The Quad

Why I stand

Salvatore Pinero, Practicum Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

In mid-September of 1814, American lawyer Francis Scott Key sat aboard a British naval vessel right outside the Baltimore Harbor and watched as the enemy rained down “[bombs] bursting in air” on American troops. This night would bear the images that inspired the penning of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Key and Colonel John Skinner had visited a British flagship, the HMS Tonnant, to arrange the release of an American prisoner, Dr. William Beanes.

After the negotiation ended, Key, Beanes and Skinner were kept onboard as the Royal Navy heavily shelled the U.S. Fort McHenry. In awe, the three witnessed the strongest navy of the 1800s light up the Baltimore sky with a harrowing “red glare” for over 24 hours.

As this significant “perilous fight” of the War of 1812 transpired, Key wrote down a few words vividly describing what he saw. After the battle and sure the British had won, Key was pleasantly surprised when he saw that Old Glory, the American flag, was still flying above Fort McHenry in “the dawn’s early light.”

Throughout the night, Major George Armistead, the fort’s highest-ranking officer, lost only a handful of his soldiers; a startlingly low number for a 25-hour fight. One of these heroes was a 21-year-old runaway slave named William Williams who succumbed to his injuries a few months following the battle. Another was a woman, who to this day remains unknown, who is documented as to bringing water to American troops defending the fort.

Francis Key originally published his verses under the name “Defense” of Fort McHenry, and it was distributed by the Baltimore Patriot titled as such. Over 100 years later, his words would be eternally memorialized as the official national anthem of the United States.

I stand for the anthem because, to me, it is a graceful illustration of the remarkable accomplishments and freedoms this nation has secured. I stand because it commemorates the hundreds of thousands of selfless men and women who have laid down their lives so that we may be free. I stand because only in America will you see such a varied combination of different races, genders, intellects, religions, personalities and more all come together under one flag and one hymn. I stand because “I am an American,” and to me that declaration is prized and powerful.

In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen a slew of “protests” over “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Several protest demonstrations were made by athletes from the National Football League and Major League Baseball taking a knee or standing off-field during the anthem. Counter-protests featured newly former fans of said teams recording themselves burning season tickets or the offending players’ jerseys.

Huffington Post has since run an article titled, “White Athletes Still Standing For The Anthem Are Standing For White Supremacy.” Visitors to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are kneeling during “Taps,” a tune to honor the dead. DirecTV is refunding customers’ “Sunday Ticket” subscriptions if they mention players kneeling as the reason. Against the mainstream grain, Geneo Grissom, defensive end for the Patriots, and numerous other players from throughout the league stood proudly for the anthem last Sunday.

People wonder how this nation could be so divided, I believe it’s because the very traditions that are meant to unify us are being tread upon and disrespected.

Many have alleged that these silent acts of protest are to shine light on issues they believe are being suppressed. However, since players have been kneeling for the anthem and activists have been standing on the flag, have you heard anything in the media other than simply the controversy over the protest itself?

To dive into the debate, some accuse the anthem’s author of being a racist, saying he shouldn’t be praised in U.S. history. Yet, around 1816, Francis Key joined the American Colonization Society wherein influential Americans bought slaves and then freed them. He likewise used his knowledge of the law to represent slaves in court on multiple occasions.

Key also helped establish and taught at the Georgetown Lancaster School which CNN describes as an institution for “freed people of color” in which “over 1,000 black children were students . . . and most attended tuition-free.”

Some even say the anthem itself is somehow founded in racism; that it celebrates the atrocities of this nation’s European ancestors. That the Republican supporters of the hymn only loathe anti-anthem protests because it “reveals” their racism. That is simply not the case.

On July 1854 at a convention known as “Under the Oaks,” a political party was founded to combat slavery in the U.S. This dogmatic group, the Republican Party, then pushed their abolitionist agenda for years until the powder-keg of political division it caused erupted into the Civil War where over 600,000 union soldiers laid down their lives for an anti-slavery crusade.

Moreover, the 14th and 15th amendments were ratified with unanimous support from the “radical republicans,” giving people of color the right to citizenship and to vote. Following this, in the ‘50s, Republican President Eisenhower promoted the first ever Civil Rights Act.

I interviewed a few West Chester students at random to see whether or not they stood for the anthem. One student, a junior studying marketing, said that they stand for the anthem in “[support of] the people who fight for our freedom.” Another student, a first-year criminal justice major, said that the anthem, to him, “supports the unity of this country” and that “we all should come together.”

In contrast, a third-year communication studies major, Samantha, said she doesn’t stand for the anthem. Samantha said, “I don’t think we should have [the anthem] at sporting events,” conveying her want to separate the two entirely. She also expressed that she stands with those who do not stand.

In addition, I spoke with a senior at West Chester who is persuing a major in physiology and a minor in women’s and gender studies. She said that although she “personally [stands]” for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” she “100 percent agrees with those who choose not to” saying “it’s their right.”

All in all, during divisive times such as these I see patriotism as the unifying bond. From world wars to depressions to terror attacks, the flag and the anthem have always and will always exemplify what it means to be an American. The preamble to the constitution starts off with “We The People,” not “We The Democrats” or “We The Republicans.” Regardless of political parties or ideological viewpoints, it’s time Americans started coming together to “form a more perfect Union.”

In my eyes, there is no better way to heal the wounds of division than honoring our fallen heroes, respecting our flag and standing for the anthem.

Salvatore Pinero is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at [email protected]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.


The Student News Service of West Chester University
Why I stand