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Forced Patriotism, Paid Patriotism and Taking a Knee

Robin Alexander

Posted on August 16, 2018 15:12

4 users

With autumn around the corner, we can’t help but think of orange-gold leaves, pumpkins, football and a good old-fashioned American protest. Besides, just recently a Connecticut Selectwoman (D) took a knee during the pledge of allegiance at a town meeting to protest 45, and caused all kinds of hoopla. The irony is, standing for the Star-Spangled Banner is supposed to support the people who don’t want to stand. If only.

Last October when "taking a knee" was news, I wondered how I’d react.

I had plans to meet friends at the Elbo Room, a historic local dive bar. I was early and seating was limited, so I asked the people at a half-empty outdoor table if we could share. A few pleasantries were exchanged and I sat down to wait. Imagine my surprise when those first three recognizable notes rang out from the stage.

It was now or never. What could happen; a drink in my face?

I took a knee.

Nobody bothered me.

Two young women thanked me.

The hardest part was getting back up. It’s a long piece.

Flashback to 1972 – 1973: not saying the Pledge of Allegiance was a daily ritual during high school homeroom in protest of Vietnam. The school didn’t mind. In those days, protest was as common as apple pie. And anyway, there’s something unpleasantly doctrinaire about a daily pledge.

In fact, why do football games start with the anthem? Imagine the audience at the theater, opera, symphony or ballet standing and singing prior to the overture.

(Do we identify American culture with men butting heads, rather than with art? Just wondering.)

Much of what goes on at sports events – color guards, enlistment ceremonies, military appreciation nights, surprise welcome home promotions for troops returning from deployments, recognizing wounded warriors – is paid patriotism, actual live commercials sponsored by the DOD with our tax dollars.

If this honors our soldiers, then I guess we also honor Budweiser and Chevrolet.

(Btw, Kaepernick kneeled as opposed to sitting, after a veteran explained that taking a knee is a sign of respect in the military. Or, we could return to heads down, fist in air.)

So, why did I kneel that balmy evening in October?

1.       To show solidarity with the athletes, especially Colin Kaepernick, re Black Lives Matter.

          There is a problem and it must be addressed.

2.       Since protest is now under attack, to show solidarity with protest.

          Remember the Boston Tea Party? It occurred during that other ‘73.

3.       Since freedom is what our soldiers are supposedly fighting for, to support freedom.

          I figure that’s the opposite of compulsory patriotism a la Kim Jong-Un.

4.       Since patriotism is now conflated with militarism, to protest the military-industrial complex, even though it’s the only jobs program we currently have.

          (Of course, soldiers are actually fighting for the fossil-fuel and other industries. I don’t hold it against them, just their bosses.)

The more people complain, the more I’ll take a knee every chance I get, until it’s a non-issue. And then I’ll do it just to remind people that it used to be an issue.

As Jimmy Dore says, “The American spirit requires that you shed a tear of joy at the freedom someone has to protest injustice in our country.” 

This applies whether or not you agree with the time, the place, the method or the issue.

That is patriotism.

Robin Alexander

Posted on August 16, 2018 15:12


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