The lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key embraced the pop cultural tastes of his day when he wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” to commemorate an American victory over the British at Baltimore during the War of 1812. He gave his composition broad appeal with a melody derived from a popular British music club anthem that celebrated the virtues of love and wine.
Satirists pounced, lampooning the song with lyrics that depicted a man who staggers home drunk and sleeps well past “the dawn’s early light” — that light through which Key had seen an American flag still flying above the fort that had repulsed the British invasion.
Abolitionists during Key’s lifetime viewed “The Star-Spangled Banner” as they viewed the nation as a whole — through the lens of the injustice perpetuated by slavery. They argued that Key should have described America as the “land of the free and home of the oppressed.”
The professional football player Colin Kaepernick appealed to that same sense of injustice last year when he knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest police violence against African-Americans. By doing so, he tapped into a feeling of alienation from the anthem in the black community that dates back to the days of racial terrorism and lynching in the South.
Congress declared “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem in 1931. Well before then, however, black communities across the Jim Crow South were instead embracing the soaring, aspirational lyrics of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — otherwise known as the Negro National Anthem — which was sung in churches, at civic events and even in schools, where substituting the song for “The Star-Spangled Banner” was a quiet act of rebellion against the racist status quo.
By the late 1960s, many of us who had grown up black in an era when African-Americans were locked into Northern ghettos and murdered in the South for seeking the right to vote registered our grievances by refusing to stand for the anthem at sporting events.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” became what the Princeton University scholar Imani Perry describes as a tale “of endurance, lament and supplication” that acknowledges the cruelties of racism while also pointing toward transcendence: “Lift every voice and sing/Till earth and heaven ring/Ring with the harmonies of Liberty/Let our rejoicing rise/High as the listening skies.” As Ms. Perry writes in “May We Forever Stand” — her forthcoming history of the song — it spread rapidly through black America in the early 1900s, reflecting a growing sense that the promise of full citizenship in the nation’s canonical texts simply did not apply to African-Americans.
The provenance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is itself deeply suspect. Key, who owned human beings, penned his celebration of freedom during a war in which the British had promised that very thing to enslaved African-Americans who agreed to fight on their side. The third stanza of the song — which ceased to be sung once warm relations were re-established with England — can be read as a reflection of Key’s anger at Britain’s overtures to the people he himself owned.
The passage reads in part: “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.” Contemporary thinkers disagree on whether the word “slave” was used as a generic insult that could be applied to people of any race or as a direct reference to African-Americans who joined the British side in the War of 1812. But imagine yourself an enslaved person serving refreshments to your masters and their guests as they all retire to the piano room to sing Key’s song as he had written it. There can be little doubt about what the passage referring to a “slave” would mean to you.
The histories of the white and black anthems are strikingly different. James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in 1900 to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday at a time when the government seemed to have abandoned altogether the promise of Reconstruction. Four years earlier, the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, had validated the doctrine of “separate but equal.” As the historian Cecilia Elizabeth O’Leary writes in “To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism,” the door had been opened for racists and nativist groups like the Ku Klux Klan to appoint themselves custodians of what it meant to be an American.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” began as an ordinary song that competed with other songs for space in the American imagination. It was not until the early 20th century that it acquired the stature of a sacred writ and became, in effect, a loyalty test and an excuse for people who called themselves patriots to harass and beat people who dissented from the song’s message.
The truth is that the maxims about freedom implied in the song describe a condition the country has yet to achieve. People who confront that reality by kneeling prayerfully on the football field are often more determinedly patriotic than those who reflexivel
“The FCC under Pai is handing over the internet to a few humongous gatekeepers who see the rest of us as products to be delivered to advertisers, not as citizens needing communications that serve democracy’s needs.”
“Internet rights are civil rights,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, declared in a statement on Tuesday. (Photo: Fight for the Future)
Open internet advocates warned that “we’re running out of time” to save the web from corporate control and called on Americans to make their representatives’ phones “ring off the hook” Tuesday after FCC chairman Ajit Pai unveiled (pdf) his long-awaited plan to scrap net neutrality that critics slammed as “naked corporatism” designed to give a major gift to the telecom industry at the expense of the public.
