The anti-Muslim origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”

The Washington establishment counts on the ignorance of the American public to its own history.

From Sam Husseini

August 30, 2016

As several writers have noted — before and after the furor surrounding quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” — the national anthem is racist. Specifically, the third stanza:
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.

Even less well know, the song originates in slaveowner Francis Scott Key’s “When the Warrior Returns” — which was set to the same tune.

As Alex Cockburn, the deceased and much missed co-editor of CounterPunch, noted following President Obama’s much celebrated 2009 address in Cairo:

An early version of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key, written in 1805 amid the routing of the Barbary states, offered a view of Islam markedly different from Obama’s uplifting sentiments in Cairo:

In conflict resistless each toil they endur’d,

Till their foes shrunk dismay’d from the war’s desolation:

And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscur’d

By the light of the star-bangled flag of our nation.

Where each flaming star gleamed a meteor of war,

And the turban’d head bowed to the terrible glare.

Then mixt with the olive the laurel shall wave

And form a bright wreath for the brow of the brave.

In 1814 Key rehabbed this doggerel into the Star Spangled Banner. So America’s national anthem began as a gleeful tirade against the Mahommedans. And of course every member of the U.S. Marine Corps regularly bellows out the USMC anthem, beginning “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”

In short, America’s march to Empire was minted in the crucible of anti-Islamic sentiment. (One admirer of this early chapter in America’s imperial confrontations with Islam is that ardent Crusader, C. Hitchens who cites Joshua London’s Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation, on the origins of the Star Spangled Banner.)

I actually first learned of the racism in the national anthem from Alex Cockburn’s 1987 book Corruptions of Empire, which features a splendid cover.
Note to illustration on the front of jacket: In August 1814, a British raiding party led by Admiral Sir George Cockburn launched an attack on Washington. They set fire to the Capitol, then proceeded to the White House and, before setting fire to it, consumed a meal set out by Dolly Madison which had been abandoned by the fugitive President and his family. Cockburn next proceeded to the offices of The National Intelligence to avenge himself on the press which had abused him. He ordered his men to destroy the paper’s printing types, saying ‘Be sure that all the Cs are destroyed so that the rascals cannot any longer abuse my name’. Cockburn then laid siege to Baltimore, the unsuccessful fusillades prompting the composition of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, whose reference to ‘the hireling and slave’ in the British force alludes, as Robin Blackburn points out in The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, to the fact that Cockburn had offered freedom to all slaves who would join him in his attacks of 1813 and 1814. According to a British report these slaves conducted themselves very well and ‘were uniformly volunteers for the Station where they might expect to meet their former masters.’ Some of these black recruits were in the party that burned the White House”
Alex’s brothers Andrew and Patrick have also written about this.

This highlights the darkest heart of the United States, eager to assault indigenous people — be they African or natives of what we call “America” or Berbers or Arab or whoever. Native Americans, who are perceived as having been defeated, can now be romanticized to an extent, while Arabs and Muslims who are not eager to roll over for U.S. establishment power are demonized. It also highlights that racism and violent nationalist identity are closely intertwined and attempts at separating the two may well be mere cover for both.

http://husseini.posthaven.com/the-anti-muslim-origins-of-the-star-spangled-banner

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Colin Kaepernick is righter than you know: the American national anthem is a celebration of slavery

From the Intercept

by
2016-08-28

Before a preseason game on Friday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When he explained why, he only spoke about the present: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Twitter then went predictably nuts, with at least one 49ers fan burning Kaepernick’s jersey.

Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.

Few people know this because we only ever sing the first verse. But read the end of the third verse and you’ll see why “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not just a musical atrocity, it’s an intellectual and moral one, too:

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.

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” Americans hazily remember, was written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. But we don’t ever talk about how the War of 1812 was a war of aggression that began with an attempt by the U.S. to grab Canada from the British Empire.

However, we’d wildly overestimated the strength of the U.S. military. By the time of the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814, the British had counterattacked and overrun Washington, D.C., setting fire to the White House.

And one of the key tactics behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves. As a detailed 2014 article in Harper’s explains, the orders given to the Royal Navy’s Admiral Sir George Cockburn read:

Let the landings you make be more for the protection of the desertion of the Black Population than with a view to any other advantage. … The great point to be attained is the cordial Support of the Black population. With them properly armed & backed with 20,000 British Troops, Mr. Madison will be hurled from his throne.

Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their “owners.” Adult men were trained to create a regiment called the Colonial Marines, who participated in many of the most important battles, including the August 1814 raid on Washington.

Then on the night of September 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry. Key, seeing the fort’s flag the next morning, was inspired to write the lyrics for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.

