What’s right protocol for flag?

Oh, my, how times have changed. But whether they’ve changed for the better is questionable.

There isn’t much else in the news if you exclude the horrendous massacre of 59 people, as of press time, in a Las Vegas, Nev., outdoor concert venue and casino. The other hot-button topic is the contagious action of kneeling during the playing of the national anthem at sporting events.

Let’s discuss this first:

In the 1950s, when there were intense athletic rivalries between the THREE Las Vegas, N.M., high schools, Stu Clark Gym, the such facility in town, usually packed in a third of Las Vegas’ population.

The game that comes most readily to mind was between Immaculate Conception and the Las Vegas High Cardinals.

This column isn’t intended to provide a play-by-play account of the basketball game, but merely to discuss a bit of action — or lack thereof — in the gym.

On the day of the game, in a packed gym, we’d taken a visitor from across the Atlantic.

My brother, Severino, and I sat him between us with the idea of enthralling the visitor from some northern European country with highlights of American life, and especially American basketball.

The Cardinal band struck up the National Anthem, which meant all of us were expected to stand.

That is, all except ONE — our overseas visitor who remained seated despite urgings from fans around him. Severino and I encouraged him to get on his feet, but the more we urged, the more he planted himself.

This caused him to dig in even deeper, and for my brother and me, it was difficult because on the one hand, we needed to honor the flag and remain at attention, but we also needed to urge our international visitor to rise up.

During that mini tug-of-war, it never occurred to us that our friend had no allegiance to the U.S. flag. Nor did we consider what we would have done if we’d been in a foreign country.

Obviously, that incident — which earned our friend glares from all around — is something I’ve thought about for years. Part of me wonders why the youngster chose that time, that event and that venue to commit an act (or non-act) that angered many others.

Strangely, discussing it with our visitor, our family, and later with a number of classmates, struck a familiar chord, which helped to explain the boy’s behavior.

“We don’t do that in my country,” the boy said, adding that he wouldn’t expect one of us to stand up to honor his country’s flag.

Oh, my, how times have changed!

What do we see when we attend an event nowadays? We see people zoned out, some failing to remove their hats, some continuing their conversation, some giggling, some not waiting for the anthem to end before letting out a big cheer.

This topic also reminds me of a supreme put-down I suffered around that time while in elementary school. During an oral spelling test, as Sister Mary Muchas Palabras pronounced words for us to spell.

I remember hearing one of the brighter kids quietly spelling each word for a coterie of poorer spellers.

Naturally, I raised my hand, following instructions from our teacher to report all suspected instances of cheating, and I placed my indignation in high gear as I reported the offender. I believed foolishly that being a tattle-tale would earn me the expressway to Heaven.

But getting almost no reaction from the teacher, I provided more specifics, even spelling out the word I heard. To that, the nun said, “And look who just made matters worse by spelling the word so everybody could hear it.”

Are people today as adamant about protocol at events like basketball games? Did the public hold others to higher standards back in the ‘50s?

As a regular watcher of games, both live and on TV, I see countless cases in which people commit actions that would have been considered much more egregious some five or six decades ago.

Today, members of the National Football League have been in the headlines because of the times when players go down on one knee as their reaction to anthem protocol.
Isn’t the mere act of kneeling also a sign of respect? Does it matter whether fans’ hands are upon their hearts, or by their side, or even in their pockets?

For those who follow a different protocol, Donald Trump urges that professional athletes be fired. Yet, kneeling in church is a sign of reverence.

One wonders whether there’s any action or gesture or stance that’s suitable for all.

But above all, let’s not forget that this country is torn apart by so many disparate groups.

Some people love to hate.

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