The Star-Spangled Banner: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

As COVID cases increase and the flu creeps up behind us, professional sports have started to resume play. As customary, people remove their hats, hold their hand over their hearts and sometimes kneel for the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the American national anthem. However, when people listen to “Star-Spangled Banner,” it’s questionable whether they are really listening. Most people don’t think about the origins of and what the national anthem stands for. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

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The Origins

The song performed at significant events was initially a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. His inspiration? “Alone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak” During Pen’s life, the British invaded America, and he witnessed many atrocities. However, in one instance, Pen saw British soldiers bombard Fort McHenry and fail to conquer the fort, and when he looked above the fort, the American flag still stood tall above it. This experience further fortified the patriotism throughout the poem.

This origin story above is what you’d probably hear in the whitewashed American history textbook. While the information may be accurate, it largely ignores the reality of the 1800s. Similar to how President Trump says, “Make America great again,” he’s essentially saying that a country full of exclusivity and prejudice are what made America great. Pen’s “Star-Spangled Banner” perspective of 1800-America ignores the African slaves’ perspective. It ignores the abused and suppressed housewives’ perspective, it ignores the perspective of the disregarded LGBTQ community of early America, and it ignores the Native Americans slain over colonization.

Pen glorifies the American experience by omitting marginalized people’s experiences. In 1814, when Pen wrote his poem, approximately 47,404 African slaves disembarked from slave boats at the American shores. This is on top of the 1,191,362 African slaves already enslaved. I understand that there’s no use complaining about the past, but I certainly will not celebrate it with song. 

When I write “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” I’m referring to the “bad” and the “ugly.” No matter how much textbooks will push it, there’s not much “good” in America’s history besides a handful of exceptional moments. Yes, we gained freedom this and democracy that. However, I believe all of that would’ve come with or without the African Diaspora. And I would’ve preferred the latter. 

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The Lyrics

You’ve heard the national anthem, but have you truly listened? While the entirety of the anthem is ridiculous, in my opinion, here are several lines that stand out the most— you can see all the lyrics here. If you read it, you’ll notice Pen uses joyful, courageous words to describe America in the 1800s.

“What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,”

“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Both lines showcase Pen’s glorification of America. His language depicts Americans as innocently courageous freedom fighters. Cowardness, however, is the word I use to describe pridefully prejudice hypocrites. As stated before, in 1814, 1,191,362 Africans were enslaved when Pen wrote home of the “brave” and land of the “free.”

Statistic: Black and slave population of the United States from 1790 to 1880 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Another few lines that stand out are:

“Blest with vict’ ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

 And this be our motto – ‘In God is our trust.’”

Pen is essentially saying that the early Americans were given their land from God and that God sent the colonists to America to “rescue” it — white savior mentality. Pen continues to claim that the white colonists were given the right to conquer all of the lands in the Americas because God gave them his “blessing.” Pen refers to manifest destiny, which is “the 19th-century doctrine that the expansion of the U.S. throughout the American continents was justified and inevitable.”

In 1492, before Columbus came to not America, there were approximately 54 million inhabitants in North America, according to William Denevan. In 2019, World Population Review reported — based on the U.S. Census Bureau — that 6.79 million Native Americans remained in the U.S. Now I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t see the early colonists as peacekeepers. Moreover, I think that the sheer decline of Native Americans in a country’s otherwise growing population, best shows just how ridiculous and glorified our history books and Pen’s claims are.

A Black person's hand reaching out to a white person's hand.
Photo by Tarun Savvy on Unsplash

One last point that I want to make about the Star-Spangled Banner’s lyrics is how Pen so loosely refers to God and Christianity. I am a Christian, but I believe our nation is the “land of the free,” so by using God’s name in our national anthem, does that not force Christianity on everyone? Our pledge of allegiance does the same thing, and it is tone-deaf and hypocritical to boast religious freedom when the national anthem and pledge honor Christianity’s god.

Of course, there’s nowhere I’d rather live, and there are many, many amazing things about living in the United States, but that doesn’t mean we can forget our past. Our whitewashed history puts white men are the forefront of the United States. In reality, there were women leading revolutions, and Black people building the infrastructures, and indigenous Americans teaching us the lay of the land. I believe our national anthem needs to be revised because it honors said whitewashed history.