With that in mind, think again about the next two lines: “And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The reality is that there were human beings fighting for freedom with incredible bravery during the War of 1812. However, “The Star-Spangled Banner” glorifies America’s “triumph” over them — and then turns that reality completely upside down, transforming their killers into the courageous freedom fighters.

After the U.S. and the British signed a peace treaty at the end of 1814, the U.S. government demanded the return of American “property,” which by that point numbered about 6,000 people. The British refused. Most of the 6,000 eventually settled in Canada, with some going to Trinidad, where their descendants are still known as “Merikins.”

Furthermore, if those leading the backlash against Kaepernick need more inspiration, they can get it from Francis Scott Key’s later life.

By 1833, Key was a district attorney for Washington, D.C. As described in a book called Snowstorm in August by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, the police were notorious thieves, frequently stealing free blacks’ possessions with impunity. One night, one of the constables tried to attack a woman who escaped and ran away — until she fell off a bridge across the Potomac and drowned.

There is neither mercy nor justice for colored people in this district,” an abolitionist paper wrote. “No fuss or stir was made about it. She was got out of the river, and was buried, and there the matter ended.”

Key was furious and indicted the newspaper for intending “to injure, oppress, aggrieve & vilify the good name, fame, credit & reputation of the Magistrates & constables of Washington County.”

You can decide for yourself whether there’s some connection between what happened 200 years ago and what Colin Kaepernick is angry about today. Maybe it’s all ancient, meaningless history. Or maybe it’s not, and Kaepernick is right, and we really need a new national anthem.

https://theintercept.com/2016/08/28/colin-kaepernick-is-righter-than-you-know-the-national-anthem-is-a-celebration-of-slavery/

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Swanson: Protests of the national anthem restore my faith in humanity

From David Swanson
August 31, 2016

Speaking out against racism is one thing — and a wonderful and admirable thing it is — but choosing to do so by sitting out the U.S. national anthem, and then having others join in, or “come out” as routine national anthem sitters: this is fantastic!

A self-governing republic of thinking people (whose first thought should be “My god, what are we doing to the rest of the planet with all this pollution and all these wars?”) ought to have no use for mandatory flag worship, required hand positions, or enforced recitations of pledges of allegiance to colored bits of cloth. Or if only some people outgrow such practices, others ought to leave them alone about it.

The protest thus far is severely limited, of course. The primary reason that it is useful to break down required patriotism rituals is their intimate connection to militarism. Yet many are claiming other motives and swearing their steadfast allegiance to militarism. That’s OK. It’s still an enormous step, and one that thousands are thanking Colin Kaepernick for taking.

Of course the endless wars abroad fuel racism at home, and vice versa. The endless military budget unloads free war weapons on police, and free trainers in war mentality. The bombs dropped abroad still explode in the ghetto. And militarists are claiming just the opposite, in support of Kaepernick, alleging that bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya somehow creates Kaepernick’s “freedom” to sit out the national anthem while catching hell mostly from enthusiastic war supporters. Nonetheless, breaking a taboo is a tremendous first step to be followed by many more.

My concern with the national anthem and all such related ceremonies is chiefly the obedience and subservience to symbols of mass murder. But secondarily, the lyrics of the full song, and the earlier version of it, are absolutely unacceptable. That the third verse celebrates killing people who had just escaped from slavery, that the earlier version celebrated killing Muslims, and that the lyricist himself, Francis Scott Key, owned people as slaves and supported police killings of African Americans while shouting about “freedom” — these are all insurmountable hurdles if you’re trying to get me to respect or identify with this song that, let’s face it, is also awful as a piece of music.

But strip the song down to its current first verse, and it remains a celebration of war, of the mass killing of human beings, of a war of conquest that failed to take over Canada and instead got the White House burned. And during the course of that valorous piece of blood-soaked stupidity, Key witnessed a battle in which human beings died but a flag survived. And I’m supposed to stand, like an obedient mindless robot, and worship that glorious incident, and it’s supposed to matter what I do with my hand, but not what I do with my brain?

Nations don’t have to find their whole identity in war. The United States could celebrate democratic advances, heroic activists, rights won for all variety of previously disfavored groups. We could sing a song about creative nonviolence, generosity, bravery, kindness, and natural beauty. We could sing a song that offered friendship to the other 96% of humanity. We could have a widely covered national contest for the best new song, and perhaps bump these two hideous presidential candidates off the airwaves for a few moments.

Instead, it’s the Star Mangled Banner over and over and over. And, yes, I’ve been sitting it out for years. Welcome, Colin. We’ve been waiting for you.

http://davidswanson.org/node/5258
http://warisacrime.org/content/protests-national-anthem-restore-my-faith-humanity