Hollow Patriotism?

At a recent boxing match, we stood for the national anthem.

And not long ago, everyone at a business luncheon recited the pledge of allegiance.

Why?

I’ve always wondered about these practices, which I recently saw mentioned disparagingly by the main character, a private in the infantry, in Ben Fountain’s fantastic novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

On leave from Afghanistan, Billy attends the Super Bowl at the invitation of the Dallas Cowboys. In response to someone asking him if he’s proud during the national anthem, he muses:

“Yes, ma’am, proud, Bravo has achieved levels of proud that can move mountains and knock the moon out of phase, but why, please, do they play the national anthem before games anyway? The Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears, these are two privately owned, for-profit corporations, these are their contractual employees taking the field. As well play the national anthem at the top of every commercial, before every board meeting, with every deposit and withdrawal you make at the bank!”

It makes sense to play our national anthem at events celebrating the United States. Play it loudly and proudly at Memorial Day commemorations and Fourth of July celebrations. Centennials. Military events.

But athletes are not soldiers and a game does not approximate a soldier’s sacrifice.

Playing the national anthem in a gaming context cheapens its sentiment and the value.

As for the pledge of allegiance, what relevance does it have in business or academics? Yes, we should feel thankful that we live in this amazing country. So should we then recite the pledge or play the national anthem before every meal? Or at the beginning of each day? Or before every meeting?

Do these practices seem odd to you?