Oh, say can you see,
by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed
at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched,
were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled
banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free
and the home of the brave?
A simple poem that was written in 1812 and later set to music that has come to mean so much to the citizens now known as Americans. Normally I avoid getting into political issues especially online. However, I feel the need to say my piece on this particular issue.
Starting in 2016, we began to see a string of NFL players kneeling rather than standing as the Star-Spangled Banner rang out over the stadium. Their goal being to bring about a peaceful protest about racial inequality in our country. Immediate outrage was their result. Since the first incident, more and more players have taken up this protest. The protest has gained so much ground in the past three years that other sports teams began kneeling as well. Hockey, baseball, soccer, and basketball teams are all kneeling. The protest has even made its way into college and high school teams.
This trend has caused severe outrage across the country and does not appear to be losing any momentum. In response to public outcry, President Trump in 2017 began encouraging the NFL team owners to fire the kneeling players and encourage fans to walk out when it happens. The backlash from this was more directed at Trump’s complete disregard for the player’s first amendment rights than at the players themselves but his response was as such because, as much of the country would agree, the players are disrespecting the flag and the country.
Now before I go on I feel the need to clarify that I myself do believe that these people have every right to protest and that they are being peaceful and should not be met with harm. I do not however agree with the method they have chosen to use.
Let us return to that lovely little poem we started with. In 1812, the barely formed United States went to war with Britain again. On September 5th, 1812, two men approached the Britiish fleet in hopes of negotiating with them over a friend’s life who was scheduled to be hanged for refusing to help the British soldiers as they attempted to take down Fort McHenry. The fort was the last defense for Baltimore located in the Baltimore Harbor. At this point, if the fort was taken, the US would be over before it had really even started. Arriving amongst the British fleet, the two men were able to convince them to spare the life of their friend but because they now knew where the British ships were and had the possibility of over hearing their plans for attack, all three men were held back from going to shore. After nine days stuck in the harbor, the three men were finally allowed back to shore as the British gave up realizing they weren’t going to be able to take the fort. Among these three men, was Francis Scott Key, a Lawyer and the Author of the poem that we see above.
The morning that the british gave up, Francis Scott Key looked out across the water and saw a familiar sight. The American Flag rising over the fort as it did every morning. The difference in this instance was that Key had spent the entirety of the night listening to bombs and cannons going off and was unable to see anything beyond the glow of the rockets being fired at the fort because of the heavy smoke they were creating. He had a fear that the fort wouldn’t be able to hold against the attack. The rising of the flag like every other day gave the lawyer all the information he needed to know that they hadn’t lost like he had worried. Approximately a week later, the poem based off of his experience was published in a newspaper and titled Defense of Fort M’Henry. Not long after that, Key’s brother-in-law took the poem and set it to the tune of a rather risque song. The new combination was published as the Star-Spangled Banner. It wasn’t until March 3rd, 1931 that the song was officially adopted as the National Anthem having beaten out, “Hail, Columbia” My Country, Tis of Thee,” and “America the Beautiful.”
Because of the background of this song, we as Americans can’t agree if the song is a tribute to the Military forces that protect our nation or just a tribute to all of us and our flag. This is an argument that I feel is silly at best. The song has no hidden meaning. It is a poem recounting the experiences of one man during a pivotal battle in our young nation’s history. Barely having been our own country we were already at risk of losing what so many of us had already fought and died to achieve. This song is about the perseverance it took for us to make it through one night. Our refusal to give up, and the struggles we faced to be able to make it to this point.
We are at a point now where we are allowing what these players to deface something we are so proud of as a nation. There are plenty of other ways to protest in our country. We encourage it because we fought so hard to be able to freely do it. However, there is no reason for the level of disrespect being shown to our nation by these athletes. There may be inequality in our country, there may be a lot of injustice in it. But there is always inequality and injustice to someone, somewhere in the world. In order to be able to overcome this and be able to call yourself an American, we have to accept that some things are sacred. There have been arguments over the Pledge of Allegiance because it says God. There are petitions to take down monuments recognizing Confederate leaders because they didn’t support our one nation. There is nothing that has been said about the National Anthem because it in no way offends a single American anywhere in our country.
There is no way to force these athletes to stop what they are doing. In a way they are utilizing the American spirit and fighting for what they believe in and we have to admire that. The issue is that their fight is attacking one of the few things that we all acknowledge to be truly one hundred percent America. Because of this we cannot just stand by and allow their behavior to go without notice. Seeing as three years has past and nothing has been able to slow them down perhaps it is time to stop waiting on someone else to fix this issue. I want to challenge the little people in our country to stand up, or rather kneel down. But do not view your kneeling as a forfeit to their cause. We do not need to kneel in support of them. Kneel down in honor of America. Kneel for the soldiers that have lost everything to give us what we have. Kneel in front of the graves of the fallen and the lost. Kneel for those who cannot stand because they are wheelchair bound. Why should we tower over them anyway, are they not Americans too? Kneel in thanks to the family that has had to learn to survive without a loved one even for just a short time.
Once upon a time, kneeling was a sign of respect to King and Queens, Lords and Ladies. Even today people bow as a sign of respect to one another. I say that if it was once a sign of respect, we have the power to use it in that way. Take back the motion from these athletes. Peacefully protest their actions by showing them that it is not the way. Kneel before your fellow Americans and proudly kneel for the National Anthem and all it stands for. Kneel for the pride of the USA.