I was interested to read about people’s reactions across the country to athletes who didn’t stand for the national anthem. So many Americans were offended and angry by the action of these athletes. There was a time when I couldn’t stand for the national anthem either.
I remember the feeling. I was physically able to stand, but couldn’t. So profound was my anger at federal officials, who had stormed into my home in August 2005 that I was unable to stand. I had no respect for a government who had organized what I regarded as an invasion.
Much later, I recognized that legally they had a right to force their way into my home. They had all the correct documents to back up their actions. But emotion doesn’t always coincide with logical thinking.
Some time later, during a church outing to a Bridgeport Bluefish baseball game, I refused to stand when the national anthem was sung.
“Stand up,” my friend Maury said.
“You’re behaving badly,” he said. “Just stand up. You’re calling attention to yourself.”
“I don’t care, I don’t want to. I can’t.” I knew I sounded immature, flighty, not like who I really was.
“You’re embarrassing me,” he said. “I don’t want to be with you when you behave like this.”
Fortunately, the national anthem finished by the time I calmed down and everyone sat on the bench.
At the end of the game, when the group of church members walked out of the stadium, a friend asked curiously, “Why didn’t you stand up for the national anthem?”
“I didn’t want to. I’m anti-American,” I answered. I couldn’t believe I actually said that, me, with my family background of settlers who arrived on the Mayflower and my connection to Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence. I was aware I sounded like a nut job and even more self-conscious than when Maury became annoyed with me.
“Well, we’re going to have to something about that,” she said.
How could I show respect to those federal agents, representing the United States, who came into my home and threatened me? I couldn’t separate the tradition of a song about the country some of my ancestors helped found with my overwhelming feelings of alienation and anger.
Now, at weekly Rotary meetings I stand and sing whatever patriotic song is selected. Usually, it’s God Bless American, which brings back fewer difficult memories. I rarely think of the words and instead, hope that as a group we are singing in approximately the same key.
But I remember how I felt, how nobody was going to make me stand for something I didn’t respect, the United States Government. Now, I can stand for my country that needs support and hope and hard work to save it from the dangers that swirl around and threaten us all.