Mourning the loss of tradition
This post has nothing to do with plot, rhyme scheme, or call to action.
It has nothing to do with radio, TV, or kid lit.
I needed to take a break from poetry, advertising, and children’s writing today to pass along something that has been on my mind since Labor Day Weekend. It’s not really about 9/11 – it’s more about Americans’ attitudes toward patriotism – but since it is Sept. 11, I thought today was as good a day as any, if not better than most, to pose the question:
What’s happened to the national anthem?
Specifically, what has happened to the reverence we used to have for it? I was taught from a young age that whenever “The Star-Spangled Banner” started to play I was to stand up, remove my hat, place my right hand over my heart, and face the direction of the nearest flag – and darn it, that’s what I did. That’s what everybody did. It was just the way it was.
If you could sing it, even better.
These days, however, it’s a different story. At the risk of sounding overly nostalgic, times have drastically changed – and I don’t know how, when, or why. I realized this while working as the announcer for the Hopkinton State Fair, a very popular event held every Labor Day Weekend here in New Hampshire.
Every day during the fair (which runs five days starting on Thursday), we play the national anthem. As the announcer, I preface the song by letting attendees know where the four flags are located on our fairgrounds, via our public address system. I then state, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our national anthem.”
At this point, any one of a number of things may happen.
Most people do, indeed, stand, take their hats off, and turn to face the flag in respect. Some place their hands over the hearts. However, many simply sit there, as if they hope the inconvenience of it all quickly passes. And sadly, others continue about their day, walking, talking, and eating as if nothing exceptional has occurred – oblivious to what’s going on.
Again, I ask: what happened??
Since when did the national anthem – and our flag – become so uninspiring and disrespected, and when did we as the collective American society become so blasé and dispassionate? How do we justify and honour the sacrifices made in our past for the sake of our freedom, if we take them for granted so easily? How can we allow young servicemen and servicewomen to continue to die overseas when we are unable or unwilling to spare two minutes to stand up and listen to “The Star-Spangled Banner?”
I’m not even asking you to take off your hat, or put your hand over your heart, or even try to sing – but at least STAND UP and make it seem like you give a damn. The only reason you’re able to chat with your friends right now, or eat your pizza, or write your blog, or do anything is because there were (and still are, fortunately) thousands of Americans willing to put their lives on the line and their own happiness on hold to protect this country, its people, its laws, its culture.
Asking you to be grateful for two minutes isn’t, I don’t believe, asking much.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t want to come across as being preachy, I’m just trying to understand the rampant ambivalence I witness. Do our citizens not care? Do they not know? Have they forgotten?
Although, the more important question is…what happens next?