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