The Land of the Free

Here’s a thought experiment.  It’s an imagined scenario that is going to offend some people, but I think it’s worth the risk, particularly because: a) I’m not sure anyone who reads this blog is going to be offended and b) I’m not likely to find out about it.

incarceration 1Imagine the beginning of a high profile sports event.  Football is now the iconic American sport, so let’s make it a college football game.  At the beginning someone sings “our national anthem.”  Or maybe everyone sings it.  It’s been so long since I’ve been to a football game that I honestly don’t know how it is done any more.  Let’s have a vocalist and a band of some kind.

The song goes like this:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave Hm, hm, hm, hm, hm, hmmmmmmm, and the home of the brave?

Obviously, the first question we would want to ask is why a part of the song was replaced by hummed syllables.  We note that the omitted words are, “O’er the land of the free,” and we begin to suspect social protest. Why did the singer leave that part out?  The band played them without any difficulty?  Did she forget those particular words?  It’s certainly possible.

It becomes less likely when the pamphlets get passed down the row the way the hot dogs and the beers will get passed down later.  On the front of the pamphlet, it says, “We are NOT the land of the free.”  Inside, it  has this chart.  It is calibrated in prisoners per 100,000 of population.[1]

1  United States 716
2  Seychelles 709
3  Saint Kitts and Nevis 701
4  U.S. Virgin Islands 539
5  Cuba 510
6  Rwanda 492
7  Anguilla 487
8  Russia 484
9  British Virgin Islands 460 c.
10  El Salvador 425
11  Bermuda 417
12  Azerbaijan 413
13  Belize 407
14  Grenada 402
15  Panama 401
16  Antigua and Barbuda 395
17  Cayman Islands 382
18  Thailand 381
19  Barbados 377
20  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 376
21  Bahamas 371
22  Sint Maarten 369
23  Dominica 356
24  Palau 348
25  Greenland 340


On the final page of the tri-fold, it says, “We pay such attention to the top 25 in this sport.  This is a top 25 we really don’t want to be a part of, let alone to lead.  Please join us is refusing to sing this blatantly false phrase of our official song until we have given up our #1 ranking.”

It wouldn’t be all that unusual if the singer, without the knowledge of the band, had given no notice incarceration 2of what she intended to do.  She could, after all, pretend that she stumbled on the words at the time.  That might give her time to get out of the stadium before people put the song together with the pamphlets.

You can imagine a lot of intermediate forms—the teams did/didn’t know, the university presidents did/didn’t know, the league executives did/didn’t know—and so on.   But let’s go to the far end of the possibilities and say that everyone knew except the fans who showed up to see the game.  The NCAA said they thought it was a good idea, the PAC 12 said it was a good idea, as did the coaches and a majority of the players of both teams, and so on.  Imagine further that they launch an appeal to all other teams in the top 25 of the national rankings to follow their example.  No more singing of that phrase at our games.  We will sing all the other phrases with gusto, and we will add that phrase back when the U. S. drops out of the top 25 most incarcerating countries in the world.

Now that I have imagined this scenario, I have to say that I can’t really see it.   I can close my eyes and try to picture the events I have described.  Nothing comes.  Even why I try really hard, I can’t see it in my mind.  You try it.  I’m sure some of you can summon the inner vision I cannot.

Wouldn’t it just be amazing?  Unprecedented, I think.  This isn’t like burning your draft card or your bra.  This isn’t like sitting on the steps of the U. S. Capitol until the police come and haul you away.  This is more like a coup by the leaders of the most popular sport in America.  It’s a cultural coup, rather than a political one, but it would get political really fast.

[1] I, for one, don’t like being that far ahead of Cuba.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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