Through Our Perilous Past, Our Banner Yet Waves

The 49ers are in town…

For what is being heralded as “the most patriotic pregame in history”.

The field at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium is to be draped in a 150 x 300 ft representation of Old Glory as Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Powell recites the National Anthem.

And Colin Kaepernick is expected to sit on the bench.

I am not as concerned with the second-string quarterback’s “stand” as I am that he, like many people, don’t believe they have anything to stand for.

“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting through the air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

When Francis Scott Key penned his poem, he meant that literally.

Two centuries later, it helps to see it metaphorically.

Through the perilous fight, our banner yet waves.

Through decades of slavery and oppression, ended by a brutal civil war, it is the Stars and Stripes, not the Stars and Bars that yet waved.

Through the decades to follow, the flag would fly over a country steeped in racism and segregation. It was during this time, in 1931, that Congress officially declared the Star Spangled Banner the National Anthem, in the midst of the Great Depression.

World War II and The Civil Rights Movement would follow, with Jackie Robinson and many black athletes and soldiers questioning their patriotism as the flag yet waved over oppression and malcontent. And when the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act corrected decades of state-sanctioned wrongs and a history of rights suppressed, the work was not done. It remains far from done.

The fight continues.

For this was not a nation built on the presumption of innocence or perfection. Far from it. Ours is a nation built on the promise that only free people, working from a set of a shared principles and values, can pursue “a more perfect union.”

Tonight is our Salute to Service — a chance to recognize and honor the sacrifices of so many men and women and their families. None risked their lives for a cause or a purpose greater. They return, scarred physically and mentally, to a country that is indeed as imperfect as ever, wrought with tribal warfare over identities and politics. And yet they stand.

Perhaps many more will stand with them precisely because of the great perils of our time. It is when we feel so far removed from our principles, so far away from a realization of our vision of equal justice and opportunity for all, that we need a reminder why we stand, why so many still sacrifice so much.

So, Colin, oh say can you see, that for all the trial and tumult, the lives lost on a faraway battlefield or right here in our cities, in Baghdad as well as Dallas, New York as in Benghazi, that our banner yet waves? That our principles endure? That everything we face, everything wrong with our country, can be made right by the good people of good faith that choose to work on perfecting our union instead of dismissing it as a relic not worth the effort?

That is what we’re putting on display tonight, true patriotism, not jingoism or nationalism, or turning a blind eye to injustice.

Oh say can you see? Through our perilous past, our perilous present, our banner yet waves o’er the land of the free, for we are the home of the brave?

The brave, Colin, the brave who place our faith in no single individual, ethnicity, or ideology, but in a shared idea, a shared vision, of giving even people like you a reason to stand for our flag one day soon.

Welcome to San Diego. Please rise for our National Anthem.