Why I Hate the Star-Spangled Banner: How It Perpetuated Our Glorification of War – Part One
By Tom Calarco
Why do you think Americans crave war, as Sebastian Junger, producer of documentaries about war like his Oscar-nominated Restrepo, suggested in a recent story on Medium?
Why I Hate the Star Spangled Banner : How It Perpetuated Our Glorification of War – Part One
Do we really like to kill people? Are we really that savage, that violent, that horrific a society that we want to kill millions of people as we actually have in the many wars that we have fought since World War II?
I don’t think so, though it seems with the amping up of police violence and the increasing rant of the NRA we are headed in a disturbing direction.
Junger is probably right about the machismo that exists in human societies. But does it have to be that way? Can we rewire our brains, can we evolve into a higher form of human being for whom war is unnecessary?
I cringe when I hear the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s not just that the notes go everywhere and that the melody is uneven. It’s the words, their connotation — the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air. A beautiful image, you might say, but they have come to represent something else. A militant, aggressive nation bent on ruling the world, and it’s those words and images that reinforce the violent streak running through our history.
The military, the soldier, the American sniper, the hero defending our country against enemies at home and abroad has become a staple of our culture. From Audie Murphy to John Wayne to Rambo, and now to Chris Kyle, we stand in line to watch our heroes act out the ritual of defending the homeland. It happens every Memorial Day and 4th of July, when the rockets blaze across the horizon and ignite the celebration of freedom.
The concept of freedom exhilarates every American, this freedom that so many people before us have sacrificed so much to achieve. And it’s the call to protect it that every American feels an obligation to serve, that draws many into the military. But is our freedom really at risk from enemies abroad? What if it all is a lie?
Is there such a thing as a just war? One could justify World War II by saying that it was necessary to stop Hitler and the Nazis, who were engaged in one of the most ghastly massacres in human history. But what of Korea and Vietnam, and the wars in the Middle East? Those wars involved complex geo-political issues, and historians have supplied cogent evidence that they were actually instigated by the U.S., who contrived situations as an excuse to start those wars. You don’t believe me? Take a look at David Wise’s book, The Politics of Lying, published in 1973, for starters. And there are many others which give truth to the lies.
Former President Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, who knew a thing or two about the military, warned us in his farewell address of the increasing dominance of the military in our culture, a military that had allied itself with the machinery of production:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
After World War II, the U.S. government had created a defense policy that sought to contain Communism, which had become the system of government ruling the Soviet Union, a large bloc of nations in eastern Europe and Asia that included Russia, and China, and which had become the designated enemy. In order to keep the Communists at bay, it was determined that a powerful military was necessary. This was spelled out in a little known document created during the Truman administration, known as NSC-68.
It reasoned that the vital interests of the U.S. required the possession of superior military power. It urged the production of stockpiles of nuclear weapons and the increased development of air, sea, and ground forces. It also opened military bases around the world and a strategic military capacity that aligned itself with nations like Great Britain and France to prevent further encroachment of Soviet and Chinese forces. Winston Churchill called this invisible border between Communism and the “Free” World, the Iron Curtain.
It wasn’t long before the U.S. involved itself in another war in Korea justifying it as a fight to contain Communism, which had been established as the system of government in the north of Korea, and which was supported by Communist China. Around this time, Truman commissioned a spy agency to report to him of the trouble spots around the world that threatened national security. This became the CIA. But the agency became much more than Truman intended.
When Eisenhower succeeded him, coming to office in 1953, he brought with him John Foster Dulles as his secretary of state. Dulles’s brother, Allen, who had been a leading figure in the organization of the spy agency, soon after became CIA director and molded “the company” as it was called by agents into an organization that focused on covert and illegal operations. The Cold War had settled in.
Writer Name : Tom Calarco
Writer Bio : Tom Calarco is a freelance writer and author of seven books about the Underground Railroad. He has also published fiction and been a journalist for 30 years. The article you are about to read was recently published in the online journal, Medium.