Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Colin Kaepernick and the Ugly Aspects of the Star-Spangled Banner

I never ceased to be amazed at the ignorance of seemingly the majority of Americans when it comes to knowing the true history of America.  If one bothers to really research the nation's history, its territorial expansion was fueled by genocide against the Native American population, Texas was acquired as a result of American emigres who settled in what was a part of Mexico and then revolted and overthrew Mexican rule, and Hawaii became a territory after American business interests engineered the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.  Somehow, the "patriots" ignore all of this and adopt an attitude akin to right wingers from the Vietnam War days: "America, love it or leave it" and "America right or wrong."

By his refusal to stand for the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick has earned the wrath of these very same Neanderthals who simply cannot countenance anything that challenges their fairy tale version of America and their idolatry of the American flag. Loving one's country doesn't mean one ignores it flaws and past heinous acts and treats pieces of cloth as if it was Christ returned.  That mindset only allows a repeat of past mistakes and horrors.  Had we remembered the real truth about the Vietnam War, it's possible the Iraq War would never have occurred. But back to the Star-Spangled Banner.  A piece in the New York Daily News  among others looks at the full truth about the national anthem (only since 1931) and its very unpleasant, racist author. These excerpts from The Intercept set the stage:
Before a preseason game on Friday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When he explained why, he only spoke about the present: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Twitter then went predictably nuts, with at least one 49ers fan burning Kaepernick’s jersey.
Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.
Few people know this because we only ever sing the first verse. But read the end of the third verse and you’ll see why “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not just a musical atrocity, it’s an intellectual and moral one, too:
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
[O]ne of the key tactics behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves. . . . Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their “owners.” Adult men were trained to create a regiment called the Colonial Marines, who participated in many of the most important battles, including the August 1814 raid on Washington.
So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.

Don't believe me?  Here's a link to the Smithsonian webpage that provides all of the words.    Oh, and check out the fourth verse and its reference to "freemen."  In 1814, that term did not include enslaved blacks.  Here are excerpts from the Daily News piece:
While it has always been known that the song was written during American slavery and that when those words about this nation being the "land of the free" didn't apply to the millions who had been held in bondage, few of us had any idea that the song itself was rooted in the celebration of slavery and the murder of Africans in America, who were being hired by the British military to give them strength not only in the War of 1812, but in the Battle of Fort McHenry of 1814. These black men were called the Corps of Colonial Marines and they served valiantly for the British military. Key despised them. He was glad to see them experience terror and death in war — to the point that he wrote a poem about it. That poem is now our national anthem.
While I fundamentally reject the notion that anyone who owned other human beings was either good, moral, or decent, Francis Scott Key left absolutely no doubt that he was a stone cold bigot. He came from generations of plantation owning bigots. They got wealthy off of it. Key, as District Attorney of Washington, fought for slavery and against abolitionists every chance he got. Even when Africans in D.C. were injured or murdered, he stood strong against justice for them. He openly spoke racist words against Africans in America. Key said that they were "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community."
 While San Francisco 49ers quarter back Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem because of the overflowing abundance of modern day injustice in America, he has helped bring to light the fact that this song and its author are deeply rooted in violent white supremacy.

I don't think I will be singing the song again.  

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