Protests of National Anthem Restore My Faith in Humanity

Speaking out against racism is one thing — and a wonderful and admirable thing it is — but choosing to do so by sitting out the U.S. national anthem, and then having others join in, or “come out” as routine national anthem sitters: this is fantastic!

A self-governing republic of thinking people (whose first thought should be “My god, what are we doing to the rest of the planet with all this pollution and all these wars?”) ought to have no use for mandatory flag worship, required hand positions, or enforced recitations of pledges of allegiance to colored bits of cloth. Or if only some people outgrow such practices, others ought to leave them alone about it.

The protest thus far is severely limited, of course. The primary reason that it is useful to break down required patriotism rituals is their intimate connection to militarism. Yet many are claiming other motives and swearing their steadfast allegiance to militarism. That’s OK. It’s still an enormous step, and one that thousands are thanking Colin Kaepernick for taking.

Of course the endless wars abroad fuel racism at home, and vice versa. The endless military budget unloads free war weapons on police, and free trainers in war mentality. The bombs dropped abroad still explode in the ghetto. And militarists are claiming just the opposite, in support of Kaepernick, alleging that bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya somehow creates Kaepernick’s “freedom” to sit out the national anthem while catching hell mostly from enthusiastic war supporters. Nonetheless, breaking a taboo is a tremendous first step to be followed by many more.

My concern with the national anthem and all such related ceremonies is chiefly the obedience and subservience to symbols of mass murder. But secondarily, the lyrics of the full song, and the earlier version of it, are absolutely unacceptable. That the third verse celebrates killing people who had just escaped from slavery, that the earlier version celebrated killing Muslims, and that the lyricist himself, Francis Scott Key, owned people as slaves and supported police killings of African Americans while shouting about “freedom” — these are all insurmountable hurdles if you’re trying to get me to respect or identify with this song that, let’s face it, is also awful as a piece of music.

But strip the song down to its current first verse, and it remains a celebration of war, of the mass killing of human beings, of a war of conquest that failed to take over Canada and instead got the White House burned. And during the course of that valorous piece of blood-soaked stupidity, Key witnessed a battle in which human beings died but a flag survived. And I’m supposed to stand, like an obedient mindless robot, and worship that glorious incident, and it’s supposed to matter what I do with my hand, but not what I do with my brain?

Nations don’t have to find their whole identity in war. The United States could celebrate democratic advances, heroic activists, rights won for all variety of previously disfavored groups. We could sing a song about creative nonviolence, generosity, bravery, kindness, and natural beauty. We could sing a song that offered friendship to the other 96% of humanity. We could have a widely covered national contest for the best new song, and perhaps bump these two hideous presidential candidates off the airwaves for a few moments.

Instead, it’s the Star Mangled Banner over and over and over. And, yes, I’ve been sitting it out for years. Welcome, Colin. We’ve been waiting for you.

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  • andrew1212
  • Brockland A.T.

    Hear hear. Let’s make sit-down protests a thing!

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  • This little over two minutes from Martin Luther King’s Last Speech says it all: “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop”

    The final part of Martin Luther King’s last speech. He delivered it on April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. The next day, King was assassinated.

    • Charlie Primero

      The fact that you revere a prostitute-beating Communist plagiarist like MLK, and an avowed racist like Lincoln demonstrates that you also suffer from uneducated ignorant worship of manufactured national symbols.

      You would benefit from beginning to study history in depth.

      • A Baptist Preacher a Communist? Adjust your tin foil and do some real research from real informative sites and I will also suggest do your own work instead of relying on what others post on topics!

        Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister and social activist who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. Inspired by advocates of nonviolence such as Mahatma Gandhi, King sought equality for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and victims of injustice through peaceful protest.

        • Charlie Primero

          LOL. Your ignorance of Baptist TV Preachers is also sad, but also easily remedied with a bit of study.

