Freedom is not a right. Rather, it is a privilege. And if we are unwilling to do even the minimum in a show of gratitude by acknowledging the flag for a couple of minutes whenever we hear the anthem, then it seems we are not worthy of that privilege.
For an older woman, she looked to have a strong gait.
But to be honest, that impression was helped by the fact that nobody else was moving.
Indeed, the rest of the stadium was at a standstill – literally and figuratively – when she bolted through the turnstile and just kept going. Everybody had risen for the playing and singing of the national anthem.
Maybe she couldn’t hear any of that when she arrived. Sometimes, the sound from inside the stadium bowl is hard to pick up.
But when she walked into the park, she had to notice what was going on. It was impossible to miss it.
So we have to assume, then, that she was purposely ignoring The Star-Spangled Banner.
That’s not cool. Not at all.
The woman was not some kid who, because of immaturity, had no idea what she was doing, or why. She was old enough to know better. This was no mistake.
She probably was born during World War II and had heard all the stories of what went on then – what it meant and why it happened – from her parents and relatives. She’s had decades to chew on all that and let it become engrained in her heart, mind and soul. Yet, for whatever reason, that has not happened. Maybe she blocked it from happening.
To see her turn her back on all that just to get in her seat in time for the first pitch – or for a myriad of other similarly cheap reasons – was tough to watch. You wanted to run and catch up to her and ask, “What in the world are you doing? What are you thinking? Park it for a minute and pay attention.”
But it was also good to see, for it served as a lesson for everybody else there. It was a living and breathing example of what not to do, ever. Sometimes we need to step out of our bodies and see how bad we look to others. This was certainly that time for her.
The fact that it occurred so close to the Fourth of July – it’s this Thursday, you know – magnified everything tenfold. To be sure, the timing could not have been worse, for the Fourth is when we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, laying the groundwork for all of our freedoms.
No matter, though, if it’s July 4, Aug. 5, Nov. 7 or March 8, disrespecting the flag – and all that it stands for – is just plain wrong. It’s a slap in the face of everybody who has served this country and a double slap in the face of the families whose loved ones served and gave the ultimate sacrifice so she can have the freedom to act like that.
Page 2 of 3 - Yes, she has the right to thumb her nose at those privileges – that’s what freedom as we know it is all about – but at the same time, the rest of us – you, me and whomever else – have the right to thumb our noses right back at her. That road runs both ways. If you’re not shy about dishing it out, then you can’t be shy about taking it, either. We agree to disagree with her – very emphatically so, in fact – and we’re not moving off our opinion.
As a kid, I could never quite understand – or, maybe better stated, fully appreciate – how irriated my dad would get when a man would fail to remove his hat or someone would sit during the national anthem. I remember thinking, “Sure, it’s wrong, Dad, but it’s not worth getting all bent out of shape about it.” But as with most of his opinions, years later – years after his passing – I now realize why he felt as he did.
And about a year ago in this space, in a piece about Dick Goddard retiring as the official statistician on Cleveland Browns radio broascasts after more than 40 years, play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan said what will stick with him about the 1949 Greensburg High School graduate and Korean War veteran is how tall and straight and proud he would stand in the booth during the national anthem.
Goddard knows, and my dad knew, how fragile that freedom can become if taken for granted – if allowed to lessen in significance because of neglect. We must nurture it, protect it, treasure it. Those who don’t are contributing to freedom’s demise – really, to our demise, both as individuals and as a nation. Without it, we lose our worth. We lose the thing that sets us apart from other countries.
But freedom is not a right. Rather, it is a privilege. And if we are unwilling to do even the minimum in a show of gratitude by acknowledging the flag for a couple of minutes whenever we hear the anthem, then it seems we are not worthy of that privilege.
This is not to say that the country is perfect or that we should blindly agree with every decision that’s made. It’s silly to even conceive of such a notion. There are plenty of things that need to be corrected – plenty of things that are holding us back, and this nation, too.
But on the worst day, we are still light years better off than those people in other countries because we have the freedom to work to affect change.
Between now and the Fourth – and over the next week, the next month and the next year – we’ll see the actions of countless other selfish people who think it’s beneath them to say thanks or to give even the slightest hint of being grateful for our bounty.
Page 3 of 3 - It’s been said that those to whom much has been given, much is expected, and much is required.
That’s us – the woman at the ballpark and all the rest of us as well, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. We’re rich beyond our wildest dreams.
And we need to start living up to that, lest we risk losing it.