With so much talk lately revolving around various American athletes refusing to stand during the American National Anthem, I thought I'd get on here to talk about that topic.
What is an anthem, really? And why the heck is this whole thing so polarizing?
I've seen dozens of Facebook posts about it - some with memes, some without. Some were lengthy missives about the value of patriotism, loyalty, and respect. Many have been laced with offended and - some might say - righteous anger. Others were equally lengthy, but were more focused on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, including the right to protest and speak out against the issues we as Americans disagree with.
The thing is, both points are right. We do have a right as Americans to speak out against the issues we disagree with. Our military has always been in place specifically to fight for and protect our freedoms, which include the right to express our opinions and views without fear of repercussion. But we also stand under the obligation to protect and respect the country that allows us those rights, and I personally feel that there are better ways to protest and exact change than to refuse respect for those who fight and die for this country.
But then ...
Protesting by not standing during the National Anthem isn't the same as outright disrespect or disregard for our veterans and our country, is it? I don't know the political/patriotic views of the athletes currently in protest, and I won't pretend to - even while I openly disagree with their methods.
Still, I do disagree with their methods because for me, it matters. For me, it's so much more than "just a song." The National Anthem isn't just a song for me. It's not just pretty words strung together. A song, any song, is a certain magic; this song in particular is a celebration of the power of this country and the people who built it. It is, like the flag, a symbol of the gratitude and respect we owe to those who came before us, to those who stand between us and the dangers of the world outside our country. It's a symbol of the blood spilled and the lives willingly sacrificed so that American women could vote and American people could hope to learn to look past racial and cultural difference. And no, I know we aren't there yet. But the blood this country is built on deserves that moment of respect, and the servicemen and women who stand for the continuation of that progress deserve to be honored. It means so much more than words and music and a powerful voice. It's a simple matter of acknowledging the truth in the fact that we are "the land of the free" because "of the brave." It's so much more than just a song.
At least, it is to me.
But you know what? I think there are a lot of people who don't really get that, who don't understand the magical power woven into a song like that - and for me, it's not even just that song. Music means so much to me - over the years it has become almost like a drug. I have to have it.
My first bluetooth wasn't so that I could talk hands-free on the phone. I didn't get it so that I could wash dishes while talking, or drive, or whatever. I wanted it so that I could carry music with me at all times. I wake up with it, I go to sleep with it. I write with it, shower with it. Pray with it. I love music from most genres, ranging from country to pop, to rock, to alternative, to rap, even a little metal now and again. I like classical music, too, just to soak myself in the joy of beautiful sound, with or without vocal accompaniment.
Recently, I discovered a song that spoke life right into the very deepest parts of my soul. My personal anthem, if you will. My personal life lately has been full of revelation, full of powerful realizations that have changed me as a woman in ways I can never go back from. I've looked upon certain people in my life with sudden understanding, knowing them for what they truly are apart from the outward image they present, and I've looked with heartbroken honesty on how my own identity is and has been impacted by the people I chose to allow into my life. Some of these, I look on with patience, or even gratitude, others I look on with shame and regret.
All of it, I look on with a heavy dose of brokenness, a sense of loss for what could have been, and a sense of sadness for what I can never get back.
A few weeks ago, I was looking at an online playlist, and while most of the songs didn't speak to me in the way I had hoped they would, one did. I've listened to it every day since then, sometimes more than once, and it still hasn't lost its power over me. I can listen to it when I need encouragement, when I need someone to hold my hand on the hard days and no one is there. I can listen to it when I need to talk but I don't have words even if someone were to listen. I can listen to it when I'm feeling powerful or triumphant, and it feeds me because I am a survivor of so many things.
I use music in my books too. In Fat Chance, Cass has what I think of as a power playlist, a list of songs she kept on a CD in her car, and she used them to remind herself of her own personal power, both in general as a human, and more specifically as a woman. They were songs meant to inspire strength and confidence, meant to give encouragement and power.
They were all pulled directly from my personal power playlist, and they are all songs that have touched me deeply over the years.
But they all paled instantly when I heard this one, this song of standing up and moving on, this song of living through the pain and holding a forward momentum despite the chaos you strive to put behind you.
Like the National Anthem holds a certain power for American patriots, even if not for the athletes that sometimes take their daily freedoms for granted, my personal anthem is a song that holds power for anyone who has ever felt victimized and found the strength to go on, for anyone who ever needed someone to come alongside them and say, "Yes, I've been there. You aren't alone."
It's part of why Cass finally had to stand up to Rick before she was free to love Drew (Fat Chance). It's part of why Cameron had to change that tattoo to reclaim her body and her life before she could move on with Mac (Prescription For Love). It's part of why Harmony had to push Xander away before she could let him in (Wrestling Harmony). It's part of why Michael couldn't see what was right in front of him with Renee, and part of why he was so afraid to push forward until after he'd cleared the air with Nicolette (More Than Friends). It's part of why Allie didn't tell Jason who she was (Courageous). It's part of why Annie had to run to Bar Harbor after her divorce (Selkie). And it's every single word behind what makes Christine strong enough to stand up and become what she will become (Fighting For Freedom).
It's part of why I'm still here today, despite a childhood of abject poverty rife with domestic violence and emotional abuse. It's part of why I'm still standing despite my own experience with domestic violence. It's part of why I can still hold my head up after falling prey to narcissistic abuse. It's part of why it shattered my heart to realize that "what's wrong with me" is the symptom pattern of untreated complex PTSD. It's part of why I am determined to move forward, why I am determined to succeed, why I am so open about what I've been through.
Because I'm a different kind of warrior - but I am one nonetheless, and I hold that title with pride.