O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner—O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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The original words of the Star-Spangled Banner, America’s National Anthem. I have posted them, including the (highlighted) stanzas that have since been removed, to make a very serious point about this whole issue surrounding the anthem and blacklisted football player Colin Kaepernick.

Francis Scott Key was a poet and a lyricist, but he was also a slave-owner. The fact that that has been swept under the rug and only the “offending words” removed is a microcosm for America’s prevailing attitudes towards race and anything that isn’t white ethnocentric.

When someone is called “unamerican,” we never really examine what that actually means in the context of the real world.  If you watch Fox News with any regularity, you get a sense of its connotations – legitimate views of Aboriginal peoples notwithstanding.

The two key (no pun intended) points here are with respect to race and war. Americans, like it or not, have struggled with them mightily, even as many of war’s greatest champions also refer to themselves as “pro-life.” But “life” for who?

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee on that day during the singing of the National Anthem, he was reminding people of what America had been and in many ways still is. And that stung. But it was his actions afterward – his hefty donations to Meals on Wheels and other groups, when he himself to this day still doesn’t know where his next paycheque is coming from – which demonstrated what America could be.

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From the Founders all the way down to Martin Luther King to Colin Kaepernick, the theme has always been about what American can be – its potential. Certainly, there’s a prevailing notion that its flaws and checkered past should be burned asunder, yet in America’s history there has always been someone, in the midst of the most horrendous of situations, who stands up and at least attempts to knock America back onto some semblance of a better path.

Kaepernick himself has given up everything to exercise his constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and expose American hypocrisy.

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There is very little chance he will ever play football, in any league, ever again. But he has earned so much more. Respect. Honour. He exercised a right people have laid down their lives for. You talk about “supporting the troops.” Exercising a right they are willing to die for is about as must respect as you can show for someone in uniform.

So I salute you, Colin Kaepernick – for reminding a crippled white guy from Canada that prejudice and hate and injustice never die and it’s up to all of us to stay vigilant and do our part in keeping each other safe from the evils of this world. Colin Kaepernick is an American hero.

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