Knowing the Star-Spangled Banner lyrics

Oliver Wendell Holmes

I have heard this story multiple times over many years. But I’ve never been able to verify it to my satisfaction. I’ve been told that knowing the Star-Spangled Banner lyrics beyond the first verse could get one killed.

This is, specifically, a World War II tale. When a presumed fellow American soldier came through the terrain, the guards wanted to know if they were truly Yanks as claimed. If they knew the latter verses of the national anthem, they would be summarily shot. The theory was that NO one knows those except a spy feigning to be from the USA.

Good thing I wasn’t there because I would be dead. In fact, in our elementary school, Daniel S. Dickinson, our music teacher had us singing a panoply of patriotic songs, such as Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean. Plus the standard fare: America, America The Beautiful, Yankee Doodle, and The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.

So I know the second and fourth verses. Yeah, that last one IS rather Manifest Destiny. “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto – ‘In God is our trust.'”

The hireling and slave?

But to the best of my recollection, our songbook did not include that third verse, so I didn’t know it, though I was aware of its existence:

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 wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
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.

What the heck does THAT all mean? A conversation in the Washington Post may enlighten.

Scorn

“These lyrics are a clear reference to the Colonial Marines, according to Jefferson Morley, author of ‘Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835.’ They are clearly meant to scorn and threaten the African Americans who took the British up on their offer, he wrote in a recent essay for The Washington Post. Key surely knew about the Colonial Marines, and it’s even possible he saw them among the contingent of British ships that sailed into Baltimore Harbor.

“But Mark Clague, a musicologist at the University of Michigan and an expert on the anthem, disagrees. In 2016, he told the New York Times: ‘The reference to slaves is about the use, and in some sense the manipulation, of Black Americans to fight for the British, with the promise of freedom.’ He also noted that Black people fought on the American side of the war as well.

“Whether manipulation or not, the British kept their word to Colonial Marines after the war, refusing the United States’ demand that they be returned and providing them land in Trinidad and Tobago to resettle with their families. Their descendants, called ‘Merikins,’ still live there today.”

FSK

As for the writer of the poem, “And even if these lyrics aren’t meant to be explicitly racist, Key clearly was. He descended from a wealthy plantation family and enslaved people. He spoke of Black people as ‘a distinct and inferior race’ and supported emancipating the enslaved only if they were immediately shipped to Africa, according to Morley.”

Oh, it gets worse. “During the Andrew Jackson administration, Key served as the district attorney for Washington, D.C., where he spent much of his time shoring up enslavers’ power. He strictly enforced slave laws and prosecuted abolitionists who passed out pamphlets mocking his jurisdiction as the ‘land of the free, home of the oppressed.’

“He also influenced Jackson to appoint his brother-in-law chief justice of the United States. You may have heard of him; Roger B. Taney is infamous for writing the Dred Scott decision [1857] that decreed Black people “had no rights which the White man was bound to respect.'”

Confederate victory

It’s interesting that Key’s “overt racism” prevented the famous song from becoming the national anthem during Key’s lifetime. There was no official anthem. People sang various other songs such as the ones I referenced earlier.

“Key’s anthem gained popularity over time, particularly among post-Reconstruction White Southerners and the military…
After the misery of World War I, the lyrics were again controversial for their violence. But groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy fought back, pushing for the song to be made the official national anthem. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover made it so.

“‘The elevation of the banner from popular song to official national anthem was a neo-Confederate political victory, and it was celebrated as such,’ Morley wrote. ‘When supporters threw a victory parade in Baltimore in June 1931, the march was led by a color guard hoisting the Confederate flag.'”

Civil War reply

A little-known, unofficial fifth verse was written a half-century later by poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, clearly a response to the American Civil War. It was new to me.

When our land is illum’d with Liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down, with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchain’d who our birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

1972: fighting against the war

a near-sighting

The diary discusses fighting against the war. April 22: the Okie, Uthaclena, Fred, Alice, and Fran drive down to NYC. The Okie was a peace/antiwar demonstration virgin. She was annoyed by the various organizations selling or giving away their newspapers. Uthaclena, conversely, enjoyed getting the unsolicited literature.

We started marching and chanting. The crowd yelled to the onlookers to join us. Though some people waved and gave the peace sign, it was understandable that no one wanted to join us in that cold and wet weather. Of course, a lot of police, some on horses, especially around an Armed Forces building. The crowd cheered loudly when our event made the Allied Chemical Building news.