          In the meantime, here’s a bit of reality education regarding your Media Hero Ghandi…

      • cityspeak

        The statement you made:
        The fact that you revere a prostitute-beating Communist plagiarist like MLK,
        Is utterly false. If he was either of those two things (prostitute beater or Communist) the Deep State would have been able to remove him from the chessboard with ease.
        MLK threat to the status quo was so great (anti-Vietnam war and the People’s Party) the Deep State had to resort to assassination with operatives and maneuvers that show the highest levels of Intelligence services being utilized.

  • Wednesday 31 August 2016 Colin Kaepernick receives support from America’s military veterans

    Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem might have angered NFL team executives, but he received plenty of support from America’s military veterans.

  • JerseyCynic
    Former Army Ranger Rory Fanning on why he and so many other veterans stand with Colin Kaepernick and against police murder.
    “Last week San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem, saying “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.”

    Amid an uproar online and in the media, former Army Ranger Rory Fanning shared a photo of himself at Wrigley Field, refusing to stand for the national anthem as a show of support for Kaepernick’s act. Within two days the photo had been shared one hundred thousand times online. For a time #VeteransForKaepernick was the top trending hashtag on Twitter.

    Fanning served two tours in Afghanistan with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, in the same unit as former NFL star Pat Tillman. In 2009 he walked across the country for the Pat Tillman Foundation. He is currently on an anti-recruitment tour of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union.

    Jacobin contributor Jason Farbman spoke with Fanning about the outpouring of support for Kaepernick, the role of athlete protest, and the connections between sports and the military.

    What made you decide to “sit with Kaepernick?”

    Because he’s right. We know there’s no accountability for police when they murder African Americans at unprecedented rates. Just as the United States has been killing people around the world since 9/11 with impunity, the US state is also killing its own citizens (disproportionately black) with impunity here at home.

    Last year 1,200 people were killed by police — zero of which resulted in convictions for murder or even manslaughter.

    Personally, I have a difficult time standing for the nation anthem. I entered the military fully expecting to be fighting for the cause of freedom and democracy, and trusting that I would be making the world safer after 9/11.

    But once in Afghanistan in January 2003, I quickly learned my job was to draw the Taliban back into the fight. The Taliban surrendered only a few months after the initial US invasion. This is to say nothing about the bait-and-switch invasion of Iraq.

    Between 1980 and 2001, there were around three hundred suicide bombings around the world with only 10 percent directed at the United States or US interests. Since 2001 there’s been more than 2,500 suicide bombs with more than 90 percent directed at the United States and US interests.

    So it’s not just my personal experience, the numbers alone show that the world is far more dangerous after fifteen years of endless American-led war. Since 9/11 we’ve also killed a million people, the vast majority civilians. We are killing brown people with impunity overseas, just like we are killing people of color with impunity here at home.

    Then after returning from Afghanistan I saw how the security state had grown at home. I saw that the United States has the largest prison population in the history of the world, with African Americans (there are a lot of people of color in the military) being disproportionately incarcerated. Public schools are being gutted in every city. The media and politicians barely mention our endless trillion-dollar wars and drone operations.

    One could add many more items to this list of reasons not to stand for the national anthem. Kaepernick chose one, which is incredibly important and on a lot of minds right now.

    He is choosing not to lie to himself, the world, or all the people who thought they died to ensure we lived in a free country, by claiming this is “the land of the free” when it is not. This is the opposite of an insult to those who died thinking they were fighting for liberty.

    And yet initial accounts in the mainstream media portrayed Kaepernick’s act as the self-indulgence of a petulant, spoiled athlete.

    The thought that Kaepernick has nothing to lose is completely wrong. I just spent the last two years working with former Chicago Bulls player Craig Hodges on his memoir. Hodges used his position to fight for justice, leading an attempt to boycott Nike and another to demand President George W. Bush do more to address the needs of black people. Craig was blackballed by the NBA and lost everything as a result.

