The anthem is anathema to me

Now is the time for all good citizens to come to the aid of some clarity.

I am puzzled by the conflation of our national anthem with the notion that it particularly represents respect for military personnel and veterans. Each of the five branches of our armed forces has its own official anthem. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not one of them. (“NFL doesn't enact anthem policy, but Roger Goodell says 'We believe everyone should stand',” Oct. 18).

On Celebrating Bravery: “The home of the brave” hardly refers exclusively to our military. This celebrates a virtue of all we, the people — first responders of all stripes, including swimming lifeguards, babysitters who risk their lives to fight off home invaders, schoolteachers in the face of violent threats, and social critics and dissenters from Paine, to Thoreau, to the unemployed Colin Kaepernick.

On Celebrating Chicanery: We cannot simply ignore the third verse, inspired by Key’s manifest and documented disdain for free blacks. This stanza, fully part and parcel of the anthem, is aimed at the Colonial Marines, a battalion of runaway slaves who joined with the British Royal Army (“the hirelings”), so brave as to fight in exchange for their freedom (an opportunity not afforded them by our United States Army):

“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.”

There has been no indication that Mr. Kaepernick’s protest was directed at the despicable lyrics, per se, of our current national anthem. His protest would seem aimed, understandably and rightly, at any anthem which suggests false pride in a belief that all is well in our society.

Available alternatives are manifold. My mother, a music teacher, advocated “This Land is Your Land,” and “America the Beautiful,” either of which connotes aspirations of unity considerably more laudable, positive, and fair-minded.

If you wish to stand for the star-spangled bigotry — partly a celebration of miscreant, racist values and beliefs, a celebration of hate speech — your behavior during its performance, along with Mr. Kaepernick’s, remains legally protected as your constitutional right, and cannot be statutorily constrained.

As for me, I won’t stand for it. But this posture I’ll readily revise, to join any chorus praying, “And crown thy good with brotherhood/From sea to shining sea!”

Brian Raila, Parkville

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