I’ve got nothing against national anthems, and I wouldn’t kneel even if I was Colin Kaepernick. I just think as a country, “America the Beautiful” might have been a better choice for ours and that in some cases, some words of “The Star Spangled Banner” don’t ring true. A few countries’ anthems are, in fact, quite pleasing to my ear. “O Canada” has a beautiful melody and words to match, although you’d probably have to be watching hockey to hear it. Our “Star Spangled Banner”? For me – not so much. I can sort of see the “rockets’ red glare”, but it’s hard to sing and quite long – especially if you’re waiting for the kickoff. But like I said, I have nothing against it, except maybe the last stanza. Not the “Home of the Brave” part. Having spent two years in Vietnam, ferrying Navy SEALs up the Mekong Delta, I witnessed a lot of bravery. Not me. I was duckin’ quicker than Bill Murray’s gopher in Caddyshack. The SEALs though. Yeah – tough guys – very brave.
I quarrel however, with the part about “Land of the Free”. Free? For almost all of us – “yes” – but for 3+ million of us? Not really. Take a look at Chart I, and be honest if your eyes don’t bug out. More than any country on Earth – in total numbers, or as a percentage of the population, Americans are incarcerated, imprisoned – freedomless. Of course there’s a legitimate explanation for many of them, but what’s the reason for the rest? Restrictive laws that went too far and tied judges’ hands: California’s “three strikes and you’re out” legislation, for one, that was approved by voters long ago but is perhaps outdated now due to the growing acceptance of marijuana. The privatization of prison management and ownership is even more damning. “Orange Is the New Black” focuses on race and classism themes, but there’s more to the show than that. I’d affirm lead character Aleida Diaz when she says, “We a for-profit prison now. We ain’t people no more. We bulk items, sardines in a can.” I spent one night in a Danish pokey 50 years ago for intoxication, and it was 18 hours too long. We owe it to 1-2 million orange clad prisoners to clean up the system and give validity to our own national anthem.