    We saw the same thing happen to John Carlos after he stood with his fist raised in Mexico in 1968. As Carlos recounts in his autobiography, he too lost everything. So it’s actually a very courageous and risky thing Kaepernick is doing. This is to say nothing about all the threats he’s received.

    I don’t want to see what happened to Hodges and Carlos happen to Kaepernick. This is a big reason why I sat during the national anthem during the Cubs game.

    What was the response like at Wrigley Field?

    Judging from what I saw online I didn’t imagine the response would be good. I prepared myself for beer to be thrown on me, that someone might try to pick a fight, or even that I might be kicked out of the stadium. But actually the response was quite different: next to no pushback from everyone else in the bleachers, all of whom were standing.

    And online, there has been a rising tide of support for Kaepernick — particularly from active duty soldiers and veterans. Why?

    Anyone who’s been to a sports event in this country, or seen one on television, knows full well the connection that is made between sports and military. From the national anthem to the jets flying overhead to the convenient trotting out soldiers to “thank them,” nationalism and “patriotism” is constantly forced down the throats of sports fans.

    14064157_10210723209546573_3037834623485716806_nMany soldiers thought they were going overseas to sacrifice for freedom and democracy. But they are not seeing those ideals being practiced in this country.

    Kaepernick’s protest is resonating with soldiers who feel like they’ve been lied to. One thing that has come across clearly from so many soldiers’ tweets and posts is that soldiers do not feel like they are risking their lives so the state can kill with impunity here in the United States.

    Speaking of the military, you’ve been touring Chicago public schools on an anti-recruitment tour sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union. You’ve spoken with hundreds of students. What have you learned?

    I’ve seen firsthand how public education is being privatized and destroyed. There are also next to no jobs available in the inner city of Chicago. And the military is taking advantage of this. CPS has more kids in the Junior ROTC program than in any other city.

    50 percent of them are black, 45 percent Latino. Of Chicago’s ten thousand students in JROTC, up to 40 percent will actually join the military. If these kids stay in Chicago they face few job prospects and could be killed with impunity.

    With no good options, they are cornered into joining the military where they risk be killed and are certainly being asked to kill brown people. We are not seeing the same sort of recruitment and JROTC kids in wealthier white suburbs.

    Much like veterans, athletes have potential access to platforms from which to draw attention to important political issues that might get overlooked or get misrepresented in the mainstream media. With athletes, that platform is potentially enormous. What might it take to see more athletes speaking out for justice?

    We know by now that there are lots of other professional athletes that have some ideas about the injustice in the world. When those athletes look at those who speak out — like Colin Kaepernick — what lessons do we want them to draw? That if you open your mouth and you say what’s right, that you’ll be attacked viciously and potentially lose everything you’ve worked your entire life for? If that’s the case we shouldn’t expect more athletes to stand up for what’s right; we should expect them to keep their mouths shut.

    We want athletes to see that if they say what’s right, then they’ll be supported by masses of people. That it will do some good. And that’s why I went out to support him and I’ve been so excited to see such an outpouring of support — particularly from people in the military.

  • ClubToTheHead

    I enlisted in 1969 while others did sit-down strikes in protest.

    I got out in 1973 and did my sit-down strikes in a bowling alley
    where all but me would stand for a salute to the flag during the
    national anthem before league play.

    I was so far past that salute and flag shit by then.

    And willing to fight those who would infringe my freedom to sit in
    protest of the lies and uses I had been put to in service of all the
    lying flag wavers from top to bottom.

    It is so very sad that these “heroes” are honored for sacrifices they
    made; when in reality they have been sacrificed by the war parties for
    the profits of imperialism. Martin Luther King Jr. made this point very
    clearly a year before his assassination.

    Patriotism is like a cuckoo’s egg. The parent cares for the cuckoo’s
    egg and then the newly hatched cuckoo pushes the parent’s own offspring
    out of the nest and to their death.