The Rockets' Red Glare

It was early morning, not yet seven, and sixty thousand of us had roused ourselves before dawn on a bank holiday and trudged through chill and drizzle to run one of the world's largest foot races.

It was a pretty good event. The rain petered out after the first fifteen minutes. The pace groups were well distributed. The minor changes to the route were insignificant. The shirts were a better design than in years past. The volunteer staff was awesome. Sure, Piedmont park was a muddy mess, but that goes with having sixty thousand exhausted people muddle across the grass following a night of heavy precipitation.

One thing vexed me, though, and vexed me badly. And so, I have this to say to the five or so percent of participants that I hereby declare guilty:

Take your hat off, stand still and be respectful during the national anthem.

I don't care that is was raining. I certainly don't care about the state of your hair. I could give a shit that you were phyching up for a major physical challenge. It doesn't matter if you're a citizen, an alien, or a visitor. It doesn't matter how important your phone call is. I'm not saying you need to salute, put your hand on your heart, sing along, or even face the flag. I am saying that you need to be respectful: lose the hat, quit the chitchat and quit moving.

This isn't about jingoism or about misplaced nationalism. It doesn't matter whether you voted for the guy in the Oval Office. It doesn't matter if you agree with the most recent act of Congress or with a current Supreme Court decision. It is of no consequence if you object to particular statutes regarding taxation, firearms, foreign policy, capital punishment, or the legal status of the unborn. This is not about politics or creed; it's about country.

I fully understand that refusing to stand for, to uncover for or to otherwise acknowledge the National Anthem is a valid form of political protest. But, let's be honest, you're not Tommie Smith or John Carlos, you don't have the world's eye; you haven't organized with like minded individuals to accomplish targeted social and political goals. You're just a prick who thinks you're too important to take sixty seconds to pay homage to the nation that provides for you economically, enfranchises you politically, and defends you martially. You probably under tip in restaurants and talk in the theater.

I'm not proposing a law, nor any other mode of coercion to force individuals' compliance on this. This is the U.S.ofA., after all, and we hold that it's your privilege to do pretty much whatever you want, even if what you want is to be a ass. You're not any less of an ass for being allowed to be.

And, just so I've said it, if you're an American and you find yourself in another country, or in the presence of others from another country, you should pay as much homage to their national anthem as you do our own. It's just the respectful and civilized thing to do.

Play it, Jimi.

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