Standing Ovations: Not Just For Anyone

I have talked about the privileges that military personnel has in the US before, although I’d like to touch another part of this topic. During sporting events, there always seems to be an intervention where the camera on the screen focuses on somebody in uniform, while the stadium speaker announces the rank, previous missions and age of the man standing (or woman, but I haven’t seen that yet). Then the whole stadium gets up, cheers and gives the man a standing ovation.

Most women just drool and sigh when the man in uniform appears on the screen, but that's a whole other story.

It baffles me. I’ve got nothing against the military (I envy their benefits, but that’s besides the point here), but I feel the heroism is a little misplaced. Don’t get me wrong, I believe any army in the world can be a force that can do a lot of good, but there’s something weird about how America celebrates its defensive forces. Let’s face it: if you want to cheer to someone who has done a lot of good for your community, you wouldn’t immediately think of someone who did a lot of hard work establishing democracies in the Middle East, safeguarding innocent people abroad and kicking some bad guys’ asses that are mostly a threat to other countries. I’d think of doctors, teachers, firemen and the sort. Why not have the stadium speaker announce the following: ‘Ladies and gentleman, this year alone, doctor Bibber has saved the lives of twelve different kids. Please show your appreciation.’ I don’t want to question the hard work those men do, nor why they should do it, but why not shift among heroes? There must be more to choose from.

Who would you give a standing ovation to?

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16 thoughts on “Standing Ovations: Not Just For Anyone

  1. I imagine that some of that comes from a state of political tension regarding the USE of the military in our country. It was very easy, during the most recent Iraq war, for proponents of the war to say that those against the war weren’t supporting ‘the troops’. That forced the people who opposed the war to say, ‘No, I completely support our troops! It’s what we are making them do that I oppose.’ And it sort of became kind of necessary, I think, to always ‘hooray’ people in uniform. If there was that kind of sociopolitical pressure to show support for doctors, well, I think you’d see more standing ovations for gastroenterologists.

    Also, I would give a standing ovation for teachers. Cliche, I know, but they really do work very hard for the crappy pay.

    PS – I got the package. Thanks for the samples! Science is AWESOME.

    • That’s a very well-founded argument. As you know, I leave that to my commenters ;-). Are you also saying (implying) this is a trend of recent years? In that case, I can totally see it. Maybe one day, teachers will be cheered for.

      Isn’t it amazing stuff? 😉

      • It was: guilt trip throughout 70s and 80s … we lost Viet Nam because Americans did not “support the troops” … if we had lionized them more, they would have won the war, and Viet Nam would have been our beachhead against China / the USSR.

        The line was: draftees were working class, and opposition to the war was an elite position amounting to scorn for the working class. That got Reagan elected, and then we worked up to the Iraq invasion.

  2. OK, I agree with you, but . . . I’m a Canuck and we have sent out boys ‘over there’ too. The trouble is both governments have no problem sending them there. What kind of heroes are they when they come home maimed? If you asked one of those chosen to be put on the big screen, do you really think it means a lot to them? The limelight?

    On the other hand, I hve high respect for Doctors Without Borders and journalists who go to countries to report the news and don’t get to come home..

    • On the screen they seem happy, although they probably don’t pick the ones that need a lot of attention (not the stadium crowd kind of attention). I would hope they enjoy it, because I would believe it’s a tough job, especially mentally. Doctors Without Bordors is a good one indeed.

  3. Interesting post as you raise the cultural question by looking in on how the US does this. I’m from a military town (San Diego CA) and have seen changes over the years. The USA in general respected troops after WWII, but in our town when I was growing up, we saw them as uncool… pale (i.e. not tan! *gasp*) small town boys with short hair (in the 70s, the days of men’s ponytails) who got drunk and got tattoos (uncool back then) and patronized hookers downtown. We had derogatory terms for them and very few from our subculture (i.e coastal surf culture) joined the military.

    Then the Vietnam war came, with mandatory draft. And that war also caused MOST of the USA to hate the military and no one got standing ovations. So there has been a change in the recent wars where a larger segment of the society sees the wars as good, or at least fighting a good cause, and the soldiers as heroes.

    We always want heroes. Sadly the best our culture can usually offer is movie stars, rock stars and sports figures. It’s really just a kind of idolatry. And the real heroes in life are ignored, or even, at times, vilified.

    • Thanks for another well-founded comment. I think it’s interesting to see the shift. Probably somewhere in the middle would be best, where you could question the operations on the one hand, but respect the people who have to carry out the work on the other. One of the things I’ve noticed is that we keep picking heroes that are now even famous for no reason. Maybe some day, we’ll have proper heroes again.

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  5. It’s alleged that we blamed the conscripts for Viet Nam and not the government; now we are basically browbeaten into proving we don’t blame the soldiers themselves for what goes on – especially if we are at all critical of US policy and actions.

    Standing ovations are common in US, though, esp. in smaller towns / more provincial places. In my home town, pop. 123,000, there were standing ovations for all musicians – just because people were glad they came.

    • When cheering, it’s hard to make the distinction between respecting someone’s work and the degree of approval that went into the job being done in the first place. There should be a way to do that, shouldn’t there? Do you think unknown Dutch bloggers
      would get a standing ovation for showing up? Thanks for stopping by!

      • 🙂 I wonder! My hometown is Santa Barbara, California. One of my earliest memories is going down to the little train station because Nikita Kruschev was coming through. He’d been heckled in Los Angeles, but seemed to enjoy our whistle stop because people just came down and clapped.

        It’s a beach town, now quite overpriced, but very sleepy back then and funky. Nice beach and weather though, so people tend to be in a good mood.

  6. “There should be a way to do that, shouldn’t there?”

    …ideally, yes. But in current culture saying things are great is valued. And, people don’t necessarily have a lot of experience with art/whatever, so things may look more wonderful to them than they are on a world scale. Also the standing ovations are in part responses to context — if someone has been mistreated on a tv show, the standing ovation is a compensation, etc.

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