Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Singing of anthem requires right hand over heart

April 30, 2008


"When did the protocol of putting your hand over your heart during the national anthem change?"

It wasn't meant as a rhetorical question. My friend was curious. A wide-ranging conversation over an adult beverage or two about the presidential campaign - in my humble opinion, the only way to discuss it - turned to the now-notorious photograph of Democratic candidate Barack Obama sans right hand over his heart during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at an Iowa fundraiser in September 2007.

In the world of the Internet, nothing ever goes away, and Obama continues to be dogged for the Time magazine image that shows opponent Hillary Clinton and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at the same event, right hands placed over their hearts during the playing of the national anthem. (Only Richardson appears to be singing.) Obama's arms are down, his fingers are laced, and his hands are positioned below his belt buckle.

"Obama did not refuse to salute the flag," his defenders cried, citing the candidate's own remarks about the incident once the photo started circulating. "He just did not salute the National Anthem."

Therein lies the problem: the tradition for both is the same.

The protocol for how Americans should behave during patriotic and national observances and ceremonies can be found in the U.S. Code, an enlightening if dryly written compilation of general and permanent federal laws published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Scroll down to Chapter 3, Section 301 of Title 36 and you get to the part about what to do when the National Anthem is played.

If the U.S. flag is displayed - and it apparently matters not if this is an indoor or outdoor venue - everyone except "those in uniform" should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.

Men not in uniform but wearing hats should "remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart."

Military personnel in uniform "should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note."

If the anthem is played at a venue at which no U.S. flag is displayed, "all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed," the code states.

Of course, in a nation built on the foundations of free speech and freedom of religion, Americans can decline from following such protocols if they choose. Many a court case has been waged on behalf of Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse on religious grounds to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and salute the U.S. flag. Witnesses take the Old Testament's prohibition against graven images and idolatry seriously. To them, Exodus 20:4-5 - "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. ... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them" - means no pledging loyalty to a nation or a nation's flag.

What appears to be universally understood is that it's appropriate to stand if one is able during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Standing during "America the Beautiful" is optional, as is during "God Bless the USA," even if it's Lee Greenwood singing it.

But be warned: you're bound to get some go-to-hell looks if you live south of the Mason-Dixon line and choose to stay in your seat during either.

- Jill "J.R." Labbe is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years ago

The religion of super-patriotism is much more dangerous than are the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Ragingbear 10 years ago

We stopped using the right hand over our heart when our president started using it for TP.

JJ2014 10 years ago

Like most historical events, the reference to the Jehovah's Witnesses and their court fights has been spunned to the point where it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction.Those who have an interest in reading summaries of the "secret" court cases that the JWs and their sychophants have buried from public view for 3, 4, and 5 decades can go to the following webpage, which is one of four webpages packed with nearly 150 case summaries. HINT: "Find" for "pledge" or "flag" on each page. -----

WHY 10 years ago

But be warned: you're bound to get some go-to-hell looks if you live south of the Mason-Dixon line. I don't think it is wise to allow semiliterate hillbillies to define our culture.

ndmoderate 10 years ago

I wonder if some of the people spouting that Obama is somehow un-American because he didn't put his hand over his heart during the National Anthem are the same folks who let the little American flags they fly from their mailboxes and vehicles become tattered and shredded?

BigAl 10 years ago

I am a Vietnam veteran and I think everyone needs to lighten up over this. My favorite moment came when a Republican senator on Fox News was critical of Obama for not wearing a flag lapel pin. At that moment, the senator wasn't wearing one either. But, he promptly said that he "owned one". Hypocritical? Absolutely. Frivilous? You bet.

vpete69 10 years ago

"I don't think it is wise to allow semiliterate hillbillies to define our culture."=================Another great comment from a left winger who supports abortion, gay marriage, equal rights, global warming, oil conspiracy theories, gun prohibition and open borders.Generalizations and stereotypes. See how they work?

avoice 10 years ago

There once was a nation that compelled all of its citizens to show the appropriate gesture (arm locked out straight, hand raised in salute) and repeat the approriate phrase (heil Hitler) at all appropriate times -- or else! Let's just go ahead and be like that nation. Let's demand that everyone do exactly the same things at the same times or we're not going to trust their motives/intentions. Look at any crowd during any display of the American flag or singing of the National Anthem, and you will see:People with hands over heartsPeople performing military salutePeople taking off their hatsPeople folding their hands similar to a "prayer"All of the above should be considered as respectful.Declining to sing should not be considered as disrespectful.Land of the Free. Home of the Brave.Let's keep it that way.

Confrontation 10 years ago

I sometimes wear a KU lapel pin. If Jesus were in Lawrence on April 7th, he'd wear one, too.

WHY 10 years ago

vpete69They seem to work great since you hit the nail on the head describing me. Let me have a shot at it. You drink cheap beer, drive a truck, think fetuses have rights, think anyone should be able to have a machine gun, think gays are icky, and think mexicans are the first immigrants this country has seen. Post what percent right I got.

short_one 10 years ago

Confrontation: LOL-thanks for a smile on an otherwise-too uptight thread...

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