The Third International after Lenin

Sunday, September 4, 2016

On the Star-Spangled Banner

A comrade on Facebook writes:

I'm with Colin Kaepernick without equivocation, and I have no intention of standing for the anthem of Washington's jingoism and brutality. He ranks among a proud tradition of black athletes like John Carlos and Muhammad Ali who've demonstrated exceptional courage confronting imperial arrogance and racism at great personal risk.

But the star-spangled banner isn't about slavery. At all. And those who keep trumpeting that it is are being historically dishonest. I also happen to think that they're doing so to sidestep the real politics of the moment.

Here's a handy translation of the controversial 3rd verse from my friend Steve M.:

"Tories listen up -- white, black, whatever. If you’re thinking about taking up arms for Britain, consider this: We will kill you all. Every judge or rube, slave or Canadian or Indian chief."

With a few exceptions, history doesn't have clear "good" and "bad" actors. The young independent United States was led by slave-owning farmers and an infant capitalist class. That was still the progressive side in a war with the British empire, no matter how many working people were recruited to fight for it.

That poem stood on the right side of history in 1812, just as today rejecting it's reverence does.

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