Patriotism & me: Why I won't stand for "The Star Spangled Banner"

It was a moment, only a moment on June 14, 2013 when Grant Park had it’s delayed opening that I thought about patriotism.

The drum roll came. People began to shuffle about me to stand up. Some needed a walker, others stood on their own easily. The ever wonderful Grant Park Orchestra began to play The Star Spangled Banner.

In a flash, I made a decision. I would not stand up.

By Ken Boggs

By Ken Boggs


Good question. One I began afterwards to query of myself. What had cause my snap decision to break with tradition and not follow the crowd.

To begin with, I had to wonder. What was this knee jerk reaction that we the people are expected to jump to our feet at group gatherings when we hear a song that celebrates a piece of cloth that survived a battle in a war two centuries ago? To me it symbolized yet another tribute to the nobility of war that I do not celebrate. War is not noble. It is deadly and horrific. Just ask those who were on the ground and in it.

Think that is unpatriotic? I don’t believe patriotism is tearing up for a 3-minute song; patriotism is working to be apprised of the nation’s issues, participating in the democracy including in the government and voting in every single election no matter how small.

How many times have I been alone at the polls with a group of bored by the dearth of voters. When so many of the people don’t bother to vote in a representative democracy, the democracy is broken. For this reason I have spent my adult life struggling to vote, even during  the 20 years I was abroad when voting wasn’t a spur of the moment act, but a conscientious act that took months of planning to achieve.

Also I’m admittedly anti-military. I believe the land of my birth spends way too much on the Military (and it’s first cousin Defense); money that would be better invested in our people’s education and the country’s infrastructure. Despite being in school in San Antonio, Texas during the height of the Vietnam War with its four jammed military bases , I refused to date any man in a uniform. They made and make me nervous.  I did volunteer at the time to visit a burn unit at Christmas. Everything I ever needed to know about war I learned in that ward. The smells haunt me to this day.

And what is this nonsense about thanking people in the military for their “service”? Did you thank the wait staff last night at Olive Garden for their service? Or the cop who gave you a parking ticket by Soldier Field for his service? Why not? Oh yeah, because they’re just doing their jobs–just like the military. It’s a job. It is not a pro-bono service.

Whether you think me disrespectful or principled, at least I’m not sheepishly following the crowd. I’d rather be damned for thinking for myself, than damned for following lambs to the slaughter of the war du jour–in Syria. Think it won’t happen. Please, prove me wrong.

But above all–do that. Think.

Like the young woman who questioned her country hosting the World Cup AND the Olympics (that Chicago lost); think.


Ordering red, white & blue pancakes is not patriotic.

Neither is wearing the American flag on your butt, or other body parts.

Nor is using taxpayer military aircraft for razzle dazzle air shows.

Freedom is freedom from the once upon a time King’s militarism that could take possession of your home; freedom is not a celebration of militarism.

So celebrate with a picnic. Enjoy that hot dog (just watch kids eating them and suffocating.) Have a beer or seven, why not. Just don’t drink and drive either a car or a bicycle. Be free, and think.




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  • And the people who send us into war seldom have their sons or daughters in harm's way.

    One thing you left out: Where did we ever get the idea that God endorses our military adventures? Last time I read the Gospels, Jesus was on the side of peace.

    Think? Most Americans are allergic to it.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Jesus himself was violent in his actions regarding the moneychangers in the Temple. Peace does not mean not right wrongs and letting the guilty go unpunished. Peace can be North Korean style or in the style of the democratic nations of the world. It seems we are trending towards the former, as people are more than willing to (they believe) trade their security for freedom. And the same folks who (rightly so) condemned Bush's growing police state have no trouble with Obama's Orwellian world.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    God and the militarism is a conundrum worthy of a book, others have or will write.

  • In reply to Candace Drimmer:

    I was responding to the flaccid theories and tirades of AW

  • You can stand or sit. It's your business. Who cares?

    This country as it is now little resembles the country of post World War II. Never one for "my country , right or wrong", I do stand to honor those who have so far defended our increasingly fragile liberty, not for the recent tyrants who occupy political office high and low.

    Could your seated protest reflect in any way the Orwellian spying of the man who promised "hope and change" and the "most open administration in US history"? I'll kind of answer. I'm thinking you're okay with him doing it.

