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Big controversy in the sports world spills over into the real world! On August 26, before a pre-season football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stirred more than a few emotions by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.
Kaepernick remained seated while the national anthem played. After the game, he told reporters he sat because he didn’t want to show pride in a country that oppresses people of color.
“To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick told reporters. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Of course, it is every American’s right to sit during the playing of the national anthem, this is, as the lyrics go, “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Pseudo-intellectuals are jumping on this brouhaha in droves, offering revisionist theories about what may or may not be the racist roots of our beloved theme. Francis Scott Key penned the epic tome while a prisoner of war on a British ship, during the war of 1812. The British army was bolstered by a regiment of slaves who agreed to fight for the British in exchange for a promise of their freedom if they were victorious.
Key was incensed at what he deemed the treason of the slaves, and rightfully regarded them as enemies of the United States. Consequently, his poem contained a third verse that alluded to their treachery, and his wish that they be vanquished. It reads: And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”
Francis Scott Key was happy to see former slaves, who had joined the British as part of their Colonial Marines, getting slaughtered and killed as they attempted to take Baltimore. Who are we to question his motivation? The fact is, that is what he wrote, and it expressed the intense pride and determination of that small band of men who gave everything they had to create this young, wonderful nation. The song stirs deep, pensive emotions in many, if not most, American hearts to this day, because of the promise it holds out, of a better tomorrow, and a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid to the brave souls who gave all to preserve this nation. America is a work-in-progress! That is the very nature of our union!
It took a half-century from the penning of the Star-Spangled Banner for the USA to abolish slavery, and even longer to fully recognize African-Americans as citizens, but what is important is IT DID HAPPEN. It took effort, shed blood, heated debate, but we are self-governing, and eventually, we get it right. To say that the Star Spangled Banner should be eliminated as our national anthem, because the author was a “racist,” is ridiculous. It brings to mind the most expensive, sought-after coffee in the world, Kopi Luwak. It is harvested from the feces of an Indonesian cat, called the “palm civet” after the cat has consumed the raw beans. Even though it’s origins may be considered objectionable by some, the result is the finest coffee in the world. Yes, we need to work on our justice system, specifically the policing techniques that have resulted in unjust treatment of the accused, but this is our gestating, growing republic, still evolving, not oppressing minorities mindlessly.
Many young American men and women have been sent to the far ends of the earth to fight for this country, and some to die for this country, and perhaps the song penned so many years ago, when America was a baby, in a fierce battle for it’s young life, has a meaning and stirs a feeling in the hearts of those veterans that a pampered child like Colin Kaepernick can’t even begin to comprehend. So sit down, if you will, young Colin, someone has already stood and faced death for you.