The National Anthem: Commencement May 21, 2006 (St Xavier U)

During the National Anthem I chose not to stand. It was a large crowd at the Shannon Center and since everyone was standing around me I could not see if anyone else chose to sit.

I am not sure why standing is considered a sign of nationalistic expression and why sitting is considered otherwise. Although if it were the opposite, I suppose I would have stood up. I said to a colleague ahead of time on my right, I had an aisle seat, that I "cannot stand during wartime." I have in the past as I noted in my "interview" with Liberation Times, but felt secure enough to just sit. I did not cause a disturbance; I did not speak; I was silent and sat in a normal positon looking at the backside of the faculty members standing in front of me.

No one said anything to me. I felt any overt expression of nationalistic fervour during the Iraq war would be contrary to my ethics. It would represent a nationalistic support of a country's policy when I feel we need to challenge its actions in a direct and purposeful manner. While I do agree that patriotism and antiwar sentiment are not mutually exclusive, standing and singing about "bombs bursting in air" would have violated my core beliefs. Yes I could have stood and not sung but by sitting I was in a more pronounced manner disassociating myself from the exercise.

I also felt a solidarity with other professors, such as those at the New School, or students or whomever used their commencement exercises to display protest against the war. This has been a tradition going at least as far back as Vietnam when protests against government officials who prosecuted the war were challenged by antiwar actions at commencement. At Brown University in 1969, two-thirds of the students turned their backs when Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger spoke.

At a football game on campus about a year ago, during the National Anthem, I stood but a spouse of a faculty member yelled at me to "take off a cap and face the flag." I subsequently informed the faculty member of this action and that  no one, no one can order me about and that I expect to be treated with respect on this campus. I will not tolerate abusive behaviour as I exercise my rights of peaceful protest. I am not one that can be easily intimidated and I support all persons who exercise the right not to partake in ritualistic displays of patriotism.

Freedom in America includes the right to dissent and to display individual acts of patriotic incorrectness in group settings when others choose to engage in conventional displays of nationalism. No one speaks for me, has control over me or will direct me how to interact with my country. I can assure you of that and I have the self-confidence to see it through.

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