U.S. Electoral College Vice President Mike Pence and his wife were seated in a box next to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea this weekend and when everyone stood and cheered as the North Korea and South Korea delegations historically entered as one Korea, Pence and his wife chose to remain seated.
Of course, this is their prerogative. There is inherently nothing wrong with not cheering at a show of national unity when other people are cheering out of either support or respect.
Except if you believe one is required to stand when everyone else does so during a ritual at a sports stadium. Or if you believe that protesting a fervent show of nationalism towards a regime with whom you disagree with by remaining seated is abhorrent and offensive to the country in which said event is taking place.
Gavin Newsom, California’s Lt. Governor and soon the be gubernatorial candidate, said it best, and even provided a gif and accompanying article and image to illustrate this point:
I, for one, have never been big on national anthems or ceremonial deference.
My earliest experiences saluting a flag or being required to sing a song in order to display my loyalty – to a system of religion, of government or of some moral law –always felt not only silly but ill-advised.
What does singing this dumb song or saluting like an idiot along with everyone else prove, my younger self thought and sometimes verbalized, much to the chagrin of several adults around me. Either I liked the thing I was being forced to respect or didn’t – making me do it along with everyone else doesn’t prove ANYTHING.
As for parades, my feeling is have at it if it floats your boat – or, um, float – but don’t make me do it. That said, I have attended events like the annual Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood over the years – but usually as a means of strength and protest AGAINST people like Pence or our current US Electoral College POTUS – not as an oath of loyalty or respect to either a particular system of belief or any single individual or group.
This is why the Oval Office/right wing hysteria over the #TakeAKnee movement spurred by Colin Kaepernick always perplexed me. In the same way the protocol of bowing, curtsying or whatever you’re supposed to do to royalty in the last two centuries has always left me secretly laughing and not so secretly rolling my eyes.
Really? A song, a crown, a scepter and a flag? Those are items that in your culture or mind REPRESENT an overarching IDEA. They are not the IDEAS themselves. Better to show in your ACTIONS that you are LIVING the IDEA than show your deference with some world worn SYMBOL. A salute or a couple of bars of a chorus is a ceremonial cheat. It’s like having your spouse or boyfriend/ girlfriend pledge their fidelity to you during the day and then be allowed to rendezvous with their secret lover that very same night.
And speaking of the Electoral College POTUS currently in the Oval Office, the latest is that he wants a military parade down Pennsylvania Ave. because, well, he can. Oh, sure he can. Think of it as part of the discretionary powers of the job, supported by a kind of mad money fund of millions of taxpayer/governmental dollars one gets to spend when one determines one’s country/employees/subjects are in need of a celebration. Though it could be that it’s only the ONE who fancies an impromptu blowout, which in essence is the same thing since the ONE is the defacto leader of everyone else and, in essence, speaks for EVERYONE.
The last time we did this type of thing was 27 years ago after the Persian Gulf War and it cost between $8-$12 million. So, with rising expenses and inflation, by today’s standards it could be… oh well, let’s not think about that when it comes a ceremony of patriotism. It might LOOK like we don’t support the troops. To whom, I don’t know
As I often say to my screenwriting students, you can’t film an absence. Who a character is, is what he or she actually does. Or pretends to do. It’s then up to the audience to decide what actions are real and whether to get onboard the journey.
Of course, that’s movie talk. Which has little to do with reality. Unless one chooses to live life like a movie. Or worse, a reality TV show.