Those, like me, who have not grown up in America are often startled when attending some perfectly ordinary function to be suddenly asked to stand for the national anthem or to say the Pledge of Allegiance and, in the latter case, to watch everyone solemnly place their hands on their hearts and look devotedly at the large American flag that often adorns the venue. It has always struck me as silly and pointless as does anything associated with patriotism.
The only benefit of this patriotic symbolism is that it provides a way of highlighting protests such as when people choose to burn the flag or to not stand, which predictably causes outrage from those who take such symbolism very seriously indeed. The decision by some Cleveland Browns football players to kneel during the singing of the national anthem before their season-opening football game on September 10, a gesture started by Colin Kaepernick to protest police brutality, has generated just such a fuss.
The Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, led by the truly awful Steve Loomis, has said that this is an insult to the police and the fact that the Browns have not punished the players for similar acts during exhibition games makes the owners complicit in this insult and that they will respond accordingly.
Cleveland’s police union will not be holding the American flag for a pregame ceremony for the Brown’s first game Sept. 10, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis said late Friday.
The players not standing for the national anthem is offensive because of the sacrifices that people make that allows these guys to enjoy the success that they have, Loomis said. While they’re benefiting from protection of the flag they are kneeling in disrespect of it, he said.
The Browns management and ownership condoned this disrespectful activity of their employees, Loomis said.
“It’s just ignorant for someone to do that,” he said. “It just defies logic to me. The fact that management was aware of what they planned on doing, that’s as offensive as it can get.”
So because some players are not engaging in a pointless patriotic gesture, in retaliation the police are going to … also not engage in a pointless patriotic gesture? No doubt that makes sense to Loomis.
The Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams is more sensible than Loomis and has said in a statement that what the CPPA is advocating does not represent official policy:
“As law enforcement officers, we took an oath to serve and to protect. We protect the rights of all citizens to express their views as protected by the First Amendment of our constitution, no matter the issue.”
Why are there elaborate acts of patriotic symbolism at football games anyway? These are events where people eat overpriced ghastly ‘food’, drink vast quantities of equally over-priced alcohol that causes them to vomit all over the place, and insult fans of the opposing teams, when not cheering on steroid-fuelled massive men to cause permanent brain injuries to each other by colliding repeatedly with them. This is not like independence day or a state funeral where acts of patriotic symbolism have at least some rationale.
I have a slim hope that people will begin to realize that these ubiquitous symbolic acts of patriotism are a cause of division rather than solidarity and that they are more trouble than they are worth and will quietly drop them altogether.