The national anthem protests

graphic by Caroline Tan

Sunday sounded special.

I first heard it when I excitedly made my way to section 115, row 29, seat 17 on a 90-degree day at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia. That guy who always yells “Move the chains!” when the Eagles get a first down was there too, three rows in front of me. His shirt read, “I STAND for the national anthem.”

And the anthem played some ten minutes later. When silence settles the stadium and the “Star-Spangled Banner” plays, you don’t want to be that guy who is singing it obnoxiously loud. Maybe just mutter a few verses to yourself, hand on your heart, feeling the suspense build as 69,176 people await kickoff.

But when I put my hand over my forehead to shield the blistering sun and peered onto the field, I was really glad to see the players singing it as loud as they could while linking arms. Some of these singers were standing. Others were kneeling, with a fist over their heads. And none of them even opened their mouths.

Walt Whitman wrote the poem “I Hear America Singing.” It begins with the line, “I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear.” At that football game, I got to hear the varied carols firsthand. And they were beautiful. Five hours later I turned on the news and was glad to see that the songs were being played on television screens across America.

You’re probably wondering why I am trying to make this seem like such a wonderful past couple months for this country. They haven’t been.

Americans are angry, offended, and nervous and just don’t want to hear another freakin word. It’s stuck their heads. They need to listen to something else. Me? My song is right and I’m singing it proud. You? Shut that garbage off. You ignorant redneck. You unpatriotic liberal.

There’s this thing in music called harmony. It’s when high voices and low voices, men and women, whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans, us and them, all come together and sing at the same time like a choir. That’s what I saw on Sunday, and I urge everyone to just see — no — hear all of these voices come together to make the sound of America. I think it’s a really cool, raw sound of people just caring about their country in their own ways, wanting to make it better.

We all got to hear the songs of people whose loved ones or friends had been fatal victims of police brutality in a society that has a clear history of racism. We got to hear the songs of people who literally took a knee for their country when it got blown off in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Yet, we all have the same end goal in mind, to make our country a better place for all of us. So we need to listen to each other and come together and start working with one another.

Please, do not let the director of this American choir tell you how to sing your song.  He wants one section to sing over the other. And that would really be painful to our ears, and our hearts. We need to sing together in harmony.

Why don’t we all just understand how beautiful it is that so many people feel so strongly about making our country better? Stop and think about the wonderful things the ones who are either standing or kneeling want for America. Let us all feel sympathy for the everyday struggles and fears of people of color. Let us all be very concerned that the veteran does not receive the proper care and financial assistance when they get back from war.

Let’s forget about our political beliefs or ethnic backgrounds and remember why we hear America singing.

How does that sound?

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