Monday, 23 October 2017

Anthem Protest

All stand for the National Anthem

In one of his books, a fictionalisation of his illustrious family's history, Péter Esterházy comments on standing up when the National Anthem is played on television: “The National Anthem lifts us out of our everyday lives, raises us into the timelessness of eternity, while television takes us nowhere.” By which he, or the character to whom the words are ascribed, means that, when considered precisely as a symbol of the nation, a National Anthem should inspire in its hearers a feeling of patriotic pride, a dedication to duty, and a selfless love for one's fellow-countrymen.  It should place the individual in relation to the nation, which is a forum in which the virtues developed are exercised.  Patriotism is in itself a real virtue which St. Thomas classifies as a species of justice whereby we demonstrate our gratitude for the fellowship of the community and all the benefits of citizenship, and recognise our community as a wider family, the milieu into which it has pleased divine providence to place us.  The routine mockery and denigration of patriotism and patriots by the BBC, certain other media outlets and elements of the political class indicates not merely their adherence to the revolutionary values of chaos and disorder, but also real rejection of divine goodness and a hatred of the holy in its everyday expression.  Patriotism is a species of piety, the virtue enjoined by the fourth commandment, and it detractors almost invariably oppose religious piety as well as the love of country that is an extension of filial or familial love.  These opponents of patriotism are untrustworthy and dishonest without exception.

Of course, there have been historical situations in which a people found itself alienated from some political regime or other, and looked to some more local loyalty as the basis of its patriotic fervour.  There have also been nations that have failed their people; indeed, a nation state may be judged very strictly according to its effectiveness as a vehicle for individual and collective human development, as St. John Paul II said: “The history of the nation deserves to be adequately appraised in the light of its contribution to the development of man and humanity, to intellect, heart and conscience.”

Those are, however, rare and extraordinary situations.  Ordinarily speaking, to stand for or sing the National Anthem and to honour the flag are the simplest of gestures, so simple as almost to be reflex actions.  The rejection of anthem and flag are not simple acts of political protest in opposition to the Government of the day; it is, rather, a profound rejection of the nation, the people, or at the very least, of the current political expression of the people, the State as currently constituted.  It is, then, a statement of disloyalty, a statement to those who remain loyal that they are held in contempt by those who choose this mark of rejection.  Yes, in the extreme such a gesture may well be justified, when the flag was that of the Spanish Republic, the Derg's Ethiopia, the Soviet Union or the anthem that of East Germany.

Readers are well aware that I do not write in a vacuum, or about hypothetical matters, but in the context of the high profile American protest undertaken in the first instance by sporting figures led by Colin Kaepernick and later by entertainers in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign.  Needless to say, the individuals involved enjoy far more than the basic benefits of citizenship, their fame and vast fortunes are derived solely from the opportunities their lives in America make available to them.  When celebrities choose to participate in such protests they manifest their contempt for the people who made them rich and famous, and their arrogant belief that they are above gratitude, patriotism or fellow-feeling with their local communities.

It is also worth looking closely at the campaign to which they have chosen to attach themselves.  The media routinely present Black Lives Matter as being a group that formed itself spontaneously from the friends and relatives of black people killed by the police, the clear implication of the name being that their opponents believe black lives do not matter.  The truth, however, is that the campaign is organised over social media by individuals connected with the Black Liberation Collective, which regards itself as a latterday reincarnation of the Black Panther Party and movement.  It is insurrectionary and revolutionary in its ideals, but talks about use of Gandhian non-violence as a tactic.  The use of protests in a sporting arena is a deliberate harking back to the 1960s, recalling the clenched fist salutes at the Mexico City Olympics.  The objective is to precipitate a polarisation of society around racial identity in which people of colour separate themselves from white communities and seek self-determinatioin funded by reparations for historic wrongs committed by the colonising or slave-owning powers.  So far, efforts to extend the movement beyond North America have met with only limited success although it is certainly to be found, on university campuses across the United Kingdom and Western Europe, and its rhetoric is routinely employed by student activists inspired (I might almost say 'radicalised') by material posted on the internet.

There is a very long history going back decades, at least to the pro-Soviet campaigners of the inter-War years, of celebrity support for radical causes – remember the Redgraves and Hanoi Jane?  These people are so accustomed to adulation that they really believe they are better than the rest of us, and simple patriotic decency is beneath them.  They succumb to the lure of radicalism because it flatters their vanity; the revolutionaries allow them to think that they can save the world by embracing their cause.  The moneymen who own sporting franchises, record labels and movie studios support them because they bring in the cash.  This has taken place in the current dispute as owners have spoken out in favour of protesting NFL stars, putting profit before principles in a thoroughly contemptible fashion.  Until they are prepared to tell the celebrities where they get off and fire these false Messiahs, it behoves every decent, God-fearing, patriotic believer in a free society to boycott everything they have to offer.  Do not go to the games, the films or the gigs starring these people or produced by the same companies.  Do not buy the products they endorse or others from the same manufacturers.  Show them the contempt that they show you.  Use your buying power to demand the bosses say: “You're fired!”.  Stand by President Trump as he fights this battle on behalf of us all.  Back him in both new and traditional media if moderators and editors will let you.

Péter Esterházy's words that “television takes us nowhere” are very true.  It must be noted that people seldom show respect for broadcasts of the National Anthem, even on occasions when it is broadcast in earnest, as opposed to when it is used in whole or in part in the course of a drama or comedy, such as on flag days, at the close of HM The Queen's Christmas address, or during relays from concerts and sporting events.  The radio and television are merely part of the furniture, and people relate to them as such, they have them on whilst they go about whatever they happen to be doing, so they do not treat a broadcast of the National Anthem as the real thing.  Yet the National Anthem is always the real thing, a priest saying Mass anywhere is always the real thing, prayer is always the real thing; anything that “raises us into the timelessness of eternity” and places before us the eternal verities of being, goodness, truth and beauty is always the real thing because these are the things of God.  The National Anthem speaks to us of virtue, and virtue manifests goodness; always, therefore, stand for it, and thank God for an earthly homeland that reflects, in some poor measure, our heavenly true Patria.           

By Prayer Crusader St Philip Howard 

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