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

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

4 thoughts on “What does Patriotism mean to you?”

  1. Obligatory patriotism leaves me cold as well, particularly when it’s used as a partisan litmus test.

    Now, on the other hand, I ran into this definition of patriotism: Patriotism is you helping your country to be a better place in all ways. . . . How do we appreciate the good, and how do we correct the bad? It’s an impressive definition, since it helps explain why purely ceremonial patriotism, such as singing the national anthem at football games, is not a litmus test for true patriotism.

    It’s a pity, then, that the person who recites this definition, where I found it, was Bob Crane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrlvi0-cC6w

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brian, once again I am indebted to you for your words of wisdom and a funny little gem. How the heck did you find this video? What blew my mind was the fact that despite being directed towards school kids, never once did good ol’ Bob mention saluting the flag.
      Damn, love the phrase “ceremonial patriotism”. Wish I had thought of it. This is why you are the better writer. I salute you my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Serendipity. The DVD rental store near where I used to live in Amherst, Mass., had a DVD compilation of educational films from the 1950s onward. I forget whether I picked it for a “duck and cover” or a sex education. But when I saw this little gem . . . its definition of patriotism stuck in my mind.

        And you make an excellent point which I managed to overlook, that Crane never once mentions saluting the flag. Damn, he was better at this than I realized! Thanks in turn, Sari.


  2. When I was a teenager I remember cinema outings included standing while a short film showed the Queen and played our very short anthem. And also when terrestrial TV and BBC radio closed down before midnight, both signing off with a short burst of God Save the Queen.

    Within a very few years all that disappeared due to changing technology and sensibilities, and I for one was glad. Whom was all this outward show designed to impress? Not us Brits, who in a pluralistic and culturally diverse society had no need to remind us of the illusion of the glories of Empire. And not foreigners, who were probably too busy doing similar stuff in their own countries.

    I was pleased that postage stamps, for example, had no need to scream their country of origin (after all, Britain itself had invented them early on in Victoria’s reign), only needing to show Her Maj in profile. I hoped this was symptomatic of an understanding that patriotism, as Dr Johnson wrote, is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

    Push forward a few decades, and we’re now in the time of proto-fascist leaderships in notionally democratic countries, populist leaders, fake news, blatant lies and a new surge of pointless patriotism while the world hurtles to hell in a handcraft. What’s the point of patriotism when we should be working together to ensure a future for the whole of humanity? Why spend so much time, effort and resources on banging a military drum except to consolidate the supreme positions of dictators, oligarchs and CEOs of multinational conglomerates?


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