As a rule, and I mean as a tough, never-compromise-your-principles rule, I avoid placing my hand to my heart during the National Anthem. Nor do I sing along or cast loving eyes at the rippling flag.
If people give me guff, I ignore them.
Or tell them that I'm Canadian.
But if someone persists, asking where this policy comes from, I'm prepared to explain that all of it is hollow posturing. Paying your taxes and fervent respect the Bill of Rights. Those are duties more important to the nation and its people than any quasi-religious event. Which won't satisfy many in the audience, I know.
"But Bob, can't you put your feet in both boots? Pro-BofR and pro-jingoism?"
Actually no, I don't think these are compatible faiths. A feeling that comes in part from the obvious disgust of others. While I act as if I'm dissing the stars and stripes, many of those in the hand-to-the-heart crowd are watching me, hoping to see my head explode.
Last year, for the first and probably only time in my life, I went to a NFL game. Jingoism on steroids. Servicemen and women were honored, because this is what you do when not enough citizens question the wisdom behind dangerous missions, or even the premise that soldiers stationed in foreign lands actually make Kansas safer. Good Americans are supposed to bring out flags and beer and crisp uniforms and more beer, and to some degree, they feel happy because they aren't going into battle. Because hopefully their kids won't have to either. Although sure, a few of them have fought in a war, or they have lost a daughter or son. But if that's the case, I doubt that a single fly-over by fighter jets puts any mind at ease.
And shall I mention the irony of a game that looks like ritualized war serving up an easy, deeply conditioned symbolism?
These last few months have helped my mood. American actions and inactions are only increasing my commitment about keeping my hand away from my heart. Watching my home take sides, and in particular, being reminded daily that different regions have very different politics, I find myself turning anxious in ways I never thought possible. The remnants of the Old Confederacy were instrumental in electing the President and many of the Republicans in Washington. Kansas City sits very close to the Rebellion from two centuries ago And it doesn't very little imagination to picture America dividing in two unequal parts, then happily marching against one another.
And yes, each side with stars blazing on the flag.