David Brooks Writes A Poem On The Theme Of Patriotism

This sestina is directed at all the high school football players around the country who are pulling a Kaepernick

Photo: Jason St Peter

Oh say can you see how immature you are

Those spurning our national anthem should undergo the same intense moral

self-searching I’ve subjected myself to. Recall that this country

was once populated by men who watched slaves work and cried

into their weather-cracked hands “God,

please make me a better American.

Please teach me how to be the living embodiment of solidarity

with other white people.” I try to show solidarity

like this in the Times Cafeteria every day, to provide moral

leadership, to clear out once I’ve helped myself to chick peas. An American

like Ta-Nehisi Coates — while I welcome his having arisen in this country,

I wonder if he really understands that God

himself very likely metaphorically personally cried

tears over the very nation Coates negates the value of. That Coates has cried

for justice is fine, but one wonders: should justice trump solidarity?

Let’s try a football analogy: Think of, well, not God

so much but think of Judeo-Christian values (all things moral)

as the winning head coach of this country.

With his leadership, everything is in place for every American

to be a star player! But only if every American

listens to that coach and follows his plays. Today I cried

over inspiring photos on the IDF website, wishing to be worthy of my country.

To earn my place in this nation today I sell solidarity.

I must beg you to consider the moral

failure inherent in prioritizing your lived experience over antiquated rituals. I am aware God

is exclusionary but let’s not throw out doctrine with God:

If you want to be a good American

you must adhere to the idea that we all share a set of values and morals

He (or She) might sponsor. I know — many people have died and cried.

But injustice doesn’t entitle you to ignore rote rituals of solidarity

which we’ve all agreed are the best way to come together as a country.

And if you’re not feeling gratitude for this country

well then by God

try uttering those syllables from which Francis Scott Key crafted solidarity

It works wonders for any American!

Last night I pondered these kids’ refusal to sing our anthem and cried.

Then I realized that for a column I just needed to plumb a moral

And have two big thoughts about the country. I realized it was unlikely that another American,

especially Ta-Nehisi Coates, would ever say to these kids, “Look at all these people who cried

over your lack of solidarity.” Then I told myself “David, one thought is enough since you have a solid moral.”