What Josh Howard Should Have Said…

“We’ve just opened up the Nat Turner Memorial War Training Fund and we’ll be soliciting donations from all Americans who love liberty and freedom.  We know that freedom isn’t free.  We believe that America has produced some great examples of freedom fighters.  Of course, Francis Scott Key was not one of those people.  In any event, contributions may be sent to the following address:

Nat Turner Memorial War Training Fund
1731 Free African Way
Alexandria, Virginia

Josh Howard didn’t do that because he was making a flip, off the cuff remark.  He did what many people feel, but don’t always say in public.  He said what most self-respecting Americans would do if the anthem were written by a Communist who threatened to bomb the Congress.  Francis Scott Key was far worse.  He was someone who trafficked in the commerce of humanity and undermined the very principles he allegedly defended.  A bomb in Washington DC might do some damage (I’m sure it would do some good.)  Nothing, however, is worse for a democracy than the principle of justice for some.  Francis Scott Key was a staunch practitioner of this principle – as were his kith and kin. 

Check this out:


In 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote new words for a well-known drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” to celebrate America’s recent victory over the British. However, only in 1931, following a twenty-year effort during which more than forty bills and joint resolutions were introduced in Congress, was a law finally signed proclaiming “The Star Spangled Banner” to be the national anthem of the United States.

(…from American Treasures Of The Library Of Congress )

The Verses:
O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming ?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming !
And the rockets’ 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 mist 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 on 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!

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the foe’s desolation !
Bless with victory and peace, may our heav’n-rescused land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for 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.

It seems to me that Josh was on to something.  I don’t know how much he was aware of it – but it doesn’t matter.  He made have learned the real deal from his elders while sitting at their side getting his hair braided in some pre-Trans Atlantic twist from the plains of a forgotten Continent.  He might have deciphered it from the relics of old Freedman’s Bureau activities in and around the county of his birth.  He might have asked someone, “What’s the difference between a ‘free man’ and a ‘freed man’?”  Maybe it wasn’t any of this.  Maybe it was simply an intuitive rejection of something that didn’t resonate in his heart of hearts.  Maybe it’s because he already HAS a national anthem:

Lift every voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Francis’ song doesn’t have any lyrics like this:

“We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered” 

Maybe Francis’ song really wasn’t meant for Josh.  Do you think people are mad at Josh because he’s had a moment of clarity?

True to hisGod, true to his native land?

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