To the Man Yelling at People for Not Standing During 'God Bless America'

Recently, I had an experience that made me question some of the actions I have always taken as a person who experiences pain as the result of an unpredictable illness. The event wasn’t directed at me personally, but was so aggressive in nature that it actually caused some concern to me and several other people in the vicinity. And it was all in the name of patriotism.


The story is this: My family and I went to a baseball game on the Fourth of July. It’s kind of a tradition with us – see the game and watch the fireworks afterwards. Anyway, during the fireworks, the song “God Bless America” sung by the incomparable Ethel Merman was played over the PA with some amazing displays. As the song began, the man sitting in front of us stood up and took off his cap. When it became apparent that no one else was going to stand, he started to urge the crowd to follow his lead. He actually started yelling at all of us and informed us that it was our patriotic duty to stand during this song. It was very aggressive and very uncomfortable.

Fortunately, nothing untoward happened. But this situation made me think. I don’t always stand for the national anthem. No, I’m not making a political statement, and I’m not an unpatriotic person. Quite the opposite. I know our country is great even if it’s confused at the moment. And our service men and women deserve our support and thanks for their sacrifice. No, my issue with standing is much more basic.

I don’t stand because on that day, I can’t. It hurts too much. Or the simple act of getting up is too hard that day. I may have expended all my energy just getting to wherever I am and need to rest – my knees, my back, my hips… This isn’t every time I’m out somewhere by the way. I stand whenever I can. It’s my idea of use it or lose it. I just can’t always use it. But then I encountered the gentleman described above.

So back to my question: Am I unpatriotic for not standing? Is my pain a justifiable reason for remaining seated or should I try harder in recognition of those who lost limbs or lives? After all, I haven’t lost either, I am just in pain, as are numerous others who fought for our country. How do I justify my infirmity as being such that I not pay respect to the country, my freedoms and those who fought for them?

I guess in the end, it will remain my decision on any given day if I am able to physically push myself or not. Even more, I know what’s in my heart and that is respect for all people. And showing patriotism isn’t yelling at people. It is, simply, this respect. Sitting or standing. Towards all who live in this great nation.

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Thinkstock photo via deymos.

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