What is truly ‘American?’

To the Journal editor:

Standing during our national anthem is a custom, not a law. It is like baring/covering one’s head in church, or holding the door for someone. The First Amendment guarantees that it never will become a law. Those who condemn others for not standing violate the spirit of a precious right that distinguishes America from oppressive nations.

Standing shows respect for freedom and equality. It is an admirable political opinion. But not every citizen shares this view. For some, the music is a reminder of how far those ideals are from reality. They kneel in supplication to the indisputable fact of racist abuse by some police.

We find nothing wrong with genuflecting in other contexts. Why can’t genuflecting to the anthem be seen as a respectful but more complicated political opinion? Praying on bent knee for the realization of political ideals is just as legitimate as standing at attention in admiration.

“Respect” is not a binary toggle between “sanctity” and “degradation.” (About) 330 million Americans represent 330 million factual views of the world and none is wrong.

No one should claim a dogmatic monopoly on any political opinion. Citizens can revere the ideals of American freedom and equality without finding inspiration in that iconic anthem itself, and while also acknowledging grave injustices in fact.

“Patriotism” is not a binary toggle between “loyalty” and “betrayal.” Patriotism comes in many shades from vastly different perspectives with vastly different political opinions.

When Commodore Decatur offered the toast, “My country right or wrong,” John Quincy Adams responded, “I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong.” Is President/Senator/Congressman/Secretary-of-State/Ambassador Adams a “traitor” for qualifying his political “loyalty”?

Standing for the anthem is only a “public” display, and in that sense it actually may be sanctimonious rather than sacred. Matthew 6:5-6. When we’re watching that pre-game ceremony on TV at home, we don’t stand at attention. And we never, ever, sing the racist third stanza of that anthem, praising courageous whites and disparaging cowardly blacks.

Let’s truly keep politics out of sports! Let’s tell the NFL that the political anthem is irrelevant to football. Let’s tell the NFL that no one holds a “PC” monopoly, that we Americans proudly tolerate differing opinions, and that no one should be banished from the playing field because their world-view of American ideals is more complex than ours.

Bob Hicks