Categories: Gay Writes

My point of view

by Ked Kirkham

I have long held the idea that one difference between the conservative talking heads and liberal talking heads is that the former want other folks to change their ways, while the latter want to change their own ways, if or when necessary.

Now that you know my slant, my point is in response to all the airtime over what professional athletes should and shouldn’t do, vis a vis the national anthem and presenting of the colors.

I was a Boy Scout. I was a good Boy Scout, mostly. In Boy Scouts there is a long history of quasi militaristic indoctrination, in the guise, of course of wholesome and patriotic character building. I get that! I believe in it and support it. Scouting does a boy good.

As my thinking has evolved, I say scouting would do all young people good, and that we ought to make room for all.

What? You are doubting my slant on this?

The reason my scouting history comes up is that this was where my education of flag etiquette and proper response to the singing of the national anthem took place. I am sure that there were other lessons, but the formulation was in scouting. You can look it up so easily now, do so.

That is not meant to imply I won’t vary my practice from my indoctrination.

In that education and training I do not recall ever having learned other stanzas to the national anthem. What I learned and have sung all my life is what we hear at the sports events and community picnics. When I first read reports of the quiet, personal protest of the Star-Spangled Banner I looked the words up, having theretofore no concept that it could be offensive in any way.

And there it was. Now I see.

Can you recite the remainder of the song right now?

Written as a poem by Francis Scott Key, after the battle for Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, Key took it to a music publisher, who adapted it to the rhythms of another song “To Anacreon in Heaven”, a popular tune Key had already used. More than a century after its first publication, the song was adopted as the American national anthem, first by an Executive Order from President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and then by a Congressional resolution in 1931.

Maybe as a national anthem, it should remain the one stanza we can all recite.

The flag is a symbol of the republic for which it stands. Desecration of the flag, while volatile and offensive is recognized as speech, a protected behavior in the United States. When I make a pledge to defend the flag, I place my hand over my heart. That is what a solemn pledge is. The national anthem is not a pledge, I do not place my hand over my heart except in a pledge.

What would you do if I said I did not like the way you expressed your religious tenets, or if I said you are not religious enough, or your religious expressions should not be made in public? If I inserted patriotism in place of religion, would that be better? What if I suggested love, instead of patriotism?

I own my patriotism. And my religiosity. And my love. And I will stand up, next to you, to defend them still today, because in fact I love this land, and what its symbols stand for. Rather than seeing these protests as being against the flag, or the national anthem, I see citizens using them – powerfully, symbolically – in protest against the generations-long history of racism and other abuses.

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