I was chatting at my local bridge club with a visiting couple from out of town and they mentioned that they do not watch sports because of the protests during the playing of the national anthem. As long time readers of this blog know, I think patriotism is a bad thing and so am not a fan of the symbols used to promote it such as national anthems or flags. But in the US, those two symbols are fetishized as being somehow sacred and any sign of disrespect is enough to bring down strong disapproval. Look at how football players kneeling during the national anthem created such a brouhaha.
So when the couple made these comments, I replied that I did not see why the anthem was played at pretty much every sporting event. Surely it would make more sense to use these symbols on very special occasions like Independence day or the presidential inauguration or some other major political event? Playing the anthem at even local school sporting events seems to me to invite its trivialization and takes away any sense of specialness that it is supposed to have. I think the couple sensed that I was not sympathetic to their point of view and changed the subject and let it go.
Because of the protests about police brutality that had players kneeling during the anthem at professional sporting events, the National Football League apparently now plays two anthems before games, the second one being the song ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, known informally as the ‘Black national anthem’. So of course that has led to criticisms by the anthem fetishists. The NFL would have been better served by not playing any anthem at all but of course that would have created a huge uproar.
The flag is another source of fetishization. The proper treatment of the flag is even codified in great detail into federal law in US Code Title 4. Recently a person on the Nextdoor community website even took some of his neighbors to task because they were not following the rules exactly, such as requiring that a light shine on the flag if it is kept flying at night.
Despite the publicly professed reverence people hold for these things, they are not quite consistent in upholding them. People use the flag image on trivial things like paper napkins, that get soiled and thrown away, and on clothes and swimwear that get dirty. I am surprised that there has not been an outcry about Amazon selling toilet paper with the flag on it. That hardly seems like treating the flag with respect and I would have expected loud right-wing outrage and calls from the patriots to boycott the company.