Preambles: Recently, a simple incident that could have passed for comic relief became globalized and brought discussions around respect for the nationhood, nationalism, obeisance to the flag and anthem. As philosophers we know this discussion has roots in personal identification of what is right and what is wrong; the moral suasion, the persuasion or conviction of “rightness” and “wrongness” of act, of social responsibilities, actions and responsibilities of decisions.
In the above referenced incident, some African Americans decided not to stand for the flag of America when the anthem was being recited. For protest, they decided to kneel while the flag rises. The American president noticed this act and chose to condemn it publicly in a vulgar manner. The condemnation caught public attention and the protest became huge and went viral.
We all have been so mentally controlled that standing was the greatest respect we could give to the flag. Recently, civilians have come to add hands of the chest to that and we conditioned ourselves to imagine this is the correct and only symbol of reverence and respect for the flag. This cannot be true. The conversation should be engaged as what is honorable, what is desirable, what is the best attitude of reverence for what we hold dear.
The Rhetoric: Why is it important to stand or kneel or hold the chests while an anthem is being recited or a piece of cloth called flag is rising to a peak? How is man free when he is bound not by choice but by certain norms that are general and not peculiar? A bad and morally corrupt politician/officer of the court enters a room and I am compelled to rise up in respect of the officer, if I chose to sit in protest, have I broken a rule other than my individuality not to conform or give credence to nonsense? Why is it convenient to lie to ourselves that the obeisance is to the office and not to the occupier of the office? Of course “stonewall do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage”[i] the office is NOT devoid of the individuals who occupy it; both in history and in the present. Was any of these (the compulsion to rise or sit or stand or kneel for anthem) part of the social contract that was signed as human communities and social habitations began to form? Who chooses where to be born? Once born, nationality becomes the country or territory where that individual is born. The rising to a flag has become a norm, the usual practice and the acceptable order of things. And as a result, the individual is therefore intrinsically compelled to follow the norm even if he or she is not thinking of it. Standing to the anthem with or without emotion becomes a reluctant and unconscious moral responsibility, a suasion of the social practice.
Summation: In my humble analysis of the psychology behind people’s reaction, when you speak of the Almighty God, when you pray to the Omniscience of the Christian faith, When you pray to the Almighty Allah, and converse with the decider of your faith, the modus operandi of such is in the attitude of kneel! We have religiously and traditionally conditioned our minds to the salient but unwritten rule that you kneel to reverence God/Allah. Standing to pray in recent worship manner may be a modern Pentecostal attitude, typical of their revolusionalising their religion and consistent with the spirits of calling God “Father, Daddy…” however, ultimately, the greatest reverences to God is still made while kneeling.
In the process of keeping law and order, the order for obedience and respect is shouting at a victim to “get down on your kneels”. Kneeling is the best position of a captured soul or worshipper.
I therefore think that the Americans trivialized obeisance by mocking the players who erroneously kneeled thinking they scorned the anthem. They paid greater respect and worship for the flag than if they had stood. The new song should have been a reversal of the old and recommendation for kneeling for the flag rather than standing. Had they known…
But how obsessive would it have been if we have to kneel in prayers to God and kneel for the national flag, emotions would have to run riot.
To get attention, you have to do something different. These folks could have taken a phone and pretentiously answer a call during the rising of the flag or playing video games during the anthem recital. And then that would have been the real ABUSE an insult to the flag and to the anthem.
[i] “To Althea, from Prison” is a poem written by Richard Lovelace in 1642. The poem is one of Lovelace’s best-known works, and its final stanza’s first line “Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage” is often quoted. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Althea,_from_Prison