Friday, June 6, 2008

Sports and the National Anthem

I am a firm believer of the idea that sports and the national anthem should have nothing to do with each other outside of an Olympic medal ceremony. According to this article, the national anthem wasn't even a common component of sporting events until the run up to World War II required more patriotic fervor from the general populace. When I was in junior high, I began substituting "Zeus" or other monosyllabic names into the Pledge of Allegiance, because it made me very uncomfortable to be forced to give my support to a god that, frankly, I didn't believe in. It has also been my custom for several years now to remain seated when the national anthem is played at sporting events. I simply do not believe that sports and politics--like church and state--should be mixed, and I refuse to endorse that mixture with my actions. What does my national anthem have to do with the shameless commercialism of a typical professional basketball game? Apparently, everything.

Today when we sat quietly during the national anthem at the Connecticut Sun game, we were asked if there was anything wrong with our legs, called disrespectful, and questioned vehemently as to the validity of our actions. We are also apparently young, stupid, and required by our American citizenship to honor the flag whenever it is presented. We had a reasonable discussion with an adjacent seatmate about our reasons for sitting--which also include not blindly endorsing a country that has, is, and will be engaged in torturing and killing people for profit--but the group of women in front of us became progressively more insulting, refusing to leave us alone and repeatedly explaining that our freedom as Americans meant that we had to stand up for the national anthem, that their fathers and other relatives had served so we could be so selfish, etc.

This was very disturbing for a variety of reasons, but because I'm me, what is most upsetting is that it ruined my basketball game, and I'm afraid it's going to ruin the rest of the season. As a season ticket holder, I'm afraid that I'm going to be spending the rest of the season in the same space as hateful, angry people who will not agree to disagree. It is hard to believe that people who are apparently so passionate about American nationalism are unable to accept that one of the founding principles of this country is (in my understanding, my grasp of history is a little fuzzy) the ability to dissent peacefully. I understand that people have reasons for standing during the national anthem, for joining the military, and for putting flag bumper stickers on their cars. Fine. They can do all those things. But--don't tell me what to do. I'm just here to cheer for my women's basketball team.

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