In July of this year, I dedicated a post that talked about the American National Anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.” It turns out that was kind of a timely article. Although, I had to consult sources that broached the themes I ultimately tried my best to cover, there is now a renewed interest in the national anthem.
Last week, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick caused a stir by not standing for the National Anthem shortly before a preseason game. When Kap was asked why he didn’t stand for the national anthem, he responded that he did so in protest.
What Was Kaepernick Protesting?
Well, here is his quote (via NFL.com):
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color … To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
In short, Kap said he was protesting because of how minorities are treated in the United States. In particular, he takes issue with police brutality.
What Do Most Think of Kap’s Protest?
There was of course a Twitter storm, among other things. There were splits among NFL players past and present. Also, people who hated Kaepernick took the time to say how stupid and pathetic they thought he was.
- This must be a publicity stunt. He’s irrelevant now, what with that competition with Blaine Effing Gabbert!
- It was so disrespectful, especially to those who fought and died for this country.
- Oh my God, eff Black Lives Matter! You see, that’s what wrong with THEM!
One 49er fan even burned Kap’s jersey.
However, the real issue is how people are responding to the actual message. Some people are choosing to ignore it. Some people agree. And some people, like Drew Brees, admit a discomfort with the whole conversation.
What Do I Think of Kap’s Protest?
To be honest, I don’t have much a problem with it. He is within his rights to sit during the national anthem and he’s not really hurting anyone. This might have been a clunky effort, but I don’t think it’s bad.
Many people will disagree, I’m sure. Of course, most on social media will disagree. many took to Twitter to jeer at the QB for his decision.
Now, I am not a fan of Kaepernick. I never was. I thought he was overhyped in 2012 and he was handed a job (starting QB for the 49ers) that he never really earned. And he has regressed every year since then.
(Also: Take a look at 49ers forums and you will see the scars from the QB controversy. Many people have fled to the Chiefs or adopted them as their AFC team.)
That said I think this controversy is overblown. People may say this is a publicity stunt and Kap’s efforts are failing because he is only drawing more attention to himself. I say he is drawing as much attention as people are willing to give him.
Also, this is an opportunity for people to ignore his message. It’s much easier to shoot the messenger than it is to weigh his message and talk about what he means. In particular, racial inequality is not an easy issue for anyone to address.
And What Do I Think Is Worse Than Not Standing for the National Anthem?
Do you really want to know? I can think of a few things, in terms of disrespecting the United States.
- Burning the American Flag, although that is protected by the First Amendment.
- Vilifying the members of the military who volunteered to protect the country.
- Spitting on veterans who served in the Vietnam War.
- “Swiftboating” a veteran from that same war.
- Using veterans as props for election bids.
- Sending people to wars of aggression to make oneself and/or cronies richer.
- Failing to take care of military veterans, especially when they need financial, psychological, and medical support. This goes double if those veterans came from those wars of aggression.
The 49ers’ ownership situation.
All Kaepernick did was sit during the National Anthem. He didn’t insult anyone. He didn’t vandalize anything. He didn’t commit any other crime. He was taking advantage of his right not to stand and to protest (if that was all it was about). It simply does not compare.
What Else Do I Think?
Like I said in that Independence Day-themed post, I now have a general discomfort with the national anthem now that I know more about its history. We cannot look over the fact that Francis Scott Key owned slaves, thought of blacks as inferior beings, and went after abolitionists.
As Jon Schwarz points out, the third stanza of the poem where we get our national anthem pointed to the deaths of slaves with glee. Here it is again:
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 wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
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.
Schwarz goes a little farther than I did and pointed out that there were slaves who fought against the United States during the War of 1812. The British freed over 6,000 slaves and employed some of the men to fight for them.
Knowing all that, it is cruelly ironic that black Americans sing that song today. If everyone knew about the history, I wonder what they would think.
Well, Should the United States Adopt a New National Anthem?
Earlier this week, I was talking about this incident and the fallout with a relative. I asked if perhaps we should adopt a new national anthem. To that, he pointed out Germany’s. While the melody to the German National Anthem was over 100 years old, it was given lyrics from another time in German history and adopted during the Weimar Republic.
I pointed out that was funny (if unequal to our situation) since Germans now have a hard time addressing the topic of Nazi Germany nowadays. They have a song that was adopted during that time, but they don’t want to talk about their dark history? What?
In any event, I think this is a valid question for the United States. However, could we even agree on a new anthem, and what should it be?