The day 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered, we held a moment of silence at sporting events around the country, then we played the national anthem, and we went on with our lives.
Players, staff and fans stood for the moment of silence, grieving the lives lost, and then we (myself included) continued to stand, proudly proclaiming ourselves the land of the free and the home of the brave. We didn’t stop to reflect on whether we are actually free and brave after this horrific event, we just stood at attention.
When I was the same age as the children in Uvalde, my father taught me to stand for the pledge of allegiance when I believed my country was representing its people well or to protest and stay seated when it wasn’t. I don’t believe it is representing us well right now.
This particular time, an 18 year old walked into a store, bought multiple assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, walked into a school with an armed resource officer and its own police district and was able to murder children for nearly an hour. Parents begged and pleaded with police officers to do something, police officers who had weapons and who receive nearly 40% of the city’s funding, as their children were being murdered.
We elect our politicians to represent our interests. Immediately following this shooting, we were told we needed locked doors and armed teachers. We were given thoughts and prayers. We were told it could have been worse, and we just need love.
But we weren’t given bravery, and we aren’t free. The police on the scene put a mother in handcuffs as she begged them to go in and save her children. They blocked parents trying to organize to charge in to stop the shooter, including a father who learned his daughter was murdered while he argued with the cops. We aren’t free when politicians decide that the lobbyist and gun industries are more important than our children’s freedom to go to school without needing bulletproof backpacks and active shooter drills.
I’m often struck before our games by the lack of delivery of the promise of what our national anthem represents. We stand in honor of a country where we elect representatives to serve us, to thoughtfully consider and enact legislation that protects the interests of all the people in this country and to move this country forward towards the vision of the “shining city on the hill.” But instead, we thoughtlessly link our moment of silence and grief with the equally thoughtless display of celebration for a country that refuses to take up the concept of controlling the sale of weapons used nearly exclusively for the mass slaughter of human beings. We have our moment (over and over), and then we move on without demanding real change from the people we empower to make these changes. We stand, we bow our heads, and the people in power leave on recess, celebrating their own patriotism at every turn.
Every time I place my hand over my heart and remove my hat, I’m participating in a self congratulatory glorification of the ONLY country where these mass shootings take place. On Wednesday, I walked out onto the field, I listened to the announcement as we honored the victims in Uvalde. I bowed my head. I stood for the national anthem. Metallica riffed on City Connect guitars.
My brain said drop to a knee; my body didn’t listen. I wanted to walk back inside; instead I froze. I felt like a coward. I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I didn’t want to take away from the victims or their families. There was a baseball game, a rock band, the lights, the pageantry. I knew that thousands of people were using this game to escape the horrors of the world for just a little bit. I knew that thousands more wouldn’t understand the gesture and would take it as an offense to the military, to veterans, to themselves.
But I am not okay with the state of this country. I wish I hadn’t let my discomfort compromise my integrity. I wish that I could have demonstrated what I learned from my dad, that when you’re dissatisfied with your country, you let it be known through protest. The home of the brave should encourage this.