“Romanticized memory is not history.” — Dr. Lonnie Bunch
With all the outrage and backlash at Colin Kaepernick’s action to sit out the playing of the national anthem, it might do well for all to take some time to reflect on the words in the anthem and the real history of the events that inspired the words and the anthem itself. I would not show the disrespect Colin Kaepernick chose, but I understand his sentiment completely. It has been my practice for years to stand silently during the playing of the anthem, primarily because of its nationalistic overtones and history, but also because the 3rd and 4th stanzas ring hollow in light of our history and present day circumstance. There is merit in Kaepernick’s protest.
This article (http://harpers.org/archive/2014/09/washington-is-burning/6/) is not a story of the “Star Spangled Banner.” But it is. It is yet one more thread interwoven in the long tapestry of the corrective history of America that challenges the collective memory we have been given. It is a story that will not surprise anyone who has read recent books and essays detailing a more accurate portrayal of events, people, policies, practices, and politics that formed the nation we are today. It helps connect the dots and shows why many of the demons we face today still exist.
It is not prescriptive. It is an expositional, enlightening, and astonishing story of another great American city juxtaposed with the realities of today’s circumstance. It reveals again the key role of race in America, then and now, and how we must truly understand our history before we can hope to rectify the animosity and bitterness that pervades our lives today.