We finally finished the 40-block walk. Walked through a Nedick’s to maybe get a better view of the speakers, but could see nothing, and the others were cold and tired, so we took a couple of subways from 42nd Street to a Woolworth’s, where Fred and Alice bought raincoats. Then we walked the few blocks to the car, except Alice who took the bus to Poughkeepsie for an event.

Back over the George Washington Bridge, we stopped for a bathroom on the Palisades Parkway. We heard on the radio John Lennon and Yoko Ono spoke at the demonstration, estimated to have had 30,000 to 50,000 participants.

The diary gap

As I noted, some of the diaries were destroyed in a flood in an apartment I lived in during the latter 1990s. Unfortunately one covered May 5 through September 6. This covered three of the most significant events in my life. I remember them, of course, but I wanted more details, more context. Ah well.

Haiphong

When Haiphong harbor in Vietnam was mined, announced on Monday, May 8, it was perceived as an escalation of the Vietnam war. One can debate the efficacy of the strategy in retrospect, but few events in the US antiwar movement galvanized so many people.

My recollection is that my professors at SUNY New Paltz, at least, were understanding and some even sympathetic to the cause that got the students to cease attending their classes.

An attempt to stop traffic on the New York State Thruway – I believe I was riding with Uthaclena – ended relatively quickly on Tuesday.

Our appearance at a demonstration at the United Nations on Thursday was stymied by a too-late bus whether this was intentional on the part of the charter bus company, we would never know. Still, some picketed in front of the armed forces recruitment center.

As I said

Much of this I  wrote about a decade ago. “A large demonstration near the draft board in Kingston, NY was held on Friday.” The board closed preemptively. “The following day, the front page of the newspaper, the Kingston Freeman, had a picture of me and a couple of other people sitting in front of the building. The quality (or reproduction) of the photo was so poor, though, that I didn’t even recognize myself.

“The pivotal event that week was a demonstration at IBM Poughkeepsie on Wednesday, May 10, which building something called the IBM 360. In 1972, the idea of computers programmed to help kill people was quite upsetting to many folks; think an early version of today’s drones. In any case, there were about 360 people protesting – I don’t know if that were actually true or apocryphal.”

Custody

“At some point, we were warned if we walked past a certain point, we would be arrested. It was almost a dare, in its tone. As it turned out, twelve people were detained that day. One guy was charged with disturbing the peace, and his bail was set at $50. Everyone else was charged with fourth-degree criminal trespass, much to the chagrin of the district attorney, who was seeking a stiffer charge; 10 of the 11 got out on $25 bail. The 11th person, my friend Alice, had been arrested and convicted at a previous event, was fined $48, and had not paid it. Her bail was set at $250, and she opted not to pay it, and stayed in jail until the trial, eight days later.

“Did I mention I was one of those arrested?” In fact, I noticed, in looking at the Freeman in Newspapers.com, that a number were arrested around the area that month in various demonstrations, including a guy I got arrested with named Michael. The Associated Press said that as of May 11, over 250 people had been arrested for antiwar activities.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine

Paddington Bear

Flag_map_of_Ukraine_from_2014I’ve wanted to write something about Ukraine because the process helps my understanding. But it’s difficult when it is an ever-shifting situation. And what could I add that everyone else hasn’t said? The Weekly Sift guy indicated as much, yet this week, shared his thoughts.

I consider the possibility that I’m quite wrong about this. But I’m finding a smattering of hope in the midst of the barbaric actions by Russia. And much of it has to do with the improbable Volodymyr Zelenskyy [one Y or two?], who Newsweek says united divided Americans against Putin.

The comic actor, who was elected in 2019, was “increasingly viewed as out of [his] depth on the political stage. However, war leader Zelensky has changed all that. His defiant social media videos and determination to remain in Kyiv have won him old and new fans. Natasha Kuhrt, of King’s College London, [explained] how Zelensky’s government represented ‘a counterpoint to the authoritarian regime next door,’ and the president’s bravery is a ‘David and Goliath’ story playing into the Ukrainian president’s hands.”

Putin as an alarm clock

The United States seemingly had disdain for NATO under its previous guy.  The West Was a Sleeping Giant — And Putin Just Woke It Up. “The ferocity of the Western response to Russia’s illegal, criminal, repellent war of aggression will go down in history… The West has united around the goal of taking Russia out of the league of modern democracies — a place in which it never belonged in the first place. The world is literally realigning itself. Against Russia.

“[Putin has] outlined his goals — and they are genuinely frightening. He wants a Third Reich for Russia — the first one being Tsarist Russia, the second being the USSR. The Third Reich he wants is a kind of fascist empire for Russia.”