  • In reply to Richard Davis:

    I am most assuredly not okay with the governmental blanket spying on you, me and we.

  • In reply to Candace Drimmer:

    You are in the minority, then, as I see little protest from the liberal, progressive and even conservative positions.

    This is the way it ends, then, not with a bang but a whimper...

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    In reply to Richard Davis:

    Yes, so please stop whimpering before we send out the wahhhhmbulance....

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    In reply to Candace Drimmer:

    As if the govt gives a dam about you or anyone else. You don't rate that high on the list...

  • For the record, I usually do thank my servers - but I specifically thank police officers, firefighters, and military personnel "for their service," because their service involves risk and sacrifice that the typical worker does not face.

    Military policy happens at the top, not with the men and women you might see in uniform. If you happen upon a four-star general or the President, I will understand if you decide not to thank him.

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    In reply to QuipsTravails:

    Well said.

  • In reply to QuipsTravails:

    Thanks for your input to this most interesting of discussions.

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    Ms. Drimmer,
    I have NEVER heard, read, or listened to any speech, documentary, historical book, document, etc. that claimed that the flag was a symbol of the "nobility of war"
    If that is all you think the symbol of the flag stands for, I suggest you expand on the material you read to broaden your opinion and rely less on the spin and acts of manipulation by modern day politicians.

  • Ms. Drimmer,
    Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
    Even if an opinion doesn't really seem to make a whole lot of sense.
    Do you have any idea how many men and women joined the military after 9/11 ? It wasn't for the great pay, benefits, or luxurious travel destinations...some people actually believe in honor, AND that liberty may come at a price.
    You can sit at your computer and write an article that 100 people stumble across because of an annoying headline that is GOING to attract attention, but that is exactly what you are doing...hiding behind a keyboard.
    When you have the integrity to give something BACK to your country vs. are just another person with a hand out. What this country will GIVE ME! As far as voting every year, congrats...I will buy you a gold star if it makes you feel better about yourself. But then again, you would have to get off your hind end to pick the gold star up. Sad.

  • In reply to EskimoSarah:

    "Opinions, like salad, are best when varied, well-mixed and served cold."
    Thanks for your input, but I'd say I am not hiding behind a keyboard given I have my real name and face on my opinions.

  • What a load of foolish hubris!

    So you don't thank your wait staff either? Who does that? I call that rude, condescending, and obnoxious.

    As a matter of fact, I thanked the waiter who served me at a restaurant three days ago. I thanked the bus driver who drove the bus I was riding yesterday. I even have thanked the police officer who issued me a speeding ticket. They might merely be doing their job, but it's a service to me and to the rest of our society. For that, I am thankful someone else is willing to do a job that I don't want to do.

    So you can be darn sure I thank service members, including my husband, who, while doing their job, often literally are putting their own life in danger. For example, as a service member, one of my husband's jobs included responding to the bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Though not quite as well traveled as you, he has served all around the world and America for the past 25 years, more often than not in peace-bringing missions. He has given far more than he has taken in his career. But I suppose you would discredit that as well.

  • In reply to RubyDu:

    Assuming I do not thank servers, people pushing brooms etc. is too bad. As I do thank people. Like the stuck in an intersection traffic wardens who are trying to keep me safe in Chicago.

  • You have rationalized your grandstanding, nothing more. Standing for the national anthem is respect for all who have severed, labored or just had belief and faith in what our country stands for, whether it was in the military, in public service, or just making he effort to vote.

    Look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Why don't I stand for the national anthem?" and see what your eyes tell you....

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    Thanx for the tirade. You certainly sound like a clueless, spoiled brat liberal that can not appreciate what others have sacrificed for our nation. By the way the National Anthem is about our troops surviving a bombardment from a British Invasion, you know defending ourselves...... I suppose you would have preferred that we roll over and let our enemies overrun us.

    Just thinking.............

  • In reply to Joe Slick:

    As you say, this is your view of what the national anthem means to you.

  • Missed the Olive Garden server equaling a veteran. Well, why thank them? What the hell; it's their job. Probably you don't think there is a difference between protecting you from a bad plate of pasta and those kids who died in Normandy or Hamburger Hill or Khe San or Bunker Hill for that matter, but there really is. There just really, really is. Proof is your posting. Talk about "thinking".

