Taking a Stand
Detours in Life
Mega Post #2
If you live in the United States, then it was very hard to escape the detour in concentration regarding nationally televised professional football games recently. The focus has, quite simply, been detoured from sports and centered on actions, taken or not taken, during the playing of the National Anthem. The speed with which this occurred, stemming from the actions of one player almost one year ago, would give a marketing specialist reason to take notice. Rather than it being something that occurs without much forethought at the start of each game, those ninety-four seconds of the national Anthem suddenly became the most talked about action of the games.
The National Anthem of the United States should, if played and sung in its entirety, take over five minutes but seldom are all four verses sung. Most deem it too lengthy and so, only the first verse is played or sung at games. At the time he penned the verses of his poem, Francis Scott Key was aboard an English ship during the War of 1812, attempting to broker a peaceful resolution. As he stood on board in the harbor of Baltimore a prisoner of war amid the ammunition being volleyed by both sides, he wondered which flag would be waving victorious at dawn. He called his poem “Defiance of Fort McHenry”. The words were later put to a tune composed by John Stafford Smith. Most people only know of Francis Scott Keys and few, if any, know of John Stafford Smith.
John Stafford Smith was a British composer and church organist. His song “The Anacreontic Song” became the melody for the new nation’s anthem which was not officially adopted as the national anthem until 1931. You might be curious as to the irony of a song of spirit to encourage independence being composed by a member of the enemy country. It is a rather interesting detour. John Stafford Smith belonged to the Anacreon Society, a group of amateur musicians who were bonded by their love of music. The name of their society came from the name of a Greek poet known for his drinking songs and hymns. The young nation was a group of amateur politicians – many simple farmers elected by their neighbors to defend their rights. Few had served in the British Parliament so the appeal of another amateur group is certainly understandable.
In the fourth verse of Francis Scott Keys’ poem is the line “free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.” It should be noted that only someone white (Caucasian or of European descent), male and over the age of 21 could be considered a “free man”. This is the only place in a legal document that mentions standing in connection to the National Anthem, by the way. There are codes of conduct and protocol for the playing of the anthem as well as showing respect for the flag of the USA but standing is never nor has it ever been a requirement.
During the 2016-17 professional football season a player became distraught over the way he perceived people of color were being treated and how the disproportionate number of their deaths was being ignored. He wanted to pay tribute to these American citizens that he felt were being forgotten. Out of respect he did what many in Congress do at official meetings during the playing of the National Anthem – he sat down. A team player noticed this and after much discussion together, the player decided to kneel instead of sitting. His sitting was never noticed but his kneeling was and it created a media storm that has escalated over the past ten months to the past ten days, in part because of a politician who needed something to get a crowd interested. In a state with more football championships than most and no professional teams, he highlighted this player’s actions in a negative light.
To fully understand the rights of the American citizen and just who is considered an American citizenship who would be expected to show respect to the National Anthem, we need to look at a timeline of citizenship. In the beginning a citizen had to be male and own property to vote. In 1791 this was changed to all white males so that they could vote even if they did not own property. In 1795 free white persons could become citizens after living in the U.S. for five years but still only men could vote. In 1848 approximately 80,000 Mexican residents of the Southwest were granted citizenship after the Mexican-American war. In 1857, because of the Dred Scott v. Sandford case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that African Americans who were brought into this country as slaves could never be citizens. Please read that last sentence again because many do not realize a specific law denied forever these victims of slavery from becoming US citizens.
In 1868 the 14th Amendment overruled the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, giving citizenship to African Americans. Citizenship did not, however, mean they could vote. Still only white males could vote. In 1870 laws were changed to say that white persons and persons of African descent could be citizens and the 15th Amendment gave African American males the right to vote. In 1913 California and other states enacted the Alien Land Laws which prohibited non-citizens from owning property. In 1920 the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote. Then, in 1924, all Native Americans were granted citizenship; most states prohibited them from voting, however. During the 1940’s, all laws banning Asians from becoming citizens were overturned. In 1947 Native Americans were given the right to vote but many states put obstacles such as literacy tests in their path and many were unable to vote.
In 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march to protest lack of voting rights, and the Voting Rights Act was enacted to get rid of all barriers to voting (literacy tests, taxes, etc.). The last change to citizenship and voting laws occurred in 1971 when the voting age was changed to 18 by the 26th Amendment. It should be recognized that the Voting Rights Act did not just benefit African Americans. Finally, all people of color were to be treated as equals.
Corrie Ten Bloom once asked: “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Many consider the most devout evidence of prayer to be kneeling. In the earliest churches, prayer was done most solemnly when the person praying was prone. In mosques worldwide, men pray in a semi-reclining position, on their knees with the torso laying outward and down. Many churches of a historic episcopate use kneelers in their churches and people pray as a sign of devotion and obedience.
Last week many teams took to their knees; others stood solemnly with arms joined. It was the first time in my life I had seen entire teams show respect while the National Anthem was played. It should be noted that no stadium closes its concession stands during the playing of the National Anthem. Public restrooms remain open as do ticket agents and sports memorabilia stands.
Showing patriotism is much more that simply wearing a red, white, and blue outfit or combining stars with stripes. Wednesday we will discuss Corrie Ten Bloom and how a respectful Christian came to be detoured to a concentration camp during WWII. For now, I ask you to ponder her query. I hope the respectful action of one professional football player has become your own personal steering wheel in thinking about your own patriotism and how it is displayed. Loyalty to the concept of freedom for all and those who teach it, protect it, and live it certainly deserves much more than merely being derailed by some politician’s spare hot air.