It seems to me that my memory sometimes is a tricky thing. By that I mean that some incident or experience long buried in my box of memories suddenly pops up unbidden – that is, I wasn’t consciously trying to recall the event, it just all of a sudden forced its way into my mind. That’s what happened recently when an occurrence of many decades ago was suddenly front and center.
I was at my first week-long summer Boy Scout camp and excited about living in a cabin with other scouts, eating in the mess hall, and learning all kinds of outdoor scouting stuff. The first evening as we all sat around a campfire, those of us for whom this was our first time at summer camp were asked to stand.
We then were told that there was a ritual “first-timers” traditionally went through to gain knowledge and wisdom from the camping experience. We were all lined up and asked to repeat together the mystic chant, “Oh-wha, Ta-goo, Siam” three times together and then to repeat it silently to ourselves until we gained truth and wisdom from the recitation. We could then whisper this new-found knowledge to one of the counselors, and if we were correct, we could join the other campers. (Just for fun you may want to try this for yourself.)
It took a while for some of us to complete the ritual – I think I was about the middle of the group when I realized the meaning. Figure it out yet? It’s “Oh, what a goose I am.” We all had a good laugh about this little episode which lent itself to bonding among the campers – and also provided some edification, some enlightenment, about taking a close look at activities that may appear to be one thing but are actually something else.
Okay, so what triggered this particular long-buried incident? Well, I’m pretty sure it was a recent picture of an NFL football team all lined up on the sideline of a football field. Some were on one knee, others on both knees, and still others were standing, some with the right hand over the heart. The occasion was the playing of our national anthem before an NFL game.
Most everybody knows how this particular type of activity started about a year ago when a back-up quarterback for an NFL team decided to show his disrespect, his disdain for the country where he has risen from humble origins to fame and fortune. (He was reportedly making about $11 million a year.) Yep, he chose to use a different symbolism during the national anthem – by sitting and not placing his right hand over his heart. He later changed his means of protest by going to one knee rather than sit in an attempt to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members – reportedly after having a conversation with a former NFL player and US military veteran.
As I pointed out about a year ago, the practice of going to one knee, which is known as “genuflecting”, has actually been around for centuries as a sign of respect and service – not as a sign of protest. It arose from the honor given to medieval kings where one demonstrated respect for a king or noble by going down on one knee – often remaining there until told to rise. Many churches incorporate genuflecting in their services as a symbol of devotion and respect. Genuflecting is also traditionally performed in western cultures by a male making a proposal of marriage. He remains on one knee as a symbol of respect and love until the offer is accepted or rejected. Hardly a symbol of protest, doncha think?
Okay, back to pictures of those football players all lined up genuflecting and kneeling (which is an even greater show of respect and honor) during the national anthem. Don’t these players realize they are actually using time-honored means of showing respect and devotion to our country by going to one knee or kneeling during our national anthem? They kinda reminded me of that line of Boy Scouts reciting “Oh-wha, Ta-goo, Siam” – also not realizing what it meant. That parallelism is apparently what my tricky memory wanted me to appreciate.
You know, there has been a lot of publicity about damage to the brains of football players caused by years of collisions involving the head with the damage reportedly increasing as a player progresses from the grade school, middle school, high school, college, and finally professional level. The way these pro football players are choosing to publicize disapproval and dissent makes a body wonder, doesn’t it? At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]