If You Listen To The National Anthem While Smoking Weed…

Late at night, college kids gather around a table loaded with empty bottles of Rolling Rock and pizza crusts to smoke the day’s last joint. Someone brings up the national anthem.

“Hey, you know we learned in Native American studies that the white imperialists who occupied this land wrote the Star Spangled Banner as a dog whistle to other white supremacist slave owners.”

“Yeah, man, pass the roach.”

“It’s true, if you listen to it, they mention the word ‘slave.'”

“What the f*** you talking about, Junior?”

And then they get deep into the lost verses of our national anthem while they inhale. Because if you listen to it while smoking too much weed, you can come to the same conclusion as Jefferson Morley, writer for the marijuana-infused 24-hour college smoke-fest called Alternet.

Of course, Salon republished Morley’s piece titled “It is time to examine the words and the origins of our national anthem, another neo-Confederate symbol” to give it an edgy feel for non-Millennials who are old enough to claim they never inhaled.

Here’s the twisted logic in a nutshell.

Roger Taney was President Andrew Jackson’s attorney general. Taney recommended Francis Scott Key as Washington, D.C.’s district attorney in 1833. In 1836, Taney went to the Supreme Court, where he sided against northern abolitionists in the truly abhorrent Dred Scott decision. (There’s an aside here noting that Taney’s image is being nullified from the present and also from recorded history.)

Okay, see, so the Star Spangled Banner, which was written 42 years before Dred Scott v. Sandford was argued before SCOTUS, and nearly two decades before Key was appointed as D.C.’s D.A., is a paean to later white supremacists and neo-Confederates.

Wait, wait. Key died in 1843, thirteen years before Taney wrote for the majority in Dred Scott. So we can deduce here that Key was really a time traveller from 2006, a Republican white supremacist (the GOP was founded in 1854, eleven years after Key’s death), who, seeing the Bush 43 presidency, traveled back to 1812, wrote the anthem in 1814, and added the last four lines of the third stanza:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

This stanza was interpreted by historian/author Marc Leepson (who wrote “What So Proudly We Hailed,” a biography of Key), that the word “slave” referred to escaped slaves who fought for the British.

There you have it. The whole of the Star Spangled Banner is tainted with slavery. All between puffs of a shared joint between college friends searching for another pizza.

Unless you work for the DPRK propaganda department, or a liberal university’s history department, none of this makes the least bit of sense. In poetry, “slave/grave/wave/brave” rhyme. Every stanza of the Star Spangled Banner ends with “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” the line before that always ends with the word “wave.”

It’s rather pedestrian poetry, actually, by most literary standards.

The liberal’s liberal of the day, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. gave it a literary facelift with a fifth stanza dedicated to the cause of abolition during the Civil War.

When our land is illumined with Liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

It was quite a popular verse in 1861. Holmes, Sr. was very much a patriot: his poem about a War of 1812-era frigate inspired the Navy to keep the U.S.S. Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) around and in active service for another 187 years and counting.

Everyone knows that today, the only stanza we sing is the first, and not everyone knows all the words to even that. The song is rich in history, like the U.S.S. Constitution, and really offends nobody in the free, non-communist world outside of ISIS and the Ayatollahs who run Iran.

Perhaps in their next late-night weed-inspired discussion, the liberals at Alternet and Salon can discuss whether we should scuttle Old Ironsides in Boston Harbor, given that the ship did help greatly to defeat the non-slave-owning British in 1812–the same war that inspired Key to write his (apparently) time-traveled racist screed in song.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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