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Citations

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Here’s Why Veterans Still Vote For Trump

Election Day, 2020 is 46 days away today, and after the last four years, I still don’t understand how people could have voted for Trump even in 2016. Everyone’s got their excuses, “conservative” politics, and a “good” economy, but his racism was as blatant in 2016 as it is today. However, that’s not what this article is about; today, I beg the question, “How do veterans still support Trump?” Over the last four years, Trump has done nothing for the military besides abuse his power and insult their courageousness. Time and time again, he shows blatant disrespect for our armed forces, and yet, way too many veterans live and breathe to support Trump — and I can’t understand.  

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Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Someone recently pointed out to me— and I guess I knew this— if someone can support Trump through the last four years, they’re never going to change their mind. People are usually good at realizing when someone lies. It’s just a matter of whether we have too much pride to admit our mistakes. There have been quite intriguing studies on the different types of lies and how successful people are at pointing each one out, especially in Trump’s wake. PolitiFact— a website dedicated to uncovering the validity of statements— reports that only 4% of Trump’s claims were valid. Compare that to Obama’s 86% valid claims.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Greater Good Magazine by Berkeley University explains that “blue” lies are “told on behalf of a group that can actually strengthen the bonds between members of that group. “White” lies are “generous,” and “black” lies have selfish intentions. Blue lies fall somewhere between “white” and “black” ones depending on the liar’s intentions. In Trump’s case, he lies because he preys on his supporters’ desire for a “voice” and a community. Therefore, he selfishly lies about anything and everything dealing with liberals, democrats, and anyone else who doesn’t blindly follow him. Jeremy Smith — an editor of the Greater Good Magazine — explains how Trump tells these “blue” lies to bring his supporters together against their mutual “enemy,” democrats.

These “blue” lies are considered a primary reason why Trump was able to win the 2016 election with a campaign based on nothing but lies and empty promises. This assumption is undoubtedly valid about the 2016 election, but what about in 2020? How do veterans still support Trump? “Blue” lies indeed play a role and are extremely powerful because no matter how ridiculous his claims get; his supporters will back it. However, he has openly— and bluntly— insulted everyone who’s served and serving. I thought that insulting John McCain and every other veteran would’ve “drawn a line in the sand,” but I stand corrected. 

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The Stats

According to the MilitaryTimes, Trump’s ratings have fallen due to his recent offensive language.

MilitaryTimes.com

While this is surprisingly good news, the ratings between Trump and Biden are far too close. In this election, “close” guarantees almost nothing, as seen in 2016. So while I won’t complain that only 3.9% more active-duty troops plan to vote for Biden, it’s not enough. Also understand this poll is solely active-duty troops. As for veterans, Pew Research Center found this:

Pew Research Center

With over 50% of veterans supporting Trump, in 2019, unless they had a sudden change in morals, I’m not sure if they’ll ever stop supporting Trump.

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Who Hasn’t Trump Insulted?

I’m going to stick to the last four years because I’d be writing for days if I ranted about Trump’s military insults. In August 2018, John McCain died from brain cancer. McCain was a highly-decorated veteran as well as a prisoner-of-war survivor. He laid his life on the line and experienced a soldier’s — very possible — worst nightmare. Despite his sacrifices, when McCain died, according to three sources — each directly involved with Trump — he said, ‘We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,’ and he became furious, according to witnesses, when he saw flags lowered to half-staff. ‘What the f*ck are we doing that for? Guy was a f*cking loser,’ the president told aides.” Mind you, McCain was republican, with conservative principles, so it wasn’t political. There’s just something utterly inappropriate about Trump’s morals.  

It seems as if every month — or every couple of weeks — some inappropriate comments that Trump said arise. And like everything else he says, it largely goes without protest from his supporters. Earlier this September, it came out that, in reference to visiting a veteran cemetery, Trump said, “Why would I want to go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” And according to The Atlantic, in another conversation referencing the same visit, Trump called the more than 1,800 marines who lay in those graves and sacrificed their lives, “suckers.”

Photo by Holly Mindrup on Unsplash

Trump has insulted just about every social, sexual, economic, and racial group to exist — sometimes multiple at once. Frankly, even the low socioeconomic white class (his biggest supporters) has no practical reason to support him. But if they stuck with him through the last four years of lies and misogyny, then there’s no changing their minds now. The only group in this country I can see having a “practical” reason to vote for him is rich white men, though that would require one to also have no morals. 

I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand why anyone, especially veterans, still support Trump. I guess I’ll toss this one up to the mysteries of human pride — once someone thinks they’re right, it can be impossible to convince them otherwise.

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“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” 

Socrates, Antigone