Indeed, CBS Sunday Morning’s Mo Rocco interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum “about the long history of oppression of the Ukrainian people by Czarist and Soviet forces (including the ‘Holodomor’ famine perpetrated by Stalin), and now by the war machines of Putin.” Remarkable then are the massive anti-war rallies by the Russian people “amid ominous threats by Putin.”

Media and sports

Netflix is declining to carry Russian state channels. This is significant because, in December 2021, the country’s communications regulator required Netflix and like entities “to carry 20 major Russian federal television channels, many of which carry pro-Putin propaganda,” starting on March 1, 2022. The propaganda machine is crashing down. Disney and Warner Brothers are suspending movie releases there; no The Batman for you, Russia!

The National Hockey League is suspending business and social media ties, as well as “banning Russia as a location for competitions involving its players.” Russia is excluded from “competing in international ice skating events… after being kicked out of soccer competitions and hockey — Vladimir Putin’s favorite sport. The decisions follow the International Olympic Committee’s request to keep Russian athletes out of sporting events around the world. The International Skating Union… said no athletes from Russia or Belarus shall be invited or allowed to participate in events until further notice.”

Meanwhile, companies such as Microsoft are attempting to support the Ukrainian technological infrastructure.  Ukraine universities were hacked by players identified as supporting the Russian invasion.

But what about

ZelenskyyIn some quarters, I’ve read criticism “about the amount of media coverage the war in Ukraine has received compared to conflicts in Iran, Yemen, Guatemala, Sudan, and elsewhere. And it’s not entirely inaccurate. Yemen, for certain, is a proxy war between the US/Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a clear humanitarian disaster.

Still, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell stated the situation clearly. “what Putin is doing is not only a grave violation of international law, it is a violation of the basic principles of human coexistence. With his choice to bring war back to Europe, we see the return of the ‘law of the jungle’ where might makes right. The target is not only Ukraine, but the security of Europe and the whole international rules-based order, based on the UN system and international law.

“The international community will now in response opt for full-scale isolation of Russia, to hold Putin accountable for this aggression. We are sanctioning those who finance the war, crippling the Russian banking system and its access to international reserves.” Even China abstained from the UN Security Council vote sanctioning Russia.

Mostly on the same page

Most Americans are on the same page about this situation. There are disagreements about the timing of sanctions and the like, but most find Russia clearly at fault.

There are outliers. US Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) was ‘scorched for claiming Dems weakened Ukraine by impeaching Trump: ‘FBI Warned You’. And an Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers says the “EU is building a new ‘Third Reich’ in its defense of Ukraine.” This is someone getting her talking points from Putin. For those with short memories, remember the extortion of Ukraine. Mr. Brunelle has a solution to Putin’s financial problems.

While smashing vodka bottles won’t stop Putin’s tanks, it helps galvanize people.  The Boston Globe recommends these entities to contribute to. Razom for Ukraine, based in New York, is sending items like tourniquets, bandages, and satellite phones. United Help Ukraine in Maryland is supplying money, food, and medical supplies. Sunflower of Peace in Belmont, Mass., is sending first aid medical tactical backpacks to paramedics and doctors on the front lines.

Check out Understanding Ukraine: The Problems Today and Some Historical Context by John Green from exactly eight years ago.  Listen to Alcion by Ukrainian composer Aleksandr Shymko. The movements are titled: “Beyond Words”, “One Hour to Live”, “The End of Sorrow”, and “On the Edge of Everything”. Meanwhile, I’ll go watch one of those Paddington Bear movies, with the title character voiced by Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Veterans for New Americans

Starting with Lafayette

Veterans for a New AmericaAfter Colin Powell died, I was reminded that there have long been people who have been immigrants and/or non-citizens who have joined the US military. I found a link titled Veterans for New Americans with a Non-Citizens in the U.S. Military Fact Sheet.

“To join the U.S. military, non-citizens must be living permanently and legally in the United States. Non-citizens must also have permission to work in the United States, possess an I-551 (Permanent Residence Card), have obtained a high school diploma, and speak English…

“Between 1999 and 2010, approximately 80,000 non-citizens joined the U.S. military force. Most recent data from the Department of Defense (DOD) showed that 24,000 noncitizens were on active duty in 2012, with 5,000 legal permanent residents (LPRs) enlisting into the U.S. military force each year…

“From FY2001-FY2015, USCIS naturalized 109,321 noncitizen service members. Since 2008, USCIS has also naturalized 2,650 military spouses.”

A 2019 article looked at the 2017 American Community Survey. 697,711 foreign-born veterans lived in the United States, comprising 3.5 percent of all veterans; 190,198 foreign-born individuals were actively serving in the military comprising 4.5 percent of all active-duty service members.

