On Patriotism

Two things have me thinking about patriotism. Well, ok, 3.

Last month Army Sgt. 1st Class Clarence D. McSwain, was killed in Iraq when an IED detonated near his combat vehicle. I didn't know him, I had never even heard of him.

But the article I read said that there were protesters at his funeral. At first I thought maybe they were anti-war protesters, but when I read the article, I found that there is this (thankfully, small) group that believes that God is punishing America and American soldiers, for allowing gays in the military. And now they protest at soldiers' funerals. And although they're a small group, they get around.

I won't dignify that group by mentioning its name here. But I can't express how despicable I think their whole thing is. They act as if they're working in God's name, but they clearly aren't. And then they bring their hate filled message to funerals, to families that are mourning. This was the first I had heard of this group, and it really upset me.

There is an anti-protest group called Patriot Guard Riders, motorcycle riding veterans, who go to the funerals to block the protesters from the grieving families.

I don't know what else there is to say about the protesters. They're disgusting. And I think that most Americans know that. I know I've blogged here, and you've commented here, about our thoughts on the war. I'm against the war. But I want every soldier who fights to come home safely.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Clarence D. McSwain was 31 years old. He leaves behind a wife and three children, including a five month old. This was his fifth overseas deployment in his 12-year military career. I didn't know him, but I feel like honoring his memory is maybe the only small thing I can do to counteract the cruelty of these evil people.

Then, this week, I went to baseball game. A group of four people sat one row in front of me. I'm not sure that they were a family, but they might have been. There were 2 older people, maybe mid to late 50s, the man had stringy grey hair, and the woman was wearing a cap (not a cap for either team, just a random cap.) And then there were 2 people in their 30s, a man and a woman. So, they could've been a family. I don't know. But, anyway, they didn't stand or remove their hats for the national anthem. I know, compared to picketing a soldier's funeral, it seems really small.

It reminded me of this girl that I went to school with. Her religion didn't allow her to stand for the pledge of allegiance. The other thing I remember about her is that in high school she got caught giving a teacher a blowjob. So, I'm not sure what religion that was, but anyway, she was religious and didn't stand for the pledge of allegiance.

And I remember that our teacher (not the one who got the blowjob, our 1st grade teacher) told her that it was fine if she didn't stand, but she had to sit quietly at her desk while everyone else said the pledge of allegiance.

Which is what bothered me about this little group at the ballgame. They sat and talked and ate through the national anthem. And they weren't even whispering discreetly. They were talking loudly. Almost like they were annoyed at the people all around them, singing. You don't believe in standing, fine. But I think you should at least be quiet and respectful.

And I think that if you asked a soldier or veteran, they might tell you that part of the reason why they fight is so that Americans have the freedom to not stand for the pledge of allegiance, or the national anthem, or to protest at funerals.

But I felt annoyed. Maybe because I had just read that article, and about that group. And I was surprised there is so much opposite-of-patriotism out there. For all I know, maybe these are the same group of protesters. Hey, they could take in a game in between their acts of evil, right?

I wanted to say something to them. Ask them what their deal is. But I didn't. I hoped someone else would. People in the section were all looking at them. And, it's not like they didn't know what was going on, it was a big and crowded enough stadium that they couldn't have just "missed" that everyone else was standing for the national anthem.

But I didn't say anything. Maybe I should have. I don't know. It wasn't that I wanted to tell them off, I just wanted to know their reason. And I guess I don't have a right to know their reason. And maybe it would've just bothered me more.

And the third thing is, of course, Independence Day. Wishing you a safe, happy, and Patriotic 4th of July.


  1. The same to you!

    I understand how you feel. I'd also be annoyed at those people at the baseball game. As an immigrant, who never takes for granted what we have, my thought is that people like that should be shipped to North Korea for a few weeks, so they can realize how good they have it in this country. There are plenty of people all over the world who would give a limb or two to switch places with these people - to be at a ball game, in an idyllic location, with no fear of war or famine or a military dictatorship or police arresting them randomly for no reason, and have the right NOT to stand during the National Anthem.

  2. What's the "right" worth if everyone thinks you shouldn't actually ever choose to exercise it?

  3. I agree 100% with everything you said, from the war to BJ's. Don't know what part of the country you're from, we're likely from opposite ends, but we obviously think the same.

