The Greatest Anthem is Not Being Played at the World Cup

Thirty-two proud countries are strutting their soccer stars at World Cup 2018, hosted by Russia.  A riveting feature of the pre-match aura is each team's national anthem and the robust pride it engenders amongst players and rambunctious fans.  No one is ignominiously taking a knee.  No player is sulking in the locker room.  Instead, everyone is relishing his nation's sovereignty and cultural treasures as if he were wearing the colors of Shangri La itself.

The soccer players line up smartly, often overwrought with passion as their patriotic paeans permeate the stadium.  Sometimes more exhilarating than the subsequent action on the pitch, it's just compelling to observe their unbridled loyalty to their homelands.  Nevertheless, the greatest national anthem is not resonating at the World Cup – the U.S. didn't qualify.

Disconcertingly, some of our athletes abdicate patriotism in favor of misguided messages about social injustice.  They disrespect our national anthem, disparage the presidency, disdain White House celebrations, and dishonor our national symbols.  It's all dissonant, considering that our country is so sensitive and responsive to minority demands.  Though social utopia remains elusive, our poor enjoy more creature comforts than much of the world.  For example, recent estimates indicate that those at the poverty line in the U.S. would be in the top 13 percent of income-earners in the world.  We've instituted many costly programs to help our downtrodden help themselves. 

We want everyone to enjoy the fruits of their labor, especially since so many Americans are work martyrs.  Vestiges of American privilege are mostly derived from hard work; fortunately, our minorities are benefiting immensely as they experience historically low unemployment rates.  Food stamp recipients are far fewer than under abominable Obama, and Social Security disability claims have fallen dramatically.  That's worth singing about in the sports cauldron, not fretting about in the locker room.

Indubitably, freedom of speech is part of our First Amendment.  One may have the right, but it doesn't make one right.  President Trump is even encouraging athletes-cum-social warriors to channel their protestations toward productive purposes.  Bring him details of potential judicial injustice, that he may proactively pursue pardon powers to pacify their righteous indignation.

Michael Bennet, a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles (recently transferred from the Seattle Seahawks) and a notorious NFL kneeler, seems to be coming around.  He recently said, "We don't have to take a knee.  We just have to work in our communities."  Hear, hear!

As he begins, he might study evidence produced by Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  Based on data from the Department of Justice, Kirsanow, also a minority, shows that black Americans are not disproportionately targeted by police.  Tough they are killed more frequently by cops (more often by black cops), it is far less than the data would predict based on crime rates.  This is not to diminish sincere feelings of wrongdoing – only to add some perspective, given the vast number of interactions police have in their challenging communities.

One might also expect legal immigrants to show deference to their new homeland's anthem, but I witnessed otherwise.  When I attended a soccer match between Mexico and the USA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, I was engulfed by the bandera de Mexico – the vast majority of the crowd were Mexican.  After the relief of realizing they were not hooligans, I realized that these marvelous fans, having chosen to live in the U.S., were cheering for Mexico en masse.  Impervious to feelings of hypocrisy, their loyalty was to a country they deliberately escaped, even churlishly cheering when a U.S. player limped.   

It occurred to me that those who aspire to U.S. citizenship should be obliged to recite our national anthem during the vetting process, as well as our pledge of allegiance.  Rather than insultingly easy civics questions, prove their allegiance.  We're worth it.  To facilitate their assimilation, go ahead and drop the dubious refrain that "we didn't cross the border; the border crossed us."  Thanks to Manifest Destiny, it is within our borders that you seek a better life.

There is one country at the World Cup whose national anthem may elicit more scorn than ours: Spain.  Fans from the Catalonia region are not enamored of the theme, nor of their king.  But they are enduring separatists.  California notwithstanding, I hope we will remain the United States of America.  Our national anthem is music to the better angels of our American nature.  Actually, to human nature, which is why we are still a beacon of light for those yearning to thrive in the land of the free, the home of the brave.  We should proudly hail that, from dawn to dusk, and from twilight's last gleaming to dawn's early light. 

If American athletes feel compelled to kneel, then do so before the altar of American exceptionalism.  Kneel before our fallen heroes' graves as you help tidy up our sacred cemeteries.  But stand tall and resolute for the greatest national anthem of all.  It will set a good example for those among us who seem reluctant to assimilate.

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