I stand when they play the National Anthem.
I stand even though I don't sing along with it. I don't sing when I stand in church, either. It's not an act of defiance, it's an act of compassion. I only sing in the car, alone. And I do that with the windows closed. (I learned that after an incident when I was singing along with Messiah. The text "all we like sheep," enthusiastically bellowed, is vulnerable to misinterpretation.)
I stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, too. I stand during that even though I don't say the words "under God," which constitute a rare instance of actual virtue-signalling and, in my view, a vanity. I stand for it despite its prominent historical role in tyranny against my fellow Americans, which I despise.
I stand for the National Anthem and the Pledge secure in the knowledge that if I do so, very few people will ever question my commitment to the ideals referred to in them, or inquire whether my rhetoric or actions are consistent with them, or suggest that I am standing out of self-interest or calculation, or use it in an opportunity to delve into my relationships or personal history. By contrast, if I don't stand, I know that people will question all of those things (and, sometimes, not unreasonably.)
I stand knowing that if I don't stand people will interpret it as a sign of outrageous disrespect for people who have served America in uniform. I stand even though more people will get more upset, and more news coverage will result, over that disrespect than over the fact that 20 veterans commit suicide every day, or the fact that there's more homeless veterans in America than there are residents of ten of our state capitals, or the fact that veterans routinely die waiting for (inadequate) medical care because we've thanked them, clapped them on the back, and consigned them one of our most entrenched and incompetent bureaucracies that is exceptional at protecting its own (except for whistleblowers) however freakishly bad at their jobs they are but pretty bad at protecting veterans, or the fact that we'll drone-strike anyone who shoots at them in Fallujah but if they encounter police in America they're pretty much fucked, or the fact that every mainstream politician for two generations has promised to make it better without accomplishing jack shit. I stand even though this disparity in outrage and coverage is indescribably grotesque.
I stand even though the discourse about standing or not standing is rife with culture-bundling, with standers sneeringly dismissed as uneducated rubes and sheep and sitters angrily dismissed as effete thug-sympathizing communists.
I stand knowing that my standing doesn't mean the same thing to me that other people standing means to them, and that's okay. I stand despite being conflicted with and uncomfortable about uniform unison rote displays of nationalism. I stand despite my suspicion that standing is sometimes part of the commodification and monetization of patriotism.
I stand loving America, aware that I often fall short of what that love should mean. When I say I love America I mean I love certain shared values and founding ideals like the rule of law and equality before it, liberty, and self-determination, and what people have done to achieve them. I love the values as lofty as the right to speak and worship and as humble as the right to raise a family and work and live as I see fit. I love it knowing that these ideals are more aspirational than descriptive, more a to-do list than a resume. They are what Lincoln called "unfinished work" and "the great task remaining before us." I try to love it the way some grievously wronged veterans I saw being naturalized one transformative day a quarter-century ago loved it — for what it can be with shared effort, not always for what it is or has been. If America is Americans being deprived of their property and herded into camps and reviled for their ethnicity, it is equally those same Americans fighting for their country and its values with extraordinary valor and dedication.
I stand because when I stand I'm ten again at a ball game with my parents, or twelve again, fat with burgers and ice cream cake, watching fireworks in the dusk on the Fourth of July, or a young man again proudly being sworn in to my first job representing the United States. I stand knowing that other people's experiences aren't the same.
I stand even though the reaction to people who don't stand is one of the best arguments for not standing in the first place.
I stand, but I support the people who don't. In fact, when I stand, I mean to show that I support them.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Lawsplainer: The Eleventh Circuit Protects Doctors' Right To Ask About Guns - February 17th, 2017
- Eleventh Circuit Revisits Florida Law Banning Doctors From Asking About Guns, And I Can't Even - February 16th, 2017
- Erdoğan and the European View of Free Speech - February 10th, 2017
- Still Annoying After All These Years: A Petty Government Story - February 9th, 2017
- Rights And Reality: Georgia Cop Jails Ex-Wife For Facebook Gripe - February 6th, 2017