What Makes a Patriot?

by Christian Mobley

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Today, more and more people across the nation are protesting against our National Anthem. The protests, started by San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, are to bring forth attention to the injustices in America towards not only African-Americans, but to minorities as a whole.

Not long after his first protest, people nationwide were quick to call Kaepernick “racist” and “anti-American”. High school athletes across the nation in states such as Alabama and New Jersey,  whom have protested against the Anthem, have been faced with suspensions or other forms of punishment, infringing their constitutional right to free speech.

Regardless of their playing level or social status, all these individuals share one thing: they are being called “unpatriotic” for expressing their freedom of speech against an anthem with a racist and bigoted history.

To understand the purpose of protesting the Anthem itself, one must look back at the history of The Star Spangled Banner. Most people only know the first stanza of The Star Spangled Banner, and are unaware of there being three more stanzas to our National Anthem. However, the third stanza is the most shocking, showing the prejudice held by the author, Francis Scott Key, through an excerpt of his lyrics:

“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 washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”

Now, to truly comprehend the meaning behind these lyrics, you have to understand who Key was and what his beliefs were. Francis Scott Key was lieutenant during the Civil War and save for a few exceptions, he was your run-of-the-mill man of the time, being about as pro-slavery, anti-black, and anti-abolitionist as one could be.

One thing to note as well is Key’s opposition towards the Colonial Marines, an army of runaway slaves whom were promised freedom for fighting with the British.

At one point in his service, his squad was even attacked by the Colonial Marines, furthering his hatred and opposition of African-Americans.

Despite his song being an almost “alright” attempt at being Patriotic, the third stanza of The Star Spangled Banner undermines it all by basically saying that the bloodshed of all the former slaves and other “hirelings” during the war will “wash away” the pollution of the British army.

Sure, you could argue that protesting against the National Anthem, one of the most “American” things (next to obesity and a flaky education system), is the farthest thing from being patriotic. This leads to the question: What truly makes a patriot? Is it extravagant barbecues on the Fourth of July? Or is it waving an American flag from the back of your lifted truck as you fly down the highway? The short answer to these are yes.

However, there’s more to being a patriot than what the surface allows to be seen. With the help of a quick internet search and we come upon the textbook definition of “patriot” – “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” Now couldn’t you say standing up against a racist regime and anthem is a form of “defending” the American people from those who commit the crimes against humanity, a.k.a our “detractors”?

Regardless, I believe that standing up for justice among the weak is one of the most Patriotic things an American citizen can do, and out of context that is exactly what Kaepernick and those following in his footsteps (such as Megan Rapinoe, Brandon Marshall, and Robert Quinn) are doing; standing up for those who have been beaten down time and time again by the social injustices inflicted upon them throughout our country’s deep dark history.

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