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As Long as We Remember...

January 28, 2011

A Modicum of Respect?

Joe Charlebois

What were you taught regarding proper etiquette when the National Anthem is played? I know I was taught by my father to immediately remove my hat, face the flag and place my hand over my heart. At times I have remained silent or have sung along with others as the music played.


As I’ve grown older and attended more and more public events, I’ve noticed an increasing level of outright disrespect during the playing of the National Anthem. Disrespect defined as people milling about, leaving hats on their heads, carrying on conversations or jeering the opposing team at a sporting event.


I have been surprised at the actions of people – I’d assume grew up in a similar time as I – who flat out continue these boorish acts. Whether it is small venues or large arenas and stadiums these occurrences only seem to be increasing in number.


Even at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards – a long fly ball away from Fort McHenry where Francis Scott Key penned “The Defence of Fort McHenry” – fans have showed an increasing level of insensitivity. The most obvious is the overemphasis of the “O” that is shouted by the fans in obvious reference to the “O’s,” which is the Orioles nickname.


This has even spread to other venues as well. The “O!” chant can be heard throughout the Baltimore and Washington area and has even spread to the college campuses of Virginia Tech and Duke!


In the past few years the fans of the Washington Capitals have taken it upon themselves to raise the awareness of “Rocking the Red” by instituting a variant of the “O!” cheer. Washington fans, always looking to differentiate themselves from Baltimore, needed to downplay the use of the “O!” chant and make one of their own.


They decided to put their individual stamp on the National Anthem by invoking the use of the “Red” shout. It is shouted when the rockets red glare should be sung.


Even thought there are other examples of similar chants throughout the country, the level of disrespect in the home of the National Anthem and the national seat of government is the most surprising of all.


If one wishes to sing the National Anthem while it is being played in a public forum, I couldn’t be happier. If they, however, choose to trivialize it by transforming it into a team chant, I couldn’t feel a greater level of dismay. The only greater disrespect outside these chants would be booing the song itself.


Maybe I’m too traditional; maybe I’m the product of a more patriotic time; but it is the least we can do to show our patriotic pride by standing at attention, placing our hands over our hearts and singing the Anthem with the respect it deserves. Owners of any organization that don’t at least address this fail in their duty as patriotic Americans.


NOTE: Here is how the legislation has been written in reference to the playing of the National Anthem.


US Code; Title 36; Subtitle 1; Part A; Chapter 3; §301. National Anthem


(a)   Designation.— The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.


(b) Conduct During Playing.— During a rendition of the national anthem—


(1) when the flag is displayed—


(A) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note;


(B) members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and


(C) all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and


(2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.


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