Why I Stand for the National Anthem, and It Breaks My Heart Every Time I hear it

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In September of 2016, an act of peaceful protest ignited a firestorm of debate about respecting the flag. The purpose of this article is not to argue the decision of an athlete to kneel during the national anthem, several have for many reasons over the years. This article is to talk about an action that I did not even consider to be very significant until this began; I ALWAYS stand for the national anthem.

Regardless of whether I am at an event, in my living room, at a friend's house, or even at a bar to watch a sporting event, I ALWAYS stand for the national anthem. The most interesting thing to me about the debate, is that I know many people who do not stand for the national anthem unless they are at an event taking issue with a player not standing for the anthem.

I don’t remember how, or when I began, but I have been standing for the national anthem for as long as I can remember. Written during the War of 1812, The Star Spangled Banner is a song that is meant to inspire, but it is also a song about triumph and overcoming overwhelming obstacles (the British were the most dominant military force in the world, and a still young United States held its own).

I stand to honor those who served. I stand to honor those who sacrificed. I stand to honor those who challenged the way things are, because things could always be better. I continue to stand, because I am also honoring those who were using their rights to peacefully try to bring serious issues to light.

But now, I find myself avoiding the national anthem. My patriotism will not let me, in good conscience, stay seated when it is played or sung, and it recently occured to me that I have started to avoid it. I have timed watching sporting events to turn on the TV after they have already started, and have even walked out of rooms before the national anthem is played. The last 5 years have really changed my personal approach to this because I am heartbroken.

I am heartbroken that the people of our nation have shown how much we are divided. It was so clearly evident in our community when peaceful protests near In-N-Out eventually turned violent. The next week someone even brought a gun with the police right in front of them. While the vast majority of the rallys have been peaceful protests, some decided to make it violent, loot, and attack others for simply voicing their experiences and opinions.

In the past few years I have seen people get yelled at because of their stance on anything from race, to gun control, education, and more. The amount of mass shootings has started to become desensitizing and I have been told I am against the 2nd amendment because I believe in gun safety regulations. The reality is, I believe we can support both with a common sense approach.

Ultimately I feel we need to find a way to change our approach to all these issues with a bit more understanding, patience, and compassion. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change '' A statement that change is needed can be jarring, because many of us don’t like change. But change is inevitable. It is part of growth, and what can be wrong with growing to be a more inclusive country that actually stands by its promises? How can we spew hate at those who are asking to be loved like the fellow Americans they are?

My heart breaks to not want to hear the national anthem because of the sadness that comes every time I do. I love this country, but lately I do not feel everyone is loved back, and so often I have felt powerless to fix it. I can only hope that one day we will open our hearts to each other, and truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave and I will do my best to lead the way. For now, I can say that I am grateful to even be able to voice these views without fear of some sort of government retaliation. I want to stand for The Star Spangled Banner and puff my chest out with that same feeling, and once again proudly say that I am an American.

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