The US Foreign Legion, as it were

An August 2021 Washington Post article reads: “The U.S. government hasn’t protected noncitizen veterans from deportation. That may change.” And “The U.S. military has a long history of relying on foreign recruits.”

But from DHS and the VA comes the announcement of an “Initiative to Support Noncitizen Service Members, Veterans, and Immediate Family Members.”

WaPo: “Noncitizens have played critical roles in every war that the United States has fought. Decades after the Marquis de Lafayette served as an aide to General George Washington during the American Revolution, tens of thousands of Canadians and Europeans joined the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. And hundreds of thousands of Black soldiers fought in the Civil War, their service all the more remarkable given that the U.S. government denied them citizenship.”

Over time, I’ve noted that a number of black Americans have used serving in the military as a way to “prove” their “worthiness” as Real Americans. This has been true from the Revolutionary War through at least through World War II. Perhaps Powell, as a black from Jamaica, consciously or not, may have used his service in Vietnam in the same matter.

“As modern militaries increasingly field sophisticated weapons systems, countries have also looked to noncitizens to bring much-needed technical skills into the ranks, as well as expertise in foreign languages and cultures in areas where the military operates.

This reminds me of, for instance, the Afghan translators who often risked their very lives working with the US military. I wish them every opportunity to come to this country and have the good chance to become citizens.

Leaving Afghanistan after two decades

“It’s hard to deny the evidence in front of you.” – General Mike Mullen

AfghanistanI wrote what I thought about the US leaving Afghanistan back in May. But if I noted what I felt about the country ENTERING the war, I don’t recall. I thought it was…inevitable. If it had been tied to the limited mission of capturing Bin Laden and his accomplices, that’d be “reasonable.”

Here’s the really weird thing about our totally unnecessary war in Iraq – which I’ve documented often in this blog – including here and here and here and a bunch of other places. When we entered the Iraq war, it was as though it slipped the collective minds that we were in Afghanistan.

I’m not just talking about the American people. The US government under W was sharing its assessment of its “success” in Iraq but saying relatively little about Afghanistan. Did they… forget?

Anyway, I was going to write something more about the end game in Afghanistan, but all I could find was a quote from the movie The Princess Bride: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia.'”

And a quote that Mark Evanier cited: “A friend of mine spent several years in Afghanistan working as a doctor attached to the U.S. forces. He told me some pretty harrowing tales about his tour o’ duty here but the thing I remember most is when he said, ‘Staying there is a disaster. Leaving there would be a disaster. Nothing about the country is not a disaster.’ I think that’s proving to be the case.”

I agree with much of is linked to here, even when they occasionally contradict each other.

Linkage

Bloomberg: Why Both Russians and Americans Got Nowhere in Afghanistan. If you’re not going anywhere no matter what happens, or what price you’re forced to pay, you can outlast superpowers. (You may recall that the US and other Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet incursion.) On one of the news programs recently, a general suggested that American hubris was the reason the US thought it would succeed when the USSR failed.

Alan Singer in Daily Kos: “Nation Building” Fails in Afghanistan

Nation of Change: Why did a military superpower fail in Afghanistan? This external approach, based on military occupation, to promote democracy in occupied foreign countries was “doomed to fail.”

Daniel Larison: Biden’s Prudent Decision to Withdraw from Afghanistan. It doesn’t say much for our political culture that it takes far more political courage to end a pointless war than it does to start one.

Matthew Yglesias. Biden (and Trump) did the right thing on Afghanistan
The war was lost long ago — if it was ever winnable.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: Trump’s New Big Lie: Afghanistan. Biden has handled the withdrawal very badly. That doesn’t mean Trump would have done better.

Seth Meyers

The “liberal press”?

Weekly Sift: Afghanistan, Biden, and the Media. “What struck me about that discussion, though, was how one-sided it was. Even ordinarily liberal MSNBC shows, or newspaper outlets like the Times and the Post, were unified in their denunciation of the Biden administration and its plan to withdraw our troops. I haven’t seen that level of unanimity since the post-911 era, when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started. A lot of bad ideas sneaked into the discussion around that time, and didn’t get criticized because there was no room for criticism.”

Fred Kaplan in Slate: A Top U.S. Military Officer Finally Admits He Was Wrong About Afghanistan

The Atlantic: What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban

Cartoon: Leaving Afghanistan.

Foreign Policy: Two Talibans Are Competing for Afghanistan. The gap between the group’s international leadership and its rank-and-file fighters has never been wider. (This is why the messaging about Taliban 2.0 seems inconsistent.)

Afar: The Organizations Aiding Afghans and How Americans Can Help

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