Friday, September 12, 2008

9/11 Observance?

Anyone who knows me, or has read the last handful of blog posts here (see the Independence '08 series below) knows I'm a pretty big America geek. Mine is an old fashioned patriotism, built from raw materials given to me by fascination with my dad's old Army uniforms, his stories of being in Panama, and some handed-down values he taught me about accountability and looking out for the little guys. I found an outlet for and honed my patriotism during many years as a cadet and senior officer in Civil Air Patrol, and even today strive to teach these red, white, and blue values to my own kids, at least by example.

Admittedly, I missed many a mark most hard-core patriots claim. I've never served in the military or done municipal service. I didn't volunteer for any cleanup missions after Katrina. I don't know all my elected officials' names without looking them up. I don't watch Congress the way a decent taxpayer should. I don't even own a flag pin for my lapel.

Despite my patriotic shortcomings, what feeling I do have is pure, and it focuses mainly on the symbols that represent my nation's ideals. The foremost of these is the flag of the United States of America. Having spoken to many non-Americans on this matter, I know Americans fly more flags than residents of most European countries. Across the pond, it's considered presumptuous to put, say, a German flag on a pole in front of business, or hang it on your porch at home. And if you do, the bigger the flag, the gaudier people think it is. Sometimes, it's considered more acceptable to fly an American flag than that of your home country. It's a matter of pride, then, to drive down Woodward Avenue, or bike through the neighborhood, and see Old Glory displayed (usually properly) so commonly.

Another of our most basic symbols as a nation is our National Anthem. Last year, when Regina started ice hockey, she was amazed that it was played at the beginning of each game, especially at the high school level, and even as a guest to this country, was more than once appalled at the behavior of some of her teammates while it played. I always stand for this, and being accustomed to saluting during the Anthem has made the hand-over-heart gesture a giant no-brainer. I make my children stand, and whining carries no weight when it's time to show respect, even in the podunk little ice arena, even at a high school game, even when only thirteen parents bothered to show up for both teams. (I also happen to be a HUGE sucker for Taps. The first three notes alone make me well up. But that is another entry.)

So imagine, dear Reader, now that you have a big enough piece of me for context, my feelings yesterday when I attended Nicolai's JV football game, on September 11th, seven years after the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of over 3000 ordinary Americans and changed the world forever, and I found the flag loosely hung on a defective pole, and though game and school officials were nearby, had to tighten the lanyard to keep the flag from falling. Now imagine how I might have felt when the National Anthem didn't precede the kickoff. I have to admit, though it doesn't excuse the school or the athletic program from these digressions, the game started late; I'm sure they were eager to get going. Also, I found out the National Anthem isn't usually played at JV games (ashamedly, I'm usually just late enough to each game to miss this fact.) But still.

Truth be told, if I hadn't poked my head into the announcer's booth pre-game, I'd just be sitting here stewing about it. But I did poke my head in there, and I asked what I thought was a stupid question: Will there be a moment of silence before the National Anthem is played? I got some "uhhhh"s and blank stares. The moment of silence was questionable; clearly, nobody had thought of this. But the Anthem seemed to be a given. The kid in the booth even said jokingly to me, regarding the playing of the Anthem, "What do you think this is, China?"

Well kid, I'm beginning to have my doubts.

What with the Olympics just behind us, and it being the year of Michael Phelps and all, how can we miss such a basic observance of national pride? And let's not forget that, oh yeah, it's September 11th, Patriot Day. I am ashamed for the school and the officials who didn't have to foresight or respect to see this coming. I'm embarrassed that we missed this important moment in front of a visiting team. I'm angry that my inquiry was ignored. I'm saddened by the apparent lack of what I consider to be a basic quality of character, especially in our community where so many have so much. And I'm appalled that patriotism is only in fashion during times of crisis, or posturing, or opining about our favorite candidates.

So I've sent a letter to the Superintendent, again. And the principal, and the Athletic Director. And we'll see what happens from there. Hopefully, it's enough to ensure that this heinous lapse of judgment isn't repeated again, on September 11th, 2009.

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