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Tradition (All of it this time!) from Guest Writer Gilbert Harrison Berger

Tradition – On any given Sunday (in real life, not the Oliver Stone directed movie), as we have come to expect and experience as part of our American culture, thousands upon thousands of spectators show up in person, or by the millions tuning in via television, to watch a particular football game. As we have also come to expect and experience on those Sundays, prior to the commencement of the game, is the call that comes over the stadium’s loud speakers in classic, commanding, tones – that goes something like: “And now to honor America, ladies and gentlemen, please rise and direct your attention to the middle of the field for the presentation of the colors and please remain standing for the singing of our National Anthem.” A very simple yet dignified pageant with no particular drama – unless punctuated by a fly-over of several military aircraft. A pageant infused with pride, somber and in short, a tradition of honor.

In the National Football League (despite the policy of the League for the players to stand for the playing of the National Anthem) there is no criminal punishment – and there should be none if a player doesn’t stand during the playing of the National Anthem. No one should dispute that the League has a right to exercise its authority to dictate to the players any policy regarding player conduct.

In another place, still in real life, but far removed from the sport and entertainment venue, people find themselves “spectating” and participating in buildings where another call is given – not over a loud speaker but from a person with a commanding voice. That person who displays a badge of law and order (authority) and who is armed with various devices (firearm) to enforce that authority, announces – with serious inflection – a “cry” that goes something like: “ALL RISE – the … court is now in session. The honorable judge … is now presiding…. Silence is commanded upon the pain of punishment … all persons … having business before this Court come forth and you shall be heard. God save the Commonwealth and this Honorable Court.”

In a court venue there is the “pain of punishment” for showing disrespect to the authority of the court (the judge personally and the authority they exercise); it is called contempt of court and you can be jailed or otherwise criminally punished for such. That is the world that I work in and that is the “policy” of my profession. The court venue is the place where I “play” and have the opportunity to kneel, if I dare. However, there are two things that I affirmatively and instinctively do when the call is made: RISE and remain SILENT. In all the years of being in courts where this call has been given despite whatever feelings I have about the particulars of any given matter or person before the court or reason to personally protest, I have yet to even think of doing otherwise. Even more so – in view of recent events out of the National Football League – never, ever, at no single time, not at all, in no way, have I seen anyone sit, or kneel, or do otherwise during the call to open court in protest. (This is not to say it hasn’t happened, only that I have not personally witnessed anything.) So, where does this “obedience” come from – fear of punishment – tradition – or out of a sense of pride and respect for the “system?”

A “higher court” of civil authority advises us to “be subject to the governing authorities.” Romans 13:1 Why, because “there is no authority except that which God has established.” Id. Thus, “it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. “ vs. 5. This subjection requires that we give to authority what we “owe” it, and if we owe it “respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” vs. 7. Why would we “owe” anything to those “above us?” Contemplate in context the thirteenth Chapter of Romans verses 1-7. I can’t speak for others and their consciences, but if the theology is too deep then why not just be respectful because you would also want the same respect if you were in the position of authority. God forbid that the Golden Rule is too offending for public decorum.

Now in the football stadium and on the field when the Anthem is played: to whom or to what do the spectators and the players show respect and honor? The answer is clear – America. But what is America? In my opinion, in the context of showing it honor it can be viewed as a “person,” that person (America) is made up of its people – collectively – persons from all races, all beliefs, all colors, all political affiliations, and all ages – even the persons who disagree about what America stands for and even those who choose in their hearts to not appreciate its unique place among all other nations. To respect and honor the “authority” that is America means in my opinion that during the playing of the Anthem, even in our personal protest, we honor the authority that is in each of us by standing up (literally and figuratively) and standing for those who started this Nation, those who sustained it over the years, those who have sacrificed and are sacrificing with their lives and “sacred fortunes” for its continued existence; and for those living presently who, on any given day – not just Sundays, have the freedom and opportunity to use their life and their liberty to pursue any “happiness” they choose to undertake any task to change anything in our society that they think should be changed by doing so within the process of change inherit in the system that is America. (I hear the echoes of Woody Guthrie singing “This land is your land this land is my land”) The American system allows for change without any violence, bloodshed, terror or property destruction and certainly without disrespect to the opinions of others and to the collective rights of all. The blessed rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is highlighted by the understanding that America was not perfect when formed but was given the process to fix it flaws from within. Even President William J. Clinton expressed such an idea by stating (in his first inaugural address in 1993) that “[t]here is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” The “right with America” is within each of us and that is what we should all show respect for during those 2-3-4-5 minutes it takes to listen to the Anthem being played on any given Sunday.

So, if you choose to kneel you are not disrespecting America you are truly disrespecting yourself by showing ignorance of that which is the “rightness of America.” But in case you don’t get it – I invite you to come to my work place and kneel. You have that right to do so and I honor America because of it.


Blogger Sanders would note:  Gilbert Harrison Berger is an attorney who lives in Orange County and primarily practices in Culpeper County.

Blogger Sanders would note again to his embarrassment there was ANOTHER PAGE to this article!  So here is the whole thing!  My apologies to Gil.



About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

One Response to “Tradition (All of it this time!) from Guest Writer Gilbert Harrison Berger”

  1. Bob Shannon

    Colin Kapernicks ” political beliefs” have possibly cost him some money.

    Pat Tillman’s political beliefs cost him his life.

    Bob Shannon King William


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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