Do We Measure Up?
Every year around the anniversary of 9/11, my daughter’s school does a “Patriotic Chapel.” The choir sings songs like God Bless America, America the Beautiful, Proud to be an American and, of course, The Star Spangled Banner. I attend this chapel every year as my daughter is one of the singers.
I have to admit that I love it. I love the music, the pictures, the symbolism, and the message of pride in our country that fills the auditorium. I love the stories from our history that are told, even when they’ve been slightly embellished. I love that for one hour, our children are reminded why they should be thankful for the lives they live and to not take a single moment for granted.
I love all of that. What I didn’t particularly enjoy this year was another message one of the speakers put forth. Perhaps it was unintentional, I can’t say one way or the other. Regardless, it came across loud and clear.
This speaker discussed how she felt that the younger generations weren’t as patriotic as the older ones. She gave examples of young people in schools mumbling through the pledge of allegiance as though it meant nothing, and of an Olympic athlete not placing her hand on her heart during the playing of our National Anthem.
First, when did it become okay to measure another person’s love for their country based on symbolic gestures? Teenagers will mumble through anything that doesn’t involve a video game or their latest crush. That might mean that their priorities are askew, but it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t love and respect their country.
As for the Olympic athletes “disrespecting our anthem” by not covering their hearts with her hands (Gabby Douglas wasn’t the only one), I’m more than a little tired of hearing about it. The hand-over-heart gesture is required when saying the Pledge of Allegiance, but standing at attention is the norm during a rendition of our National Anthem. Some choose to also place their hands over their hearts, and I think that is beautiful. I don’t think, however, that it means they are more patriotic or respectful than those who don’t.
And second, since when is this kind of lack of symbolic gesturing something only the younger generation is afflicted with? There was a whole lot of gesturing going on in the 60s, and I don’t recall any of it being particularly patriotic.
I guess my point is this: Perhaps we should place less importance on symbolism and more on what’s in a person’s heart. If we are so hell-bent on measuring people, let’s do it based on their character, on how they live their lives, and on how they treat others.
Come to think of it, that last bit works for far more than measuring patriotism.