“The reckless wrecking ball strikes again,” former FCC commissioner and current special adviser at Common Cause Michael Copps said in a statement. “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s scorched-earth plan for net neutrality displays callous disregard for both process and substance. The chairman’s plan to do away with net neutrality will be a disaster for consumers and yet another handout for big business.”
Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, said Pai’s plan “makes no sense” for a variety of key reasons.
“Internet rights are civil rights. Gutting net neutrality will have a devastating effect on free speech online.”
—Jay Stanley, ACLU
“It ignores the will of people from across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support these protections. It ignores the law and the courts, which have repeatedly upheld the 2015 Title II rules. And it ignores the vibrancy of the internet marketplace following adoption of that 2015 order, with incontrovertible economic data showing that both investment in networks and online innovation are flourishing under the very same rules Pai wants to destroy,” Wood said.
Framed by Pai and its corporate backers as a push to “restore internet freedom,” the plan outlined Tuesday would do precisely the opposite, say critics, by allowing massive telecom companies to block or throttle online content and charge more for services.
“Internet rights are civil rights,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, declared in a statement on Tuesday. “Gutting net neutrality will have a devastating effect on free speech online. Without it, gateway corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T will have too much power to mess with the free flow of information.”
The praise Pai’s plan quickly attracted from major corporations appeared to vindicate critics’ concerns that the Republican-controlled FCC is working to deliver a massive “handout to big business.” In a statement on Tuesday, Verizon said it is “very encouraged” by the proposed return to “light-touch” regulation—disregarding the fact that opinion polls have clearly and consistently shown that American consumers favor net neutrality.
But if Pai’s announcement on Tuesday is any evidence, he gives public opinion very little weight. As Devin Coldewey of Tech Crunchnotes, Pai “made no mention of the inconvenient and embarrassing fact that his proposal had attracted historic attention, garnering over 22 million comments—the majority of which opposed it.”
“There can be no truly open internet without net neutrality. To believe otherwise is to be captive to special interest power brokers.”
—Michael Copps, Common Cause
If Pai’s proposals are approved—the FCC is expected to vote on December 14—companies like Verizon and AT&T will be given extremely broad leeway to charge consumers more for internet access, products, and services while facing less oversight.
“Relying more heavily on Internet providers’ own promises on net neutrality is a departure from the current rules, which lay out clear, federal bans against selectively blocking or slowing websites, as well as speeding up websites that agree to pay the providers a fee,” observes the Washington Post‘s Brian Fung.
Copps of Common Cause concluded that contrary to Pai’s lofty rhetoric about “restoring internet freedom,” the newly unveiled proposals would spell the end of the open internet.
“There can be no truly open internet without net neutrality,” Copps said in a statement on Tuesday. “To believe otherwise is to be captive to special interest power brokers or to an old and discredited ideology that thinks monopoly and not government oversight best serves the nation. In this case, I think it’s both. The FCC under Pai is handing over the internet to a few humongous gatekeepers who see the rest of us as products to be delivered to advertisers, not as citizens needing communications that serve democracy’s needs.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the FCC’s official vote to fully repeal Title II net neutrality regulations. It’s a move that would allow ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to throttle traffic to websites of their choosing and force consumers to pay for access to certain websites. It’s an anti-consumer, undemocratic proposal that will almost certainly be passed under the FCC’s Republican majority. If you want to stop them NOW is the time to take action.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced Tuesday a plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
The Federal Communications Commission chairman announced plans Tuesday to repeal Obama-era regulations on Internet service providers. The 2015 rules enforce what’s called net neutrality, meaning that the companies that connect you to the Internet don’t get to decide which websites load faster or slower, or charge websites or apps to load faster.
In an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says his plan to remove net neutrality rules is a way of bringing the Internet back to how it was in the 1990s.
“President Clinton got it right in 1996 when he established a free market-based approach to this new thing called the Internet, and the Internet economy we have is a result of his light-touch regulatory vision,” Pai says. “We saw companies like Facebook and Amazon and Google become global powerhouses precisely because we had light-touch rules that apply to this Internet. And the Internet wasn’t broken in 2015 when these heavy-handed regulations were adopted.”
Pai’s plan would require Internet service providers to disclose what they’re doing, such as allowing some sites to load faster than others. Websites could pay ISPs to give them preferential treatment — a situation Pai argues would have benefits.
