Letter to the editor: National Anthem idea isn’t good

Consider the universal custom in the United States to present the National Anthem, or to salute the flag, or to recite the Pledge of Allegiance as a prelude to school days or public events. Where in the United States Constitution is there mention of a national flag, or a national anthem or a pledge of allegiance? There is no reference to these “patriotic” practices we are expected to engage in even if we have doubts about what any of it really means.

Maybe the most audacious of these observances have been at professional football games: the immense U.S. flags, the fighter fly-overs, the marching uniformed soldiers, the celebrity performance of the National Anthem. Overkill — seemingly a militarization of football.

And what happens to individual athletes who vary from accepted ritualistic form? Colin Kaepernick is a prominent example, as were Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fists on the awards platform at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Should every person be expected to inflexibly participate in these rituals as a demonstration of patriotism, loyalty and love of country? Is this patriotism? Does it unite us? Or does it make compulsory an empty, thoughtless conformity to a patriotic orthodoxy.

Isn’t dissent patriotic? Our nation was born out of dissent. Will inducing school children to listen to the National Anthem every morning create unity? What about hearing Woody Guthrie’s original 1940 version of “This Land is Your Land” or reading Langston Hughes’s “Let America be America Again” or reading excerpts from Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”? James Baldwin? Ta-Nahisi Coates? Cesar Chavez?

Or maybe each morning a student could address their teachers and peers, stating their opinion on a matter of national concern? That might get some brain cells activated. Hearing the National Anthem each school morning? Not so much.

Millard Cox


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