I grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance. My version included “under God” which was added in 1954. As a kid, I never knew it any other way, so I thought it had always been that way.
We said it every morning in school. Some kid, who was never me, got chosen to lead the school in the pledge over the PA system.
I was in Cub Scouts. We learned about the flag and the pledge. We got badges or something for memorizing the pledge and properly demonstrating our two finger salute. I practiced in the mirror with my little beanie.
Same with the National Anthem. We learned it in primary school. We read the story about Francis Scott Key watching the Battle for Baltimore in 1812. As a kid, it’s a pretty compelling story. What with its staying up all night and watching things blow up.
And winning! By the dawn’s early light, America won. In the world of an 8 year old, winning was pretty important.
They played the song at all the high school games. I went on to play it in the band. All would rise, we’d play, then play ball. It seemed to become rather rote. Stand, Sing, Sit, Play, Repeat.
Colin Kaepernick seems to have changed all that. In our time away, a lively debate has arisen about what the national anthem represents and what patriotism means. When I sing to the flag, am I honoring the fabric or am I honoring the American Ideal? And what is the American Ideal, anyway? Is it freedom of speech, and equality? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or is it something else? The Flag? Veterans? Jesus?
Tastes great? Less Filling? Two great tastes that taste great together? Does it have to be one or the other? Ah, well….
What better way to reconnect with American values than to go to a baseball game? On a warm summer’s eve, Mrs. S.A.M. and I attended a farm team ball game. It was lightly attended even though it was “Kids Eat Free!” night. That’s a pity because it was a good game, rooting for the home team, peanuts and crackerjack and all that stuff.
The singing of the Anthem was noticeably different compared with a couple years back. In previous years, the anthem approached background chatter. Now, when the announcer comes on, a hush falls over the crowd. It is deathly quiet. Hats and hands to chests, turning, like sunflowers, to the flag in centerfield.
A large man, with the presence of the fourth Three Tenors, acapellas his way through the Star Spangled Banner, culminating in a torticolis rendering high note. O’er the land of the free!” He had a great set of lungs, but Man!, was he flat!
Homage we paid to whatever the song represents to us. From the homeless Vet, begging on the street, to the Somali vendor selling me an Italian sausage. From the Irish cop to the Dominican relief pitcher. One nation under God.