A health care startup could pay to prioritize the traffic of its patients who are being monitored remotely: “That could be perk,” he says.
The chairman’s proposal, called the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, would mark a shift in authority and emphasis. Instead of the FCC regulating how ISPs operate, the Federal Trade Commission would handle enforcement of net neutrality violations.
“The FCC would still require transparency: Any business practice that would affect the offering of a service has to be disclosed to the consumers, and entrepreneurs can understand exactly how these businesses are operated,” Pai says.
“Secondly, the Federal Trade Commission has long had authority and had authority prior to 2015 for almost 20 years over this space,” he says. “And the result was pretty clear. They took targeted action against the bad apples and they let everyone else thrive in a free market. And I think consumers and companies were better off as a result.”
As NPR’s Alina Selyukh explained earlier this year, the current rules arose from incidents of ISPs meddling with traffic speeds:
“In 2015, the Democrats of the FCC decided that it was time to go all in, and what they did was essentially reclassified Internet providers, and started treating them as utility-style companies. That means they put it in the strictest-ever regulations, really expanded their oversight over the industry. Republicans at the FCC at the time really opposed this regulatory approach, so-called public utility approach. And one of the dissenting commissioners was Ajit Pai, who is now the new FCC chairman under President Trump.”
Many were critical of Pai’s announcement and vowed to fight it.
“If the FCC votes to roll back these net neutrality protections, they would end the internet as we know it, harming every day users and small businesses, eroding free speech, competition, innovation and user choice in the process,” said Mozilla, the nonprofit corporation that makes the Firefox browser and advocates for Internet accessibility. “Our position is clear: the end of net neutrality would only benefit Internet Service Providers.”
“It is imperative that all internet traffic be treated equally, without discrimination against content or type of traffic — that’s the how the internet was built and what has made it one of the greatest inventions of all time,” the company added.
“In a world without net neutrality, activists may lose an essential platform to organize and fight for change, and small organizations may never get a fair shot to grow and thrive,” said Ronald Newman, ACLU director of strategic initiatives. “Congress must stop Chairman Pai’s plan in its tracks and ensure that net neutrality remains the law of the land.”
Contact the FCC:
Federal Communications Commission 445 12th Street SW Washington, CA 20054
On Dec. 7 a Verizon store on Market Street will be ground zero for net neutrality activists.
A protester at a White House protest to save net neutrality, Nov. 6 2014 (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)
November 21, 2017 (SFWeekly.com)
The fight for net neutrality will hit San Francisco early next month, as a massive, nationwide protest is scheduled for Verizon stores on Dec. 7.
For the uninitiated: Net neutrality is something we all enjoy, but may not consciously notice. As a society, we generally take for granted that websites, news, and other online information are accessible regardless of the mobile carrier you pay each month, or the search engines you use. But as censorship looms, that freedom is under a serious threat.
Verizon is the latest technology giant to play a role in killing net neutrality — thanks in part to Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and a former lawyer for the cell phone company. In the past year, Verizon has spent millions on lawsuits and lobbying efforts to destroy net neutrality, and thereby up the fees for consumers.
Now, those consumers and others in opposition to net neutrality are speaking out. One week before the FCC votes on its plan to kill net neutrality on Dec. 14, protestors are taking to the streets and to Verizon stores across the country.
And unlike other protests that have taken place in 2017 — such as the well-intentioned but sadly vague Women’s March — the demands are crystal clear.
“We’re calling on our lawmakers to do their job overseeing the FCC and speak out against Ajit Pai’s plan to gut Title II net neutrality protections and give Verizon and other giant ISPs everything on their holiday wishlist,” the protest website states.
And Mayor Ed Lee might even make an appearance. He sent out a statement Tuesday blasting Pai’s efforts.
“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to repeal net neutrality is the latest effort from this administration to favor the short-term interests of large corporations at the expense of the greater public good,” Lee says. “Net neutrality encourages entrepreneurship, provides educational opportunities, and connects communities across the globe.
“While the FCC moves to repeal these crucial protections, San Francisco is joining cities across the country in exploring options to make the internet safe, affordable, and accessible for all our residents. The internet is an essential tool of today’s society and under the current net neutrality rules, it is a powerful force for openness, freedom, and innovation. We must continue to fight against the FCC’s efforts to dismantle those principles,” he says.
