Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Colin's Courageous Sit-down

Greetings!  Anyone out there???

I was pretty stunned to hear of San Francisco  49'ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick's sit-down protest during the playing of the National Anthem in order to call attention to the ways African-Americans and other minorities are treated here, today, in the U.S.  Certainly courageous in that he has let himself in for criticism for sure.  What I really found troubling is the insistence by some that by not respecting the anthem, Kaepernick was disrespecting the military.  In the article, he makes it clear that he is NOT attacking the military.  I find the idea that we have to fetishize the troops just a bit troubling.. Certainly they make many sacrifices for us, but the more  I learn about some of the abuses and the ill-advised conflicts we enter (or create) I certainly have more mixed feelings.

I was even more stunned when I read the article by Jon Swartz about the controversy in The Intercept.  He writes of Mr. Kaepernick's protest and the National Anthem itself.  I will NEVER think of it in the same way again.  NEVER.  And will never, ever feel the same way about Francis Scott Key again, EVER.

First, one of the keys in Swartz's article is verse 3 of the National Anthem.  WHAT?  Well, I knew there was more than one verse, and having sung choir must have sung at least some of the other ones. This article prompted me to look in my copy of the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal.  What do you know?  The first verse and the last verses only were there, as also seems to be the case when I checked out a newer version of the hymnal online.  Swartz has a link in the article to a page containing all the verses.  The disastrous passage:   “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he [ Key] was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves.   In the article, Swartz explains the background of this in the context of the events of the War of 1812.

Then there was Key himself.  I knew he was a slave holder, but ---- read how he was indignant that a newspaper printed an article condemning the way an abolitionist newspaper decried how an African-American woman was treated by police.

In his conclusion, Swartz asks if that context is all just ancient history or maybe we might need a new National Anthem.  Your thoughts?

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  1. As a retired military officer having served for 26 years in the Army, I am disappointed that Mr. Kaepernick chose sitting down during the national anthem as his method of protesting injustices in this country. I certainly support his right to express himself, but feel that there are better ways to convey his message. His point appears to have sidetracked by those who are angry about it, and those who now dig up the song itself and point out it's warts. That is not the way to affect real change. The national anthem, even though written by a slave holder, and even though the 3rd verse has a racist line in it, the point of the anthem to me is that we are a nation of people who at least TRY to get it right. This is the best country ON EARTH and regardless of the flaws and warts, there are freedom loving people who TRY to get it right. We say the pledge with our hand over our heart to show that we BELIEVE we are one nation under God. We BELIEVE that we are the land of the FREE - even if it doesn't feel like it sometimes. If you only look at the flaws, you will miss the beauty. If you only consider who Frances Scott Key was back then, you miss the point of being proud of your homeland. People DIE trying to get to this country - in little boats, under barbed wire, and by any means they can because we are a free country. There are places in this world where Kaepernick would be tossed in jail and never heard from again for disrespecting the national anthem. Our country was founded by people who used slavery as an economic engine - but it isn't the first time in history that slavery occurred. It is a terrible, shameful part of our past, but it doesn't make the country bad on whole. We get so caught up in revising history that the point I think is most important gets lost in the noise. Regardless of who wrote the song, when you hear it - are you PROUD to be an American? Are you committed to collectively working to make things better? Let's not get hung up over stuff that doesn't matter. Let's show the world that we still love our country and we know its potential to be even better. Let's not SIT DOWN but rather STAND UP for our country.

  2. Dear unknown:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Good to hear from some readers.
    Now my reply:

    First, please know that Mr. Kaepernick's protest is NOT against the military. He's really tried to make that clear.

    Second, about the anthem itself. Swartz's article really opened my eyes. As I said in the post, I knew Key was a slave holder, but had NO idea about that third verse. Now I posit this: is celebrating killing (and that's what Swartz points out that verse 3 does) what we should be doing in our national anthem? I doubt it could happen, but maybe we SHOULD select another anthem.

    Third, yes, symbolism matters. Why do you think companies do plenty of research to design brand logos, That sports teams craft logos and mascots, and I could go on. I don't know anything about you, but just suppose you have say, pink hair. How would you feel about a song that decries people with pink hair? Possibly Mr.Kaepernick disrepects the anthem because he feels it disrespects him!

    Fourth: you talk about him disprespecting the anthem and say there are countries where he could be jailed for that. I'm sure you wouldn't want the U. S. to become like that. So we ABSOLUTELY must support the right of protest and dissent, which I'm sure in your heart you do. If you didn't read the post about total disrespect, why don't you check it out? It will give you an idea of what those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline have been going through. You can also check out my protest/dissent section (see tag cloud)and see some of the many challenges this right has been facing.

    Fifth, protesting or calling for a new national anthem isn't revising history, and from now on the song will not inspire pride in me but grate on my nerves. What I think this represents is a call for something better. There have been many debates in history circles especially, about replacing racist symbols of slavery. Some say leave them, some say leave them but with some educational note along, some say get rid of them or at least minimize their visibility. I'm not sure where I'd be on all that, but my take would be to decide each instance on a case-by-case basis.

    Sixth, am I proud to be American? I guess. I certainly feel attached to my country. But so much has come to light about some of the shameful things we've done around the world that sometimes, I just want to shake my head.

    Seventh, is this the wrong way to effect change? Now THAT'S a great question. As I've looked around at those pushing for positive change, I more and more wonder just what WILL be effective. Peaceful protests are often met with riot police and/or the media totally ignoring them. Look at what happened at the RNC in Cleveland not too long ago. Authorities tried all kinds of things to limit protests and intimidate those who wanted to protest. The DNC in Phila., had its problems as well, but I didn't see quite the same reports. Decision makers are now so insulated (security, security) and there seems to be all kinds of efforts into stifling protests (again, you can read some about that in my protest/dissent section, that I wonder just what will work. It's a real challenge for the public as a whole to sustain interest in an issue to really pushback. Yes, advocating for change is a REAL challenge!

    Eighth, you may ask if I have a suggestion for a replacement anthem.Hmmm, maybe "America" or "America the Beautiful" - I would think either of those would be patriotic enough.

    And now my fingers are tired, so I'll sign off.


What are your thoughts?