The Kaepernick Controversy and Revisiting the National Anthem

This week, society and the sports world learned that Colin Kaepernick, the once star but now struggling quarterback for the S.F. 49ers, took a “stand” by stating he will sit out the National Anthem before games until he sees major improvement in the way racial minorities are treated in our country. Ok. Well, that’s one guy’s decision, which affects my life and well-being not ONE IOTA. … other than to perhaps keep a spotlight on the issue of race relations, which has needless to say, practically “won the headline wars” in the last couple of years (particularly when law enforcement has questionably harmed or gunned down black men) In fact, it really started as a national conversation with the human scumbag George Zimmerman’s senseless stalking and murder of Trayvon Martin.

But nevertheless, the world of course went bonkers with the usual macho, chest puffing reaction to protesting something to be perceived as a patriotic sacred cow. And as usual, people are reacting in that oh so insecure way that suggests, “America isn’t tough enough to survive a struggling quarterback’s refusal to sing a patriotic song! We’re all doomed, so let’s go overboard in expressing our displeasure and reminding them of how much we love this country and think a struggling quarterback is threatening our very way of life!!!!!!”

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Kaepernick’s approach, but I’m also not spending my every waking moment sizzling over it. Should he be more of an activist than a talker? (or sitter) I hope he will walk the walk by working to build bridges in his community, yes. But in this country, we fight for our rights to peacefully protest. Is he saying “Blue Lives” don’t matter? I haven’t heard that. So – great American, can’t you just let the guy get it out of his system? How does this harm your life at all? Really – use the comments section (on MY site) to tell me how a guy who wants to put a mirror up to us is HONESTLY harming you or your kids. And before I get to what I really want to talk about – our National Anthem – let me address just a couple of the points people piling on Mr. Kaepernick seem to often use:

  • “Colin Kaepernick has no right to say these things because this country has given him wealth and he was raised in privilege by white parents.”

Hmmmm. A rich guy raised primarily by whites has no right to speak out on race relations?  Well, then, I guess we better shut that Obama guy up as well!  I challenge the premise that wealthy people who have been given much can’t turn in an unexpected direction and speak up for those who they perceive have NOT been given much. If anything – it’s bonus points for not sitting around complacently counting your millions. Former Senator Jay Rockefeller (yes, of the Rockefellers) wasn’t a Democrat until he took a VISTA service fellowship in West Virginia, where he saw the rural poverty of Appalachia. He left New York and stayed in West Virginia, serving for 8 years as Governor and 30 as a Senator.

  • “I believe this country has given people a right to protest, which is good … but not THIS WAY.”

Yeah, it’s always something, isn’t it? You SAY you support your fellow citizens’ right to protest, but their method of doing it always seems to fail or enrage the same millions of people. Patriotism to them means saying people have fought for our right to protest, but that we really shouldn’t do it. It’s a perverted translation in their minds of the adage, “just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you should do it.” Nope. Doesn’t quite apply here.  You can disagree, but you either respect people’s right to protest and celebrate it, or you’re just giving lip service to something you really don’t believe.

  • And then there are the fat cat – and “bravely” anonymous – team of NFL executives who in recent days declared that Mr. Kaepernick’s actions are making him as unpopular as former NFL player turned wife killer Rae Carruth.

I’m sorry – what kind of false equivalency crap is this?  These – again, bravely anonymous – executives are saying that a guy who wants to protest racial injustice by sitting during the National Anthem deserves as much scorn as a guy who, 1) Paid a hit man to kill his wife… 2) while she was pregnant … 3) has the hit man go through with it … 4) and the baby, who medical professionals saved with an emergency C-Section, now lives with Cerebral Palsy.  Are YOU KIDDING ME?

This is the section of the piece where John Oliver would say, “And now, our main story tonight concerns the National Anthem itself.”  Yes, I want to talk about it. Why? Because for YEARS before this controversy broke, I’ve long held we could do better. Put our Anthem up against Les Marseillais of France or the rousing State Anthem of the Russian Federation (which will take you right to Sean Connery declaring “Let them Sing” in The Hunt for Red October), and our national anthem is far less majestic by comparison.

Also, can we talk about Francis Scott Key? (Wing Nuts: NOT to be confused with “The Francis Scott Key Key,” which is a fictional award given to Marian Coatsworth Hay). Let’s look at some quick stats on this guy:

  • Proud slave owner
  • Lawyer who prosecuted abolitionists and others working to free slaves
  • And this line of his full National Anthem text that speaks to the treason of the slaves who fought for Britain in the war of 1812 after being promised their freedom:

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave”

So a guy whose country was founded on the brave risk of treason to obtain our freedom didn’t seem to like it when slaves fought for their own?  Huh.  Francis Scott Key – “man o’ the year.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do LIKE our National Anthem. I’m proud to stand for it. And given that many national anthems speak to a people’s struggle to overcome, I guess I shouldn’t mind that ours actively speaks to “bombs” and battle… but there are far more peaceful and beautiful songs out there – all well known – that we should still consider as alternatives. Friends, I invite you to consider the following and tell me if you agree we each do equally enjoy – or could – as our new National Anthem:

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

 

My Country, ‘tis of Thee

By Samuel Francis Smith (1831)

My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From ev’ry mountainside

Let freedom ring!

 

My native country, thee,

Land of the noble free,

Thy name I love;

I love thy rocks and rills,

Thy woods and templed hills;

My heart with rapture thrills,

Like that above.

 

Let music swell the breeze,

And ring from all the trees

Sweet freedom’s song;

Let mortal tongues awake;

Let all that breathe partake;

Let rocks their silence break,

The sound prolong.

 

Our fathers’ God to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright,

With freedom’s holy light,

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God our King.

 

America The Beautiful

By Katherine Lee Bates and Samual A. Ward (1911 Version)

 O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

My personal favorite is “This Land is Your Land,” though I doubt many Americans would adopt an Anthem from the hippie likes of Woody Guthrie. I can just hear Sean Hannity now. … Still, it’s fun to sing and it’s about wonder and togetherness. No one is excluded!  I also love My Country ‘Tis of Thee and America the Beautiful, but they have “God references,” which are anathema to many on the left who believe faith and patriotism shouldn’t mix any more than church and state. They have a point worthy of its own blog post.

What’s your vote? and Why? Please cast any thoughts on this or my points above in the comments section below, on MY SITE, please. Thanks!  

 1 – Current National Anthem

2 – This Land is Your Land

3 – My Country, ‘tis of Thee

4 – America the Beautiful

5 Comments

  1. Of those four, I like America the Beautiful the best. God Bless America is great too, but I see your point about the God references.

    And since you mentioned other countries, O Canada is pretty strong. Maybe that’s the hockey fan in me talking. And Italy’s anthem is surprisingly peppy, a quality not often seen in anthems.

    • Erik, thanks for weighing in. You know what cracks me up at hockey games? … OUR National Anthem only applies to between 1-3 guys on each side of the ice! And yet, I notice all the players always pay reverence to it. Cracks me up every Kings game I’m able to attend.

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