While passions will undoubtedly run high, particularly in a city as tech-hungry as this one, the protest organizers call for a reasonable understanding of who’s actually in power here. “Please remember, this event is about protesting actions of Verizon executives, lobbyists and their supporters in Washington, not the employees at these stores,” they state. “Please treat them with nothing but the utmost respect.”
San Francisco’s Verizon protest will take place on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m., at the Verizon store at 768 Market St.
More information about the protest can be found here.
For a group with very little brand-name recognition in the very recent past — the party posted some surprising wins in the November elections.
NOVEMBER 16, 2017 (BillMoyers.com)
This Q&A is part of Sarah Jaffe’s series Interviews for Resistance, in which she speaks with organizers, troublemakers and thinkers who are doing the hard work of fighting back against America’s corporate and political powers. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For a group with very little brand-name recognition in the very recent past — the Democratic Socialists of America posted some surprising wins in the November elections. Building on the energy of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign, the group, which notes that it is “a political and activist organization, not a party,” is growing. It fielded a number of candidates in recent races and plans for a greater presence in the midterm elections. Sarah Jaffe spoke with David Duhalde, the group’s deputy director.
Sarah Jaffe: You had a pretty successful election night. Tell us what you were thinking when you started hearing the results come in.
David Duhalde: I will be quite honest that a lot of us were maybe deeply affected by 2016 were maybe not as optimistic as we should have been. I was speaking at a conference for the European left in Belgium and I was many hours ahead. I thought, “I am going to go to bed and I will wake up and I will see how we did.” I didn’t want to stay up and lose sleep. Then, I awake to a flurry of text messages and Facebook messages: “Oh my God! Lee did it!” referring to Lee Carter in Virginia. And, “Oh my God! J.T. Scott won in Massachusetts!” I didn’t burst into tears, but I was fighting back tears. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life.
SJ: Was there a particular win you were really surprised and excited by?
DD: I am going to be uncreative and say the Lee Carter race in Virginia, partly because as I work out of the Washington, DC office of DSA. I was able to meet Lee for the first time at a meeting we had after the election. He spoke and he impressed me deeply. Then I went down to volunteer. But when you volunteer, it is hard to get a read sometimes on the crowd. I was very hopeful, of course, and he had hired some great DSA members who were all under 23, but he was taking on this huge incumbent with a war chest. I was very worried.
Even though I knew we were doing everything right, you can do everything right and it doesn’t matter. The J.T. Scott race in Somerville, Massachusetts was a surprise too. I actually lived in Somerville and I knew the machine. I remember how difficult it was to beat them and how recalcitrant some of the residents could be toward new people and change. So, even though it is a Democratic stronghold, to see him take on this incumbent, who I know definitely had a base and had been there for 15 years, was great. He did it through blood, sweat and tears. His win was truly overwhelming. It was truly great to see all those grass-roots campaigns led by DSA, but we were also working with Our Revolution and other allies, especially in the Carter race, such as Planned Parenthood.
SJ: That is interesting you mention those two in particular because one of these was against, of course, a Republican incumbent. The other one was against the Democratic Party machine. I would love to hear you talk about that aspect of this; that in some places you were going up against these right-wing people and in other cases you are taking on centrist Democrats.
DD: We ultimately endorsed six candidates nationally — some of whom were running against Democrats, like Ginger Jentzen, who was in Socialist Alternative. Others, like Jabari Brisport, who is a Green, ran against the machine Democrats. Most of them were Democrats themselves and were running either in primaries like Khader Al-Yateem in Brooklyn and Tristan Rader who won, as well, in Lakewood, Ohio.
SJ: Take us back a little bit to the thinking and the planning around electoral strategy this year. You had the conference — tell us how the strategy came together and how people within DSA now are thinking about electoral politics.
DD: It is a very fascinating process for us and really one that evolved over the course of the year after Bernie Sanders first declared his intention for the presidential primary. DSA has come out of a movement that had really wanted to make the Democratic Party a Social Democratic party and a genuine progressive party. With the rise and success of neoliberalism in the 1990s and Clinton, both Bill and Hillary, and so many times Barack Obama, it was very clear that the idea of changing the Democratic Party was not really in the cards.
