Monday, September 22, 2008

Please Stand for the National Anthem - BUT I CAN'T!

How many times in your life have you gone to a local football game at a high school, attended a professional baseball team game in your local town or in my case growing up, attending Monster Truck shows and heard those famous words- PLEASE STAND FOR OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM?

Growing up I attended Boston Red Sox games and Monster Truck shows that asked me to stand or rise for the National Anthem and just like anyone else I just did. After I became paralyzed in July of 1993, those words had a different meaning for me. (In case anyone is wondering why I attended Monster Truck shows, it is because my parents built the tracks) The next time I went to a local event and they asked me to stand for the National Anthem, it was like – oh my God I can’t! It never really bothered me until I became the flag bearer for a local Roller Derby league in Seattle, WA called the Rat City Roller Girls. I got involved with this group because I used to work with someone that was a coach of the league and a bunch of us went to watch it because I never knew what roller derby was. After attending my first roller derby I thought how cool- women on wheels! I am a woman on wheels- just a different set of wheels. My wheels are on my wheelchair and not my feet.

So after debuting as the flag bearer for the Rat City Roller Girls I remember hearing them say “Please stand for the National Anthem.” Well this was a different situation this time because I didn’t need to stand for the National Anthem it was my responsibility to have the flag which I display from the back of my wheelchair and roll around the derby track while someone is singing it. This got me thinking about what would be a more inclusive way for any announcer at any event to ask people to stand for the National Anthem, without leaving people out that cannot stand up due to some type of disability and I got it! Actually, my mom suggested it and it is really easy and it includes everybody! So instead of “Please Stand for the National Anthem” or “Please Rise for the National Anthem” my suggestion is “For those who can, please stand for the National Anthem!”

I know it may not sound like a big deal to some people, but the first time I heard it, it was really a nice feeling. I felt included! I felt like I was apart of the crowd that was all standing up to salute our American Flag. Since I am the flag bearer at the Rat City Roller Girls events once a month, it means a lot to me to hear them say that.

I have even gone on further to make this suggestion at a church I attend. I don’t go there very often, but this past Christmas Eve Mass, the church was packed more than usual because of the holiday and there were a lot of people in wheelchairs there that night. We spent most of the evening singing and the Pastor repeatedly said, “Now, please stand to sing Joy to the World,” then the next song, the Pastor would ask the church to “Remain standing for another song.” Well, again it made me not feel included in the group. Now I don’t want people reading this to think I take things to seriously or get offended easily, but I just find it a nice gesture to hear the words, “For those who can, please remain standing for our next song.” I took it upon myself to email the Pastor of the church a few days later and thanked them for a nice holiday mass, and made the suggestion of how they could rephrase the way they address the congregation to include everyone. I got an email back from the Pastor thanking me for the suggestion.

I hope some of you can see my point of view, and know that I am not complaining about this. I just see it as another way to educate people. It is just one more thing for people who cannot stand up to be included in a ritual that takes place in America everyday. I hope that some of you especially, with the election coming up, will take it upon yourself to think about it and if you are attending an event, whether it is at your local church or a football game make the suggestion to the announcer to include everyone in the audience by encouraging them to say, “For those who can, please stand for the National Anthem!” Just think because of your suggestion, someone in that audience like myself who is in a wheelchair, will really appreciate it!

**A special note to everyone that participated in the Paralympics- Thank you for representing USA!**

Tammy Wilber

1 comment:

Grego said...

Good point Tammy, however, as soon as an anouncer said "For those who can..." how long would it be before we started seeing (sadly) people who did not stand who are capable of doing so? Kind of like the people who use handicapped parking permits who do not need them.