OPINION: Obligatory Patriotism Is Un-American



As Wisconsin continues to grapple with the many effects COVID-19 has and continues to have on health, business and overall quality of life in the state, the Republican-controlled State Assembly was laser-focused this past week on the greatest issue facing Wisconsinites today: playing the national anthem before every sporting event.

Assembly Bill 226, originally introduced by Rep. Tony Kurtz, R-Wonewoc, passed on a bipartisan vote of 74-22 last Tuesday with only Democrats opposed. The bill would require the playing or singing of the national anthem at sporting events taking place in any venue that was constructed at least in part with public money. “Sporting events” is not even defined in the bill, so you better have Francis Scott Key queued up on your Spotify for that pickup basketball game at the local park, just in case.

Having covered prep sports in this county for over four years, I can assure you that there is hardly an absence of national anthem-playing in this state. Whether it is sung by school choir members, played via recording or through a phone playing a Youtube video of Lady Gaga at President Joseph Biden’s inauguration, we always seem to find a way. That last one actually happened at a wrestling tournament in January by the way.

Long-time readers of my column likely know that I choose to participate in the anthem tradition by placing hand on heart, and reflecting on the many blessings I have to be born in this country. However, I have also vigorously defended the rights of those who choose not to participate, because to me, that is what a “land of the free” truly is: the freedom to participate in patriotic expressions or not.

That is also what a “home of the brave” is as well. Not just the home of those service members who have dedicated their lives to preserve our nation, but the home of those who have continued to strive for a more perfect union for all Americans.

This bill was introduced as a bad-faith assault on both freedom and bravery, while instead encouraging blind obedience to create the illusion of civility. Passing it into law would ironically be about the least “American” way to reinforce what is already a long-standing tradition under little threat.

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