Lecture No. 24 – September 2015


Of Patriotic Protocol

Jim Russell, Lecturer
Jim Russell, Lecturer

[dropcaps] E [/dropcaps]ach year, I am reminded of my duties and obligations as your Lecturer – to educate and entertain. So tonight, we shall begin with education.

One of my daughters graciously honored me on Father’s Day with tickets to a Rangers game. She selected a specific date because they were doing University Night, and the date she picked was Oklahoma State Night.

It was a good night. The Rangers managed to beat San Diego, 4-3. Both Mary and I got our complimentary ball caps. I noticed that just about everyone stood during the singing of the national anthem. The men removed their hats and, with hands over their hearts, most people faced the flag behind center field. A 15-year-old young lady from the area did a great job with the anthem, singing it with conviction and as I remember it being written.


When we came to the seventh-inning stretch, I noticed that just about everyone was standing, but there was general confusion as to what to do when we were asked to sing “God Bless America.” Some treated it as if it were the national anthem with some men removing their hats, facing the flag and standing respectfully while others just kind of milled around. This reminded me of a comment made by Sir Knight Art Senato at one of our fourth-degree meetings and of a question that was asked several months ago at a similar assembly meeting.

As you are aware, the principle of the fourth degree is patriotism. We all had “proper patriotic etiquette” drilled into us in elementary school, at least I did.

saluting-flag-scoutsThe protocol for the Pledge of Allegiance is found in the U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 171. We all seem to get that mostly correct. Proper protocol for “The Star Spangled Banner” is contained in Title 36, Section 172. In 2008, Congress amended the National Defense Authorization Act to allow veterans to render the hand salute during the hoisting, lowering or passing of the U.S. flag. In 2009, Congress extended the authorization to include the singing of the national anthem.

There is no requirement to salute, stand or uncover during the singing or playing of any other patriotic song. Major League Baseball apparently ordered the playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch after 9/11. If you listen carefully at The Ballpark in Arlington, we are asked to “stand and honor our men and women in uniform” by singing “God Bless America.”

The song was written by Irving Berlin in 1918 as a “victory song” after World War I. In the 1930s, Berlin modified the verses because of the events then taking place in Germany. The changed version was introduced by Kate Smith during one of her radio shows and became her theme song for the rest of her career. Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land” in the 1960s as an alternative to “God Bless America.” Woody didn’t like the lyrics.

So, what is right and what is wrong? If you are so moved as to stand at attention, face the flag, take off your hat and place your right hand over your heart, go for it. Just don’t expect anyone else to do the same. Some may say that to do so is disrespectful since it is not our national anthem. But, unfortunately, some folks think it is or should be. Please have pity on those who don’t know the difference.

Several years ago, the Holy Spirit Choir was preparing for a special Mass. The choir was a combined group of about 40 members plus a few musicians. The choir area is tight, and kneeling was not an option. Our Parochial Vicar told us, when in doubt follow the example set by the Deacon. When he bows, you bow. When he kneels, you remain standing. “He should be right.”

When in public, I guess you can look for a person in uniform; they should be right. I have never seen a service member salute during the singing or playing of any piece of music other than the national anthem.