Barry Saunders

O say can you see ... lots of opinions about ECU band – Saunders

Want to know what I learned last week from the responses to my column about the East Carolina University marching band needing a police escort to get out of the stadium after some band members took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality?

▪ I learned that some people take “The Star-Spangled Banner” verrrrry seriously.

▪ I learned that at least one reader is on a first-two name basis with the song’s writer, exemplified by his informing me that “Francis Scott wrote that song to honor America and we ought to stand out of respect for this great country.”

▪ I learned that there are far more ways than you’d think for people to tell me I suck tuba spit – although few of them can be printed in a family newspaper.

▪ Mainly, though, I learned that things are not nearly as bad as we think they are.

Of course, the last time I wrote that – when scolding then-presidential candidate Ted Cruz for telling a frightened 5-year-old girl that “your world is on fire” – a reader named Terry excoriated me and said “Don’t you dare tell her her world is not on fire!”

Too bad Terry hasn’t met Hunter Marketto. He is the tuba player in the ECU marching band who, along with fellow tuba-ist Dylan Allen, unfurled a flag when 19 fellow band members took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before an ECU Pirates football game. Marketto made sure to note when we spoke that the patriotic pair’s flag display wasn’t a counter-protest to the kneeling students, but an addendum to it.

“Although (fans) disagree with what some of the band members did – we disagreed with it – everyone deserves to have that same respect as Americans,” Marketto told me. “I have that First Amendment right, you do, and so do they. Just because you disagree with them, you don’t have to hate them. ... We wanted to be patriots in our own right, but at the same time, we wanted to stand for the First Amendment rights of our brothers and sisters” who chose to kneel.

Such comments from a 19-year-old student who plans after graduation to join the Air Force, teach history and then run for office heartened me, and who couldn’t use some heartening after watching adults malign the marchers?

It was a pleasure talking to Marketto, just as it was a pleasure hearing from the anti-kneeler who wrote, ‘What if every member of the band decided to take a knee’ in the middle of the anthem? That wouldn’t be a protest, I told him: it’d be a choreographed routine.

It was a pleasure talking to Marketto, just as it was a pleasure hearing from the anti-kneeler who wrote, “What if every member of the band decided to take a knee” in the middle of the anthem?

That wouldn’t be a protest, I told him: it’d be a choreographed routine.

Another reader stated that if the students had the right to kneel in protest, the fans had the right to express their displeasure.

Right on, right on for the right to protest the protesters. That right, while it exists, doesn’t justify hocking loogies or hurling epithets and bottles at them.

I, properly chastened by those who feel the national anthem should be treated with more reverence than the band members showed, have a proposition for you.

It’s too late for me to get on the ballot this year, but two years hence, if you see my name listed as a candidate for some office, can I count on your vote?

If yes, the first bill I’m going to introduce will be one mandating that every person in America must stop whatever they’re doing and place their right hand over their heart every time “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played – whether it’s on the radio, in a sports arena, from the rear end of a flatulent cow.

Television stations no longer sign off at night, but when they did, we knew it by the playing of the national anthem. That’s why my second bill will be to make TV stations sign off at night – there’s nothing on, anyway – so that the end of every day in this great nation can be punctuated by the playing of the national anthem.

Judging by the zealotry accompanying the flag kerfuffle, finding volunteers to go around and peer in windows to ensure full compliance with the Flag Salute Resolution should be no problem.

The State: Theron T. Throckmorton, the state finds that on the night of Sept. 3, 2017, after watching three-and-a-half episodes of “Full House” that you’d inexplicably DVR’ed, you did not stand when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played. How do you plead?

Throckmorton: Uh ...

The State: You are hereby sentenced to listen to five hours straight of Roseanne Barr warbling “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Have you anything to say?

Throckmorton: Can’t y’all just hock a loogie at me?

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