Myself, I will stand during the Pledge out of politeness to the as-yet unenlightened. No repeating the words or hands over the heart. Like our forebears, I do not owe unquestioning allegiance to a flag or a government and will not swear such. Like them, I will swear to “uphold the Constitution,” which is what free men reasonably ought to do.
William Faulkner of Mississippi was the greatest writer produced by the United States in the 20th century. His craft was fiction, but like any great writer he was a better historian and philosopher than most who wear those labels . I was reminded of a nonfiction piece of Faulkner’s recently when the hoopla erupted about some of the pampered and petted gladiators of the commercial sports industry trashing the national anthem. This article was Faulkner’s sole contribution to Sports Illustrated (January 1955) and was called “An Innocent at Ringside.”
In this essay Faulkner writes about his first viewing of an ice hockey match, which he describes beautifully and inimitably. Then he reflects on the preoccupation of Americans with sports spectacles, viewed while sitting in rain-proofed and often cold-proofed comfort, in comparison with our ancestors’ hunting, fishing, sailing. He (in the role of Innocent) wondered:
“just what a professional hockey-match, whose purpose is to make a decent and reasonable profit for its owners, had to do with our National Anthem.