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Thursday, 1 September 2016

4 of 7 - The Faith And The Flag

(This is the middle of the 7-day blog challenge! Can we make the full run? YEE!)

So...apparently one of the worst things going on right now is that Colin Kaepernick didn't stand for the national anthem. what?

Okay so, here's the thing. If you are part of a NATIONAL sports team, if you are representing your entire COUNTRY, then the national anthem being played at the beginning of a match is perhaps a little more important. You, like that anthem, are representing your nation. It's good form to at least look like you know the words. Even in those circumstances, there are witch hunts put out against people that don't sing along. Which is madness. Because if you can't sing, then don't deface a good song, right? But anyway...

...Colin Kaepernick plays for the Niners. That's not a national team. That's San Francisco's state team. Which begs the question, why the Star-Spangled Banner is broken out at every single gathering wherein more than ten people are sat down watching the same event. It's a very alien thing to an Englishman like me. We don't tend to play God Save The Queen before each Cricket match. It's not necessary.

That aside.

The Star-Spangled Banner was written about the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The British beat the everloving shit out of the fort but still those inside didn't budge. For 27 hours they sustained heavy bombardment, while the flag flapped merrily away as a sign of their resistance.

Now, the reason why the US got involved in the first place was to do with the Napoleonic Wars. Trade restrictions due to the war were hampering US trade; there were territorial squabbles too, and also the British were lending a fair amount of support to local Natives to resist the expansion of the new nation.

It could be seen as an extension of the War of Independence, which ended some 31 years previously. To the British it was just another front in the war against Napoleon; to the US, once more, they were standing against an ancestral oppressor. They wanted to make the land theirs, to own it, to be free of the shackles of royalty and tyranny.

The song celebrates the land of the free. It is an anthem of liberty, freedom, a rejection of autocracy.

So obviously, if someone doesn't stand for it, then they aren't doing what they are told and they must be punished for it. Right?

Let's look at context here: the flag represents a system that is objectively oppressive towards minorities. Like it's such a fact lodged in statistics that it is impossible to ignore, and to claim otherwise is either naive or mischievous. It is a nation - much like ours - that was made very wealthy exploiting people of colour. The history of oppression is a long and thoroughly documented one.

I can understand not wanting to kowtow to that. When we are children we are forced to pay respect to people that we don't respect and that don't DESERVE respect; as adults, we are grown enough to make that decision ourselves. Sure, we may catch some social flak for it - but in the end I'd rather people think I am some kind of aloof prick than an asskisser who hits the knees for anyone that thinks they are somebody.

Speaking as a person who, as a child, was forced to get on with people that bullied me every day - forced to pretend to be their friends, forced to APOLOGISE to my bullies for something I had done in retalation - I can tell you that paying respects to those that don't respect you is a hollow thing, like ashes in your mouth. It sits wrong. It rankles.

The only difference between me choosing to not stand up for God Save The Queen and Colin Kaepernick not standing up for the Star-Spangled Banner is that he is in the public eye - and if you stop being yourself and doing what you believe to be right because people can see you, then that's surely worse than not engaging in patriotic rituals.

And perhaps, people who think otherwise... people who insist that if you don't participate in patriotism means there is something inherently wrong with you... are hiding something a little deeper than that. Perhaps there's a crack deep inside that shell of patriotism. A mote of doubt. A fear that, just maybe, the image of the nation that is communally built up in the minds of its citizens isn't the actual truth.

Got news for you, folks. America hasn't been what you've thought it's been for a very, very long time.

But hey. Why would you listen to me?

I don't stand up for the national anthem either.

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