Let me suggest something: if the national anthem is giving Americans problems, let’s tweak it.
Colin Kaepernick’s problems with the national anthem run deep. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” says the San Francisco quarterback, who refuses to stand when it’s played. A lot of people—some of them journalists—don’t like to hear such talk from football players, so to bolster his case, some of Kaepernick’s partisans have put their finger on the lines where the national anthem becomes inarguably unacceptable. True enough, these lines show up in a third verse that a week ago I had no idea existed (nor did Kaepernick, I bet). Nevertheless, they go:
. . . 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.
Exegetes explain that Francis Scott Key, a slave owner, was pointing a racist finger directly at slaves who, to gain their freedom, fought on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War.
If those lines are part of the problem, we’re not far from a solution. My friend and Reader contributor Albert Williams just reminded us on Facebook of patriotic lines infinitely closer to all our hearts, the ones written by Emma Lazarus and inscribed on a bronze plaque on the Statue of Liberty:
. . . “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Williams said he learned these lines as a child. No one can say the same about the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner. I suggest we replace those egregious lines no one knows with lines inspired by Lazarus. For instance:
… And the wretch’d refugee, all who yearn to breathe free,
to the flag’s golden door, there to stand beside me. . .
We can shake on the change, let Kaepernick do what he wants, and play ball.