Star Spangled Nonsense

Lately, Americans have been treated to nonsense pertaining to The Star Spangled Banner.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In a commentary published by The Intercept, former Michael Moore associate Jon Schwarz writes, “Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.”

Apparently, Schwarz doesn’t know that the War of 1812 involved military personnel fighting in an actual war.

Whenever an enemy combatant is trying to kill you during a war, it is not an act of murder to respond by killing that enemy combatant.

In his poem, Francis Scott Key talks about the battle between the British and the Americans at Fort McHenry. The winner of that battle would be signaled by the fate of the Star Spangled Banner that flew over the fort.

Among the seamstresses who made that Star Spangled Banner was Grace Wisher, an African-American indentured servant.

Yes, the Corps of Colonial Marines on the British ships included former slaves, which is why Key mentions slaves in the third stanza of his poem.

However, there were African-Americans among the defenders of Fort McHenry. Military historian Mark Clague writes the following:

“The Star-Spangled Banner in no way glorifies or celebrates slavery. The middle two verses of Key’s lyric vilify the British enemy in the War of 1812, what Key refers to in Verse 3 as hirelings and slaves. This enemy included both whites and blacks, largely British professional soldiers (hirelings) but also the Corps of Colonial Marines (slaves). The Colonial Marines were escaped black American slaves who joined British forces because of the promise of freedom in return for fighting their former masters. . .

. . . Yet in 1814 Key’s lyric honored American soldiers both black and white. The Star-Spangled Banner celebrates the heroes who defended Fort McHenry in the face of almost certain defeat against the most powerful gunships of the era. America’s soldiers included mainly whites, but also free and escaped blacks. Escaped slave William Williams served in the US infantry at Fort McHenry and was killed by a fragment of a British bomb. Another escaped slave, Charles Ball, writes in his memoirs of being among the American soldiers of the Chesapeake Bay Flotilla who courageously repelled a night attack and saved the city. The Star-Spangled Banner thus honors American military heroes, black and white, without regard to race. In this respect, The Star-Spangled Banner is not racist.”

According to Jon Schwarz’s logic, the British Navy murdered African-American soldier William Williams.

By the way, the British ships stayed out of range of Fort McHenry’s guns.

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