    To add to the BJ story, a girl I went to high school with tattled on me for drinking beer. Because of my heathen act, I was not allowed to hang around her, since it apparently says somewhere in the bible that you're not supposed to drink Lone Star Light.

    Three months later she got knocked up. Seems while I was drinking beer, she was !&^$#(*.

  4. I understand what you're saying and I agree with most of what you say. To me it comes down to respect. Just because you have the First Amendment right doesn't mean you have the right to exercise it any way you choose. The funeral was a solemn event for the family members the soldier who gave his life. Now, I don't agree with the war, and I don't entirely understand why someone would enlist, but I do respect the sacrifice that McSwain and his family made. If you want to protest the war, protest it in a public place at a public event, not a private event like a funeral.
    As for the ball game, without going into the public/private distinction, I have no problem with someone (1) not removing their hat or (2) not standing. Indeed, I have refused to do the same at numerous times in my life. I do have a problem if someone tries to speak as loudly as possible while I am exercising my right to stand up. They can sit down and not remove their hat, but they don't need to infringe upon my exercising my free speech rights. You can exercise your rights without being disrespectful to others.

  5. Just because you have the First Amendment right doesn't mean you have the right to exercise it any way you choose.

    I agree with the general thrust of these comments, but unless you're referring to time, place, and manner restrictions, having a First Amendment right does mean you can exercise it how you choose. You don't have to be respectful.

    Of course, everyone else has the right to decide you're an asshole and tell you to your face.

    The way I see it, having protesters on both sides yelling at each other while police stand around peacefully without taking sides...that's kind of what we're aiming for in this country.

    (Just to be clear, funerals could be protected from disruption with a simple First-Amendment-compliant noise restriction. There's no need for content-based restrictions on speech.)

  6. I think that dissent is healthy, but disrespect is rude.
    It's not so much about First Amendment rights, but more that you are right to feel offended when someone disrespects your value system, particularly when they do so in such a blatant way. Not that being offended means we get to infringe on their rights by taking out uzzis and shooting them, but you know what I mean.

  7. Maybe the unpatriotic baseball fans were Canadian.

  8. But lets remember these are the freedoms we fight to protect. Where else could you sit during the playing of the National Anthem...

    As a vet I feel your pain. Happy 4th of July

  9. I never felt comfortable with the pledge in school. Even though it was 1969, I was worried about the God part. And that we all were required to say it, but not asked if we meant what we were saying. Once I learned that it wasn't a legal requirement, I was done. I still don't say it, but will if my views about the flag, our country, and assuming that everybody believes in God change.

    But I wouldn't act as if the pledge wasn't happening, either.

    There's a big difference between acting according to your values, and acting as if your momma didn't teach you any manners.

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  11. I think that actual patriotism involves at least a little bit of real effort or sacrifice. Gestures like singing the national anthem or reciting the pledge of allegiance are meaningless pseudo-patriotism. I agree that being disrespectful of others while the national anthem is being sung is not cool, but I hate people who pretend that they're somehow more "patriotic" because they sing a song before a baseball game. Even something as small as a $20 contribution to a charity for wounded soldiers is an infinitely more meaningul gesture than all the flag-waving and pledge recitation in the world.

  12. Those "rude" people talking during the anthem weren't Canadians. Canadians are WAY too polite to do that.

  13. 1) Thanks for making me look like an idiot. I thought all liberal public defenders hated America.
    2) Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's 1A, all the way. Interesting to note that if you HAD exercised your 1A rights to tear those peeps a new one, you would have been instantly labeled a fascist, neo-con, neo-nazi, born-again, brainwashed idiot. Didn't you know? Freedom of speech only works in one direction. Ward Churchill was fired not because of plagiarism and academic dishonesty (read: making up research), but because HE DARED SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE BUSHIES (so his supporters claim). Really. You can steal and make up as much stuff as you want to, unless it's about the bushies, and it's all within 1A. A lawyer told me so.
    3) If the natives even think you're demonstrating the same lack of respect (intentional or otherwise) in many of the other countries in the world... we have Angelina starring in another movie.
    4) If you hate America... you need to move to one of those "behead-you-for-sneezing" countries for awhile. Not long enough to get beheaded. Just long enough to realize that it happens much more often then you think it does.