They were Proud Americans

By Patrick Hall

In the late 1990s, I found myself working as a Branch Library Supervisor in Calexico, California. Calexico is located in the Imperial Valley Region of Southern California, whose primary industry was agriculture. The United States Navy’s Blue Angels Squadron also made the area one of their main training bases. If you’re a connoisseur of the Weather Channel’s temperature maps, Calexico and the Imperial Valley is one of the hottest places in the country, with Summer, Fall, and late Spring temperatures sometimes reaching well above 107F.  By necessity, most outdoor activities throughout the area took place at dusk or during the evenings.

The library was part of the greater San Diego State University System, although San Diego was located 120 miles west of this agricultural/desert area.  Actually, my wife and I, along with our four youngest children at the time, used to shop, go to the movies, and participate in various youth sports activities in Yuma, Arizona. Yuma was about a 45-minute drive from Calexico.  

One evening, I came out of the library and sat on the front steps to take in the activities of a campus open house.  The campus quad was literally transformed into a huge carnival, with people visiting information booths, talking to faculty and staff, listening and dancing to all types of music, including a local Mariachi band. Of course, all Mexican food and grill meats were a central part of the Campus Open House.

 The majority of students and staff were of Mexican descent hailed from the greater Imperial Valley area. We also had several students who were residents of Mexicali, Mexico.  Mexicali is a large urban area of nearly a million residents, making it one of the largest cities on the Baja.

So, there I was enjoying a break, before a scheduled library tour, when an announcement was made in both English and Spanish for everyone to halt what they were doing for the playing of the Star Spangle Banner. It was kind of cool that the Mariachi band performed this rendition of the National Anthem.  But what was most memorable was that everyone really did stop what they were doing. Many of those present placed their hands over their hearts and respectfully stood for the playing of the anthem.

 Let’s step back for a moment.  Here we had a situation with a campus that was well over 90% "Americans" of Mexican descent, honoring the country. A country that has its faults but many more opportunities. Freedoms and opportunities are often missing in many Latin American countries, including Mexico.

Contrast this with the exploits of today's “Take-a-knee crowd” during the playing of our National Anthem.  Megan Rapinoe, a perennial all-star for the U.S. Women’s Soccer team, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and many NBA players like Lebron James and Steph Curry led the political theatre, which supposedly calls out America for its many injustices, especially to People of Color. Their protest during the anthem is of course buttressed by the mind-numbing leftist political antiphon of “systemic racism.” An accusation which our current President conspicuously telegraphed to America and the world during his inaugural address.

As an American, I believe that refusing to stand during the National Anthem is not and should not be illegal. To paraphrase one social critic, such blanket rejection of an American custom is admittedly now a collective narcissistic tic or virtual signaling psychosis. When celebs like Lebron James and others sit or kneel in protest of our country, they are pissing-on the millions of Americans (of all races and creeds) who have died to defend the freedoms, that too many in our generation take for granted. Sadly, sometimes citizens can do as much harm to their country by violating customs and traditions as by breaking laws.

Many of the current generation failed to recognize, or are obtusely ignorant of that freedom requires constant reinvestment and replenishment of a nation's traditions and ideals. Self-criticism of one's country is salutary or beneficial to ensure needed changes, but only if Americans accept that an innately self-correcting the United States does not have to be perfect to be good – especially in a world of innately flawed humans and failed states. America and most Western Democracies and Republics remain far better than many of the alternatives around the world. That is why you don’t see refugees fleeing to Red China, North Korea, Afghanistan, or Russia for a better life. The millions of “illegal immigrants” currently rushing our borders doesn’t seem to phase nor penetrate the ossified thinking of the current take-a-knee social justice warriors.

Once again, these same athletes, celebs, and along with the “fellowship of the perpetually aggrieved”, have benefited immensely from the freedoms and blessings this nation affords all of its citizens. Their actions are simply disheartening, and yes, ungracious.  Many of those who now choose to Take-a-Knee during the Anthem are to a large degree a menagerie of tragically misinformed, “spoiled, narcissistic ingrates.”

However, the memory of these proud "Americans" of Mexican descent in a small agricultural desert town in Southern California, taking the time to stop what they were doing to honor the flag, still gives me hope.  

[Patrick Hall is a retired university library director. He is a graduate of Canisius College and the University of Washington, where he received three advance degrees. He has published in Freedom's Journal Magazine, America, Commonweal, Headway, Journal of Academic Librarianship, American Libraries and others. He currently volunteers at a local VA hospital in the town of Erie, Pa.]

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