In my opinion, one of the most beautiful things about this country is the way in which we honor everyone’s innate right to voice their own opinion. There are a few exceptions, sure, as when toxic slurs incite violence, but even those seem to be going away thanks to Donald Trump and his sense of “sarcasm.” We even allow politicians and educators to present opinions as facts: that’s how sacred we find opinions.
Of course, the one opinion we do not respect is the right for someone to have an opinion that differs from our own. This is especially true if we don’t have the proper education (see above) to understand how a difference in worldview and perspective might lead someone to a different conclusion than our own. It’s even easier if we ignore facts and data and rely instead on traditions that have been around for hundreds of years.
I’m talking, of course, about Kate Upton’s brave stand against those athletic “thugs” who chose to sit during the national anthem, on 9/11, of all days. (Note to Donald Trump: This is what sarcasm sounds like.) In her weird rambling post, Upton hews very closely to the tradition of the National Anthem and yet simultaneously skirts its racist origins by talking only about the recent history of America. And yes, it’s great, as she cites, that “this is a place where anyone no matter what race or gender has the potential to become President of the United States.” But it’s also a place where a black person pulled over for a minor traffic incident, or who is sitting outside their own home, or is a famous celebrity waiting for his limousine, is subject to violence and suspicion at a rate disproportionate to the rest of the population. Rio de Janeiro just hosted the Olympics, proving that any country can theoretically host the event–but that doesn’t mean that country is now perfect. It’s theoretically possible that I can win the lottery, but that hardly means that income inequality has now been solved. It’s also theoretically possible that I might be struck by lightning or falling space debris; why aren’t we talking about how crucial it is that we all stay inside at all hours?
The hypocrisy that I’m citing here is hardly specific just to Kate Upton, but even if it were, the hyperbolic logic that she uses to “craft” her argument suggests that I could apply it to the whole of society, so long as I started my essay with those magic three words, “In my opinion.” The point is: if you believe that the anthem is about “honoring the many brave men and women who sacrifice and have sacrificed their lives each and every single day to protect our freedom,” then you should absolutely stand for it, and put both hands over your heart. (Upton’s words, not mine.) But my opinion doesn’t extend any further than myself, which means that someone else has the right to express themselves in a different fashion. You have, of course, the right to find that disrespectful. And the right to post about it. But that’s not really what Upton’s doing: she’s suggesting that “during the nearly two minutes when that song is playing,” we must all make the same gesture. To do otherwise would be “horrific.”
Extend things from there. Is the National Anthem not, by Upton’s description, similar to the Muslim Call to Prayer? Shouldn’t we therefore make it mandatory that every American watch at least the portion of a football game in which the anthem plays? And shouldn’t we interrupt the start of every workday or commute with a broadcast of the anthem, should it be used to start a school day? To miss a single opportunity to put our hands over our hearts for the anthem would be criminal; why not, then, have the anthem playing on a permanent loop in our earbuds, our hands permanently affixed to our hearts, like one more flag pin? The answer is simple: Because it would be impractical to put everyone else’s lives on hold just because you wanted to do something. That’s why your opinion doesn’t extend to someone else; that’s why our opinions should, ideally, not suggest what other people should do, but only what you yourself are going to do–which, in this case I assume means some sort of optional cosmetic surgery in which Upton boldly has a third arm grown and soldered to your chest?
Another thing is that Upton suggests that after the sacred song ends, that’s when players should “use the podium they have, stand up for their beliefs, and make America a better place.” But that’s ignorant, too. Not everybody has an Instagram account–ahem, 3.7 million followers on Instagram–and so the podium they have looks a lot like the one they’re using–the national anthem. They are standing up for their beliefs as they (perhaps ironically) sit down. And they are, believe it or not, making America a better place by forcing its citizens to actually listen and to look. The only form of protest you will ever be in favor of is the one that doesn’t personally inconvenience you, which means that you’d rather listen to the anthem, a symbolic dream song about our country, than listen to the actual men and women living in this country.
“Today, we are more divided than ever before,” claims Upton, while doing more than her fair share to ensure that we remain divided. Couldn’t we also make our nation whole by joining those brave football players, and actually calling for real, meaningful change? We are, after all, better when we work together toward a common goal–the question then is why Kate Upton is uninterested in partaking in the common goal of making this country the “better and more peaceful place” that it yet needs to be. And, by the way: that’s not a lesson taught by 9/11. It’s a lesson taught by the national anthem itself–a song about enduring a terrible war for the sake of improving the country. I thought you swore you’d never forget!