  • As a veteran, I also do not thank any service members for their service. First of all, if the military is "protecting our freedoms" they should be fighting in the halls of Congress, the Senate and Wall Street. No foreign invader has ever threatened my rights like politicians and financial leaders have done. Also, when I joined the military, I didn't do it for you, this country or any ideal other than learning a skill that would enrich me. I doubt that I was alone in that either. I would certainly thank a service-industry person because they have to deal with all types of people, good and bad, and I'm not trying to make their workday any worse than it might already be. When people do thank me for my service, I tell them why I joined (See above)

  • I know things can get pretty dicey for servers at Olive Garden when they run out of breadsticks but unlike those in the military servers at restaurants, retail workers, and other non-military personnel whom you may come in contact with on any given day do not put their lives on the line to serve you.

    That Starbucks barista doesn't have to worry about flying shrapnel when preparing your venti half-caff soy caramel macchiatto.

    I respect your right to free speech and your right to have your own opinion but those in the military take that respect to the next level, they put their lives on the line to make sure you continue to have the right (among many other rights) to criticize them, the job they do and how they do it.

    As for The Star Spangled Banner... The War of 1812 was a defensive war. We were attacked by the Brits who wanted a chunk of their North American real estate back. Francis Scott Key was aboard a British POW ship during a battle when he wrote the poem that would later be set to music and become our national anthem. The national anthem isn't JUST a tribute to our military who defend us and defend the rights granted us by our founding fathers, it's a tribute to our resilience as a people. Strip away the music and read the Star-Spangled Banner as the poem it was originally written as. The flag in the poem is representative of the American people... It says you threw everything you had at us to try to knock us down, to try to over-power us but we're still standing.

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    In reply to Perplexio:

    So the "Star Spangled Banner" is kind of like Elton John's "I'm Still Standing"?

  • Glad for respect of opinion. Too bad for the next word, "...but..."

    The ability to not only have an opinion, but say it (even knowing there will be a certain number who won't like it) is what separates the USA from other countries.

  • If the Anthem is so empty to you why did you feel the need to write a column explaining why you remain seated?
    Being in Chicago those around you may have thought you were avoiding gunfire.
    You are correct that "Tearing up for three minute song" does not make you patriotic, any more than not standing for it makes you enlightened.

  • In reply to RW53:

    I wrote a blog about it, because I can. As a way to understand why I chose to not stand. And to explain to others--should they wish to know--why others might do the same.

  • Sit. Stand. It is your choice.

    Just know that hundreds of thousands have died protecting your right to choose.

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    At first, I thought the author was making the argument that "patriotism is action, not reaction." But then she injected "freedom" into the discussion, which is different than "patriotism."

    As a veteran I support anyone's decision to think or not think, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. And, yes, you can "think" and not reach the correct course of action. George Zimmerman might have "thought" he was doing the right thing by tailing Trayvon Martin, but the police dispatcher knew better.

    So stand up or don't stand up. You are free to be a patriot or not be patriotic.

    By the way, I do thank waiters and waitresses for their service and even tip them and I do thank police for theirs as well.

  • Delighted to hear to thank servers and police. They need the pat on the back.

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    TIMELINE June 1972 to June 1973---Candace moves to Lima (Peru)----- June 1973 to May 1974---Candace and The Husband live in Glendale AZ----- May 1974 to August 1974---Living in Toronto, Ontario (Canada)----- September 1974 to May 1975---Living in Aberdeen SD----- May 1975 to July 1979---Living in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)----- July 1979 to June 1980---Living in Asuncion (Paraguay)----- June 1980 to September 1980---Living in NYC----- September 1980 to November 1982---Living in Connecticut----- November 1982 to January 1983---Living in Ponce, Puerto Rico (USA)----- February 1983 to July 1986---Living in Willemstad, Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)----- July 1986 to July 1989---Living in Guayaquil (Ecuador)----- July 1989 to July 1995---Living in Connecticut (yes, again)----- July 1995 to August 2001---Living in Mexico City (Mexico)----- August 2001---Return to Gringolandia (a.k.a. United States of America)----- I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew I met a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, fell in love and moved to Peru in the 1970s. WHAT an adventure it's been!! NOTE: I gave up Facebook, so apologies that I cannot answer any comments since it is only set up via FB.

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