Feb. 22, 2012
Hockey fans are not noted for being sedate. Civility is fine, but hockey fans can be relied upon to get loud. When the Washington Examiner leads with a story about the hometown Capitals looming contest on ice with three straight Canadian foes, the folks in the stands can settle in for some great stick action.
That line on double anthem days is a reference, of course, to the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada, the national songs of the two friendly neighbors. Friendly now, but certainly not when those anthems were written. The U.S. and Britain had been fighting a cold war on the frontier and across the Great Lakes ever since the Treaty of Paris had been signed in 1783. Under that treaty, Britain grudgingly acknowledged American Independence. And the Americans grudgingly accepted the British presence in Canada.
Maryland license plates now show the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air above Fort McHenry as we look forward to the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. For Canadians, that war formed their national consciousness. They celebrate Laura Secord, the brave Loyalist lady who rode to warn the British army of the advancing Yankees, the way we remember the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
For us Americans, the War of 1812 was decidedly a mixed bag. We were routed in Canada not once, but twice. Former President Thomas Jefferson had confidently predicted that invading and seizing Canada from the British would be a mere matter of marching. Definitely not one of Mr. Jeffersons sounder predictions.
Instead, it was for the British invaders of Maryland to merely march across the state and easily defeat American militia at Bladensburg, Upper Marlboro, and, finally, most humiliatingly, Washington, D.C. The British burned all the public buildings in the Capital. The White House, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress went up in flames. Only a torrential rainstorm saved the city.
Still, the British were repulsed at Fort McHenry, that guardian of Baltimore, and we got our national anthem from that contest. Our flag was still there. We won the Battle of Lake Erie, blunting a British invasion from Canada. The USS Constitution won everlasting fame in ship-to-ship battles, earning her the sobriquet Old Ironsides. She remains the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.
Then, of course, there was Old Hickorys spectacular 1815 victory at New Orleans. Gen. Andrew Jackson led a most diverse force of U.S. Army regular troops, Tennessee and Kentucky militia, free Negroes, French pirates, and Spanish settlers to a one-sided triumph over a regimented, drilled force of redcoat invaders. Thousands of British soldiers were slain in just minutes, including their commanding general, Sir Edward Pakenham.
When the hockey fans stand silently and respectfully for the two nations anthems, the violent clashes will be confined to the ice. At least we hope they are so confined.
Theres a lesson here for all of us incivility. When Canadians sing O Canada and we stand on guard for Thee, it isnt polar bears who threatened them. It was us--the Yankees. And when Americans sing The Star-Spangled Banner with those lines about bombs bursting in air, we can recall they were enemy bombs, backed up by our enemies across the Canadian border.
My question for the civility lobby is this: If hockey fans can show mutual respect for their former enemies, why is it that you have such a hard time standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Why are you suing in federal court to get rid of the most important line, Under God? If you dont believe in God, youre free not to say those words. No one will monitor you to check compliance. But why do you find it necessary to force the rest of us to banish those words that are so vital to us? It aint civil.
We cannot allow the atheizers to prevail. If we want to stop bullying, we can start by speaking out against these nuisance lawsuits. For my fellow pledgers of allegiance who want to preserve our countrys best traditions, Americans and hockey fans, its time to get loud.