I hadn’t originally planned on writing a political post, but I had a disturbing dream the other morning. I’m not an expert on dream interpretation, but I think in this case it’s pretty clear what it means to me, and I feel it’s important to share.
Usually my nightmares are supernatural in nature – being chased by demons and werewolves, malicious presences standing at the foot of my bed, etc -. While these dreams are terrifying, there’s a certain comfort in waking up knowing that the only thing at the foot of my bed is a bookshelf, that werewolves don’t exist, and that I’ve made friends with all my demons. I can enjoy those kinds of dreams, because I know I’m in no real danger.
With this dream, I didn’t have that safety net. What happened in my dream is something that could happen to me in real life. It’s already happened to other people.
I was at a baseball game with my dad and brother. Now, I’m not a sports person. I don’t recall why I was there, but I do remember that I wasn’t enjoying myself. My dad and brother were chatting between themselves about sports things, I assume. I was not paying attention to them. Instead, out of some sort sort of defiance or to make a point, I was chatting with my neighbor.
This guy was the type of person who reached his peak in high school and never quite got over it, who found that the only way to survive as an adult was to return in the form of a football or basketball coach. His face was square, framed by a military crew cut, and the muscles he had developed in his adolescent years were allowed to melt to fat.
In other words, he looked like every single Trump supporter I’ve had the misfortune of meeting.
At the start of the national anthem, everyone stood except for me. This form of protest is nothing new for me. I have not willingly engaged in any form of patriotic ritual without the threat of fifteen minutes of push-ups since I was in the seventh grade, long before we had to remind certain white people that black lives matter just as much as white lives. It is my Unholy Rite to sit or stand as I please, and Supreme Court decision West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette supports that right (something I wish I’d known in high school before I was punished with push-ups and crunches).
But, of course, in this political climate, the support of a seventy-five year old decision is not much support, not even in a dream, and my standard procedure did not go over well. When Coach MAGA Man noticed that I was still in my seat, legs crossed and my hands clasped over my knee, he gripped my shoulder hard enough that, had this been real life, he would have left a really nasty bruise. It was clear that his intent was to force me to stand. Since Dream S. Kay is stronger than Real S. Kay, I was able to remove his hand from my person without starting a full on brawl.
After the anthem was over Coach MAGA Man decided he was going to give me a lecture. I do not recall what this man was trying to impress upon me; most likely every other flawed argument about respect for the flag or the military or veterans that people such as he like to regurgitate. Because mob mentality is a thing, and because my subconscious is well aware of it, all the other faceless sports fans decided to have a go at me as well. I got the typical insults you might expect: Traitor, Ungrateful, Disrespectful, etc. One sneering question, most likely rhetorical in nature and thrown out by my own brother, no less, stood out to me: “What are you even trying to accomplish?”
So, let’s discuss this. What does not engaging in patriotic ritual accomplish? I would like to turn that around, and ask: What is the point of patriotic ritual? From what I can tell, the idea that patriotic ritual should be mandatory stems from World War II and the Cold War era. It’s meant to build a sense of unity and inspire loyalty as the basis of national security. And that’s all well and good, but are you really building unity and loyalty if you are forcing your citizens to participate? In my experience, mandatory participation in anything, be it patriotic ritual or what have you, only serves to breed resentment and anger, which does more to compromise national security than a few athletes taking a knee.
On the flip side, what are people who don’t participate in patriotic ritual trying to say? Personally, I don’t do it because, for me, ritual is an act of worship or magick, and I do not worship the flag or the country. The national anthem is not a church hymn, it is a war song, and even if it were a church hymn I will not stand up and sing because some withered and dead old man said I should, long before most people alive today were even born. The flag is a piece of cloth, and therefore undeserving of my allegiance. As for others, let’s start by going back to the concept of Respect (Hail Aretha Franklin!). Respect is a word thrown around so often it loses it’s meaning, so I’m going to define it here as exceptional admiration, affection, or regard. As the baby boomers are so fond of pointing out, respect is something that must be earned. For minorities, the US has done little to nothing in recent years to actually earn their respect, therefore, they feel no need to show it. Nor should they be forced to. If the majority so insists on ignoring the rights of minorities, one of the many consequences of their #choices is that they are going to lose minorities’ respect.
And, let’s be honest, taking a knee at a football game for the national anthem is far more respectful to the flag than the way most MAGA idiots shrieking about respect treat it. Think about it like this: What do you do when a player is injured on the field? You show solidarity by taking a knee. Standing up and putting your hand over your heart or chanting a poem is like slapping a band-aid on a concussion. It’s like telling a player with his leg snapped in half that he’s fine and to get his ass back out on the field. So, if respect for the flag is really something you’re concerned about, take off your tacky Old Navy flag shirt (which, by the way, is in violation of the Flag Code) and take a knee while the medics take care of the injured player.