as far as showing Shakespeare to a young TV audience? But then again, we are talking about America so, you know…

Someone mentioned to me that if this turns out to be a gateway to an interest in Shakespeare, it couldn’t be all that bad, could it?

Thanks to Amazon video, I was able to purchase the first episode. So, fan overhead, a glass of ice water at my side, I got through the entire show without falling asleep or screaming at my TV.

Without giving some of the plot away (what little plot there is) here are my initial thoughts.

The set and wardrobe designs are bright, I mean dazzling! For 16th century London where most everyone was poor and shabby, all the characters were dressed as if Yves Saint Laurent personally picked out their clothes. The only difference between the well off and the poor was the amount of dirt rubbed into the designer clothing. This brilliance of color on every pixel of the screen didn’t pull me in; it was actually a little jarring at first. But, as the London scene unfolded I realized the desired effect wasn’t to pull the viewer into 16th century London, but to 70’s London, more specifically the underground punk scene. This begs the question, if the producers want to modernize Shakespeare for young audience, why the punk era? How many kids born after 1990 know anything about mosh pits and rooster comb hairstyles? And yes, we get both in this show.

Having it set in the Hip-Hop era would have made a little more sense. And given that one scene was a takeoff on a rap battle (battle of words in this case) may have played better. Not that I am complaining, the punk era worked for me, but I’m old enough to have been in a mosh pit and spent hours listening to The Clash (the background music of choice for” Will”).

And of course, this being an American show, the entire young cast is beautiful; complete with dazzling white teeth. This has led to some criticism of the show by others, so I won’t go to deep into this topic. Only to say that I was not as surprised by this as others were. Again, we are talking about American TV.

The plot was on the thin side, but then again, how much plot can you have when it involves a young 16th century playwright and his quest to become famous? The opening scene informs us Will is a married man with three children so there cannot be a love interest, right? Wrong! On his very first day in London Shakespeare meets a woman who finds him attractive, and he her. We see where this is going… And of course it gets there quickly.

There is some tension built around the religious persecution of Catholics. We are led to believe that Shakespeare’s family has strong Catholic views, and even though it may mean death, his father instructs him to deliver a letter to his uncle; a letter that if falling in the wrong hands would out the family as Catholic Doesn’t this man have his own raven? Oops, sorry, wrong show. But the explanation as to why the Catholics are being rounded up and tortured is brief and if one is not paying close attention is lost. If I remember correctly it is an eight-sentence discussion between two men. If this is to be the sub-plot then I would have expected more because those who are not history majors may wonder what all the fuss is about.  

Though the show was not bad, I’m just not sure it will work. The characters are far too stereotypical to be interesting. The torture and brutality may wear thin (I’m told later in the series there is a bear baiting scene in which the poor creature is disemboweled), and the plot is so thin you can see right through it.

But yet, I encourage those of you who are fans of Shakespeare to at least watch the first episode because surprisingly, there are a few smart scenes that only true Shakespeare buffs can, and will appreciate. It was fun to “see” Robert Greene calling Shakespeare an “upstart crow” and losing face while doing so. I am sure the anti-Stratfordians would not appreciate the idea of Shakespeare writing a play and giving credit to Marlow, but I snickered.I wish it the show was a little more interesting, because it is obvious someone on the writing staff knows their Shakespeare.

“Will” is not a show I care to watch, but to be fair to TNT, I am not into any show (save GOT) that uses graphic violence as a plot device. I’m not opposed to it, I’m just over it (sorry Walking Dead). Others may not be so sensitive.

I cannot tell if this will bring about an interest in Shakespeare; there was no reciting of any of his work in the first episode. Perhaps as the story processes there will be brief scenes involving his work and making it relevant to today’s youth. But even if it doesn’t I can think of worse ways to spend time out of the summer heat. Reading a poorly written book comes to mind.