Protesting the US National Anthem: Democratic Dissent and the Politics of Civility and Respectability in America
I would like to articulate a few ideas about the controversy surrounding the U.S. National Anthem (I know some of my friends will challenge my position on this timely-sensitive issue. )
1. Because of recent research done on the history of the U.S. National Anthem, most Americans now know part of it is pro-slavery and glorifies the death of African slaves. From this perspective, one can infer that the American National Anthem is the antithesis of the American Constitutional ideals.
2. A National Anthem of a country is a sacred and historical document. It is equally important as the Constitution, the founding document, of a country.
3. It is evident that countries don’t just change or rewrite their national anthems. It is a rare case for that to happen.
4. US lawmakers will not discard our National Anthem nor will they write a new one.
5. The current American President will not apologize for its racist context or background.
One of the benefits of democracy or living in a democratic nation-state includes the freedom to dissent, the freedom of self-expression, even the freedom of the citizen to vote or refuse to vote. In fact, for many individuals democracy and dissent do not contradict each other or is the former the antithesis of the latter? On one hand, I respect the constitutional right of an American or any American citizen to refuse to salute the US flag or even refuse to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner;” on the other hand, should we not rather put accent on the “American ideals” that the US flag/ National Anthem represents or embodies?
Absolutely, we should agree that it is okay to protest what we believe are not great about America, and those things that defer American ideals and the promise of American democracy–such as high racial tensions, the seemingly unending police brutality, and the desecration of life in contemporary American society. Certainly, we are divided by difference.
Nowadays, it has become a public spectacle in our society for young Americans, even those in Elementary and Middle schools, to protest the National Anthem. What is the message we’re sending to these children? What is exactly we’re trying to achieve by this act of democratic refusal? What is the ultimate goal of this democratic dissent?
Those of you who have clapped for those who refused to sing the US National Anthem, for how long will you keep doing so? If this is going to be a temporary protest, you need to know why? or if it is going to be a permanent protest, you also need to have specific reasons. Remember my two previously-stated claims: (3) It is clear that countries don’t just change or rewrite their national anthems. It is a rare case for that to happen; and (4) that US lawmakers will not discard our National Anthem nor will they write a new one. A lot of Americans like to follow the crowd, and interestingly, some have no justifiable reasons. We are just a people who are trapped in our emotions while abandoning reason.
As an American citizen and a black father, I will not encourage my four children to disrespect the US Flag or applaud them shall they ever refuse to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” However, I’m responsible to teach them about the importance of racial justice, equality, and freedom for all. I’m also responsible to teach them that Black Lives mater, and concurrently, all lives matter.In the same line of thought, it is a moral obligation for me to teach my four children to stand against all forms of injustice, social evils, and to protest racism, sexism, and the desecration and the degradation of life. Finally, it is also my duty to model for my four children good citizenship, civic responsibility and participation, community involvement, and my commitment for a more promising and democratic America for all people.
*The problem with us Americans is that we are not consistent protesters; we let go too quickly matters of life and death in this country. That’s the thrust of my post. I’m calling upon us all to be consistent and not to withdraw even when the issue is not in vogue. For example, how long did it take us to forget about the recent deaths of young black males at the hands of angry police officers? how long will it take us to forget about the Black Lives Mater movement? How long will it take us to forget about the controversy surrounding the National Anthem (I’m predicting this issue will not last to October. By the beginning of November, we all will forget if this was even a serious political or cultural matter). What has happened to the Income Equality Movement? What about Katrina? How about the gun laws/right movement? Have we solved these issues ? Nope! We’re too quick to move to the next issue before we even solve the current dilemma. That is the reason we can’t ever solve anything effectively in this country. We are too quick to move forward; we are too quick to forget. This is not the best way to cure a disease. A cancer patient who wants to be cured from his/her illness will follow up with regular and repeating chemotherapy treatments, and continual doctor’s visits. He/she does not stop going to the doctor after his/her first visit. He or she does not stop the chemo treatment after the first session is over. Active and consistent protest is what will bring about racial justice, racial reconciliation and harmony, income equality, equal pay for women at work, equality for all, the problem of Police authority, and even the end of our culture of death and alienation. America’s grassroots movements are quick to fade.Perhaps, we have become less passionate, even less zealous about civil rights and human rights issues in this country.