I went to a baseball game tonight. I try to visit a few different stadiums every summer. As disgustingly corporatist as all sports tend to be, I can’t help myself but be a fan of athletic competition.
As is customary, the game would be preceded by a singing of the national anthem and - less customarily - a recital of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” The good sport that I am, I politely stood up for both - but I neither removed my hat nor placed my hand over my “heart.” I also didn’t recite or sing a syllable.
Well, some older gentleman a few rows back yelled at me repeatedly to remove my hat. If this state pomposity and pageantry is so important to him, why would he take his attention away from it and focus it on me? I ignored him, figured he’d take a hint.
Alas, his skull was too dense for any hint to penetrate - once hats were returned to heads and asses returned to seats, he scuttered up to me and yelled: “How dare you not take your hat off? Don’t you have any damn respect for this country?”
I stayed seated. I’m a big dude with no shortage of experience in fights (though I’ve since considerably tempered my temper from my college days); as such, I have nothing to prove and less to gain by responding in anger. I calmly replied: “What better way to respect our freedoms than to exercise them? Plus - not that it should matter - you don’t know what reasons I may have to keep my hat on. I could have just had a head injury…” Probably an unecessary point, but I was trying to highlight how ridiculously selfish it is to assert that his priorities should trump mine.
He screamed something about a tumor and that there’s no excuse for my blasphemy (not a word he used, though the sentiment was clear), at which point the person I went to the game with shouted some expletive-flavored versions of my arguments and generally diffused the situation through livid escalation.
The “Pledge of Allegiance” (which was written by a socialist to help sell flags and magazine subscriptions to public schools) - is creepy. I do not pledge myself to a piece of fabric. I will gladly swear allegiance to my daughters, my wife, my family, my God, people truly important to me… but to a government? No. Governments are forever changing and catering to the interests of something or someone else. To pledge myself to a government is to pledge my loyalty to the whims and corruption of others, and to the tyrannical monopolizer of force that continually finds new ways to aggress against me and my loved ones (to the tune of hundreds of thousands of laws).
Dear statists: not following state customs is not an affront to society or an insult to you or any other individual, even a “hero” who may have "paid the greatest sacrifice for my freedoms." The state and its symbols are not synonymous with society. Nor are they representative of you or any other individual in particular. When your identity is intermixed with your government and your patriotism becomes sacerdotal reverence, you become a mindless minion of the state to be manipulated into agreeing to whatever loss of liberty best suits your
Be a good neighbor to your fellow man, not a doting subject to the state.
I, for one, will follow the words of Albert Camus:
"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
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