The Star-Spangled Banner:
A Protest Song for Nationalists?
Several January 6 protesters remained locked up without just cause in a Washington D.C. prison. To voice their protest, they belt out the Star-Spangled Banner from their jail cells every night. The national anthem may make for an odd protest song for Americans incarcerated by the government represented by said tune. But increasingly the national anthem is associated exclusively with the Right. Liberal elites prefer the black national anthem over it, and its “problematic” nature is increasingly noted. A song that right-wingers may have scoffed at as the anthem for the Empire of Nothing now represents the resistance to the Empire.
The Trump supporters locked away in a DC jail are not the only ones to embrace the Star-Spangled Banner as their protest anthem. Parents protesting Critical Race Theory in their children’s schools have also sung it at school board meetings.
There are very few shared songs in America, outside of a few pop songs. The Star-Spangled Banner — for all its kitsch and association with sports events — is arguably the one song nearly all Americans know. It is the national anthem after all; people should know it. But even with the American Right, we don’t have our own songs. Well, maybe if you discount Toby Keith’s jingoistic ditties about putting a boot in a terrorist’s ass and worshipping the troops. Historic American songs — such as the Battle Cry of Freedom — aren’t passed down well, and many of them smack of triumphal liberalism. The Battle Cry of Freedom is all about crushing the rebellious South, for instance. There are great rebel songs — such as “Dixie” and “I’m A Good Ol’ Rebel — but those are too region-specific. Most white Americans don’t have Confederate ancestors, and most of them don’t know these songs.
We’re left pretty much with the Star-Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. The good news is that the regime and its lackeys don’t particularly like the national anthem anymore. The height of patriotism is now protesting the anthem during sporting events. The media fawns over every athlete who takes a knee while the anthem plays and hates anyone who does join in the protest.
The anthem itself is problematic. Its author, Francis Scott Key, was a slave owner. An unsung verse of the anthem is considered “racist.” It reads:
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.
That (based) verse is now highlighted to argue the anthem is racist. When Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry wanted to defend her “protest” of the anthem, she cited this racist verse for why she should show no respect for it. “The third verse speaks about slaves and our blood being slang and pilchered all over the floor. It’s disrespectful and it does not speak for Black Americans,” she told an interviewer.
These reasons are why some Americans want to replace the national anthem. In 2017, the California NAACP demanded the state dump the Star-Spangled Banner. This year, a petition was started to change the anthem because it promotes elitism and racism. Powerful lawmakers proposed a bill this year to make the black national anthem — “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — the nation’s “hymn.” It wouldn’t necessarily replace the anthem, but it would stand as equal to the Star-Spangled Banner. Like Juneteenth’s relationship with July 4th, this act would likely lead to the eventual usurpation of the black anthem over the national anthem. No one has to worry about the racism of the black national anthem.
The NFL recently announced it would play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” alongside the national anthem at all of its big games, making permanent its 2020 Black Lives Matter tributes. Regardless of whether the legislation passes, sports fans will see the two anthems as equal. In consequence, the Star-Spangled Banner becomes the white national anthem.
Its critics do bring out its great aspects. It’s a song that commemorates an American victory over foreign invaders allied with black runaways. It celebrates martial glory and battlefield deeds. It’s much better than most alternatives, which celebrate America just because it has democracy or “it was made for you and me.” The Star-Spangled Banner honors the achievements and struggle of white Americans to stay free of foreign occupation. That’s a thing we certainly can get behind. And nationalists should include the unsung verses into our renditions. Just imagine thousands of white Americans belting out: 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.”
There is a complicated nature to America’s national symbols. Ever since the Cold War, they’ve represented the New America — the one nation supposedly built on an idea. Pledging allegiance to the flag meant you swore to uphold the dogmas of the New America. You didn’t see race; you only saw red, white, and blue. You believed that within every person in the world there was an American waiting to get out. You swore that America is a nation of immigrants, and the Founders always intended the nation to be multicultural. This is what our anthem and flag stood for. This is why we turned every sporting event into a cringeworthy spectacle of jingoism. The Super Bowl was America, and you better love it or leave!
But now a different America is foisted upon us. The flag, anthem, and our Founding Fathers are all racist and shunted aside. Now we can only honor random POC who supposedly made our country through the invention of the super soaker and peanut butter. We salute black athletes who spit on our heritage and celebrate a holiday designed to make everyone hate whites. The new patriotism requires one to despise the old. White Americans, who see themselves in the anthem and the flag, don’t want to get rid of the old patriotism. That’s their identity.
While the old identity certainly didn’t stress white identity, the new framing of traditional patriotism does. Old Glory is now a white flag, and the Star-Spangled Banner is the white anthem. There comes a risk that the system will come to its sense and reclaim these symbols as their own, but they’re too content with gay pride and BLM iconography at the moment.
These symbols represent the historic American nation. It’s what the people will rally around to fight back against the Empire of Nothing.
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