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The Super Bowl and our National Anthem


FEB 15, 2023

During the Super Bowl a number of patriotic songs were sung and played. The Star Spangled Banner, America The Beautiful, and Lift Every Voice and Sing – also known as the Black National Anthem. Colorado congresswoman, Lauren Boebert, objected to what she called, “wokeness”, a term some use to derisively describe simply being aware - an awareness that some seem to consider a threat to their position of prominence and entitlement. “America only has one national anthem. Why is the NFL trying to divide us by playing multiple? Do football. Not wokeness” she demanded.

America has a bit of a fraught history when it comes to race. Lift Every Voice was written by James Weldon, NAACP leader in 1900 and then used as a rallying cry of inspiration by Black Americans during the Civil Rights era. Its lyrics call for strength, unity, and faith in God. The NAACP was formed under the very non-divisive leadership of two White men, William Walling and Henry Moskowitz and a White woman, Mary Ovington, after a massacre of Black Citizens in Springfield IL – the Land of Lincoln.

After Sheryl Lee Ralph sang the song, she posted a video on Twitter thanking the many folks who sang along with her and emphasized the song’s call for unity, “…at a time when we all need to come together.” Amen to that.

And then there’s Lauren’s preferred song of unity, The Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key, a man who kept human beings enslaved and decidedly not free when he wrote his ode to freedom…a song that if sung all the way to the third verse, nods to slavery. “No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” And while there is no consensus as to exactly what those words in our national anthem convey, there is complete consensus as to how Mr. Key viewed freedom. Not only did he deny freedom to the humans that he ‘owned’, but when he was District Attorney for Washington DC he tried to convict a man and have him hung merely for being in possession of abolitionist literature.

And Mr. Key left no doubt as to how he viewed his ‘property’. “Africans in America were a distinct and inferior race of people which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.”

Ms. Boebert, who introduced precisely zero bills in th 117th congress, managed to take 31 adverse actions against the well-being of children. Ms. Boebert is prominent not for what she has accomplished, but for her divisive, performative politics. And her one-word campaign slogan of “Freedom”….who even knows what that meant to her? As a decorated combat Marine, I have some sense of the cost of freedom and what it means. It’s not the right to do what you want. It’s the opportunity and obligation to do what is right.

Ms. Boebert and I likely do not agree on much. But we do seem to be in agreement that divisiveness has no place in our American society. Abraham Lincoln, a man of few words but deep wisdom, could not have been more right when he quoted the Bible (Mathew 12:25) when he admonished that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We have but to look around to see the truth of that statement.

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