Letters: Have you heard the full national anthem?

Johnson City Press • Sep 14, 2018 at 6:00 AM

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Have you heard the full national anthem?

I was amused to read that Tennessee legislators want to debate whether Nike, as a company, reflects the state's values. This has occurred, of course, due to Colin Kaepernick's kneeling during the national anthem and its aftermath.

I have more pressing questions. Why should any black person stand, salute, or acknowledge “The Star Spangled Banner?” Does the anthem itself reflect Tennessee values?

I ask these questions because the anthem has four verses, which seems to surprise some people. The third verse is clearly a bully pulpit warning against United States-held slaves who were considering trying to flee their owners during the conflict or go over and fight on the British side.

The threat to slaves, which the third stanza says will face the "gloom of the grave," is ominous and clear. The British at the time had outlawed the acquisition of slaves. American slaves were being warned about pursuing life as free men by fighting for the British as opposed to staying in American slavery. Now does this sound like a song that reflects Tennessee values? And why would any black person want to stand for the playing of any verse of this song? In the context of the third stanza, the "land of the free" seems to be slamming home the declaration that the white free men are in charge.

I am always amazed that people don't realize that “The Star Spangled Banner” has four verses, and that not all of them are pretty.

Johnson City

Motto shouldn’t be posted in schools

Tennessee public schools should not be required to post "In God We Trust." Historically, this motto was officially accepted and allowed to stand because it is an example of "ceremonial deism" phrases like these are "protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content." It's traditional, generic, and easy to ignore.

But placing this sign in a school is different. Small children revere their schools as an authority more than parents do government institutions. As long as this motto is required to be displayed in schools, administrators should also develop a curriculum about the history behind it and put the new state law in its historical and political context. That would be a good exercise in critical thinking and completely appropriate for a public school.

In our family, we warn our kids against accepting anything as truth through "rote repetition." Here is what we are talking about at the dinner table:

Which "God" are we talking about here? What would happen if someone asked our school to post "In Allah We Trust" or "In Reason We Trust?"

It's important that we respect other people's personal religious beliefs and that people feel free to practice them. What happens when an institution seems to promote an idea that contradicts your personal beliefs? Does that reduce its authority in your eyes? Does it invalidate your personal beliefs?

Who is the "we" that wants to force schools to post a motto that has "lost through rote repetition any significant religious content?" Why now in 2018 and not in 1956? Does this "we" speak for our family? Should a school post a motto that doesn't represent all of its students?

Johnson City

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