Monday, September 12, 2016

Under God

I took a whole college course on the existence of God. At the end of the semester, there was no clear determination, and extra credit was not issued if we were able to prove conclusively one way or another whether or not some hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin was in charge of all life in the universe. It was really about the discussion, debate, and philosophy of the arguments for and against the Big Guy Upstairs. It should be noted that all of this intense questioning came at a time in my life (freshman in college) and in a place (liberal arts college) where such introspection is valued. For a grade. I recall that my fresh(man) perspective was tweaked by a specific argument that suggested that simply by invoking the idea of a deity, we give it a pathway to existence. Much in the same way you can't not think of a zebra with purple stripes once the thought has been put in your head. Sorry about that. At least I didn't say something like "Trump's second term."
So that's the thing about having a thought, it tends to make things occur. What may have been just a whim on someone's part may become a concrete reality with layers of what if dripping off of it. I started thinking about this as I continue to encounter more professional athletes choosing to sit, kneel, or do anything other than stand during our National Anthem. It has become a protest rather than simple laziness because people are talking about it. The President. The Commissioner of the NFL. Even Colin Kaepernick's biological mother has an opinion about what to do when the Star Spangled Banner starts to play. It is a thing now.
As the sidelines of NFL games become a place for expressing solidarity with the oppressed, it gives me pause to think of the times I have stood at attention, playing my heart out for a song that my high school band director pointed out on several occasions that no one ever paid to hear performed. Our national anthem is a value-added piece of music. It gets played shortly before grown men launch themselves and various athletic apparatus at one another until the other side is vanquished. We are staging little battles on the gridiron, diamonds and courts as a reflection of the wars we have fought and won all those years ago. What would real patriotism look like? Standing for the National Anthem suggests that it exists, just as much as taking a knee. It is an observation, and the movement is growing. Eventually, there will be dozens of options for showing your true colors. But does it really matter? How would we know?
All those people standing, I guess. Because of an idea.

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