Mandated Displays of Patriotic Zeal

We are at our minor league hockey game. An unidentified voice begins booming instructions over the loudspeaker: stand up and face the south end of the arena. When everybody complies we see four guys marching out with a couple of flags in the customary formal manner. The overhead lights are dimmed and a spotlight illuminates the small procession. We are told that veterans may render the hand salute. A retired military guy sings a low-key rendition of the national anthem so we are spared the usual agonizing over-the-top performance. Then we were ordered to remain standing while the “colors” are retired. The word “please” is used but no disobedience is expected or observed.

Okay – we have a scripted display of patriotism. Any harm done here? What would be wrong with “Please rise for the national anthem?” Then shut up. If we are quiet and respectful why should anybody care what we do with our hands? Or even which way we are facing. Mandated displays of patriotic zeal remind one of the days of the loyalty oath: the very opposite about what’s best about this country. Patriotism would be better expressed as outrage at mangling so many people in optional wars. Real patriotism is bucking and opposing the government when it wants to gut the fourth amendment or torture people. In the military we were told that learning to drill sponsored immediate obedience to orders. Forward march. If you’re not with us you’re against us. The hockey spectacle with its odor of the Nazi rally at Nuremberg is marching us in the wrong direction. ~

— William Rankin

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