So, DSA shifted away from electoral politics and its bread and butter mission and had focused on social movement work. But, Bernie Sanders really energized people. So, DSA put a tremendous amount of energy and support into his candidacy. We started pretty small. Then, khalid kamau came out of nowhere and “Let’s work with you.” [Following the Yoruban African tradition, kamau prefers the lower-case spelling of his name.] That is when we started realizing we could build a national program, using khalid’s campaign as a model. We called dozens of chapters and got them to phone bank for him. People were excited to work for this amazing member and fellow Socialist. That made us realize we could really start building Socialist electoral power.
SJ: What did you require from candidates to get a DSA endorsement?
DD: We created a three-point criteria to receive a DSA endorsement. You had to be running as a Socialist. You didn’t have to be a DSA member, Ginger Jentzen is not. But you had to be a Socialist and be okay with talking about it, even if it wasn’t in the forefront of your campaign. It was very important to us that you had to have the support of a local DSA chapter. We don’t want to be that kind of DC or national group that kind of parachutes in and tells people who they are going to be supporting.
The third thing was we really wanted people to show us that they had a pathway to victory. We didn’t need somebody to say, “I am 100 percent a shoo-in to win,” but we wanted people to really show us they have been thinking about what were the steps to win their races. We wanted people who really were going to be out there hitting the pavement and talking to voters. From this, we were able to select six candidates. Then, really built a national infrastructure to support them through our base. Social media is a huge asset, especially for local races trying to draw national and potentially international attention and donations. But also, using our network of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of members to do phone banking and to do door knocking.
SJ: How does the broader post-Bernie spectrum of groups and organizations fit together in this moment? There were a bunch of Our Revolution endorsed candidates, there were some DSA endorsed candidates, there were other local people who come out of that movement all over the country. I am wondering how you think this movement, such as it is, fits together. Where are some of the tensions?
DD: I have been rather pleasantly surprised about how well the different post-Bernie formations have been doing and working together to keep this political revolution going. We have a very good working relationship with Our Revolution — sharing information and talking about candidates. We also have an affiliation program where DSA chapters can be the local Our Revolution chapter. Socialist Alternative, which is one of the other major socialist groups worked with us on Ginger Jentzen’s campaign. Brand New Congress is looking at people congressional races, along with Justice Democrats. It’s very much “You help me and I will help you.” That makes me incredibly optimistic for 2018.
SJ: I want to wrap up by talking about 2018 and what is coming down the pike. This is going to be the congressional elections. What are you guys working on so far?
DD: Well, we have not made any endorsements yet. What we are looking for 2018 is to expand our network of national volunteers who can then really work with local volunteers. On of the things that I appreciate about the new DSA, the one post-Trump election, is how still committed it is to being flexible and being willing to work around local conditions. I think that is what is going to make a modern DSA thrive. It is not necessarily having a one-size-fits-all model, but really allowing these grass-roots chapters who are autonomous to work with national to do what fits them. We are learning the from good lessons from how the right wing has built such a great pipeline of local candidates.
We are also looking at how we can support and hold candidates accountable after the election. For example, it was very exciting coming out of our convention, we have a strict policy we only endorse pro-choice candidates. Helping DSA chapters think about how they set their own standards for endorsements, I think, will be really key.
Of course, prioritizing electing Socialists will be our niche compared to other post-Bernie groups and our focus will still be advancing the Democratic Socialist agenda more explicitly.
SJ: How can people keep up with you and with DSA’s electoral efforts?
DD: You can follow DSA at @DemSocialists on Twitter. But, if people have any questions or comments or just want to get endorsements, learn how the process works, I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and that will go straight to me. We are going to be putting out a website pretty shortly about our electoral work. People should be on the lookout for that website at www.DSAUSA.org.
Interviews for Resistanceis a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes. Not to be reprinted without permission.
Economist and Author Ellen Brown joins the program to discuss the shape of our economy. She explains how black money projects are making it impossible for the United States to balance it’s books and details how our economy could be healthy if that money was returned to the people. She also discusses public banking and how that would maximize the use of our community funds and direct it’s uses and profits directly to the communities.
Ellen Brown is the founder of the Public Banking Institute and the author of a dozen books and hundreds of articles. She developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In the best-selling Web of Debt (2007, 2012), she turned those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust,” showing how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves and how we the people can get it back.
You can learn more about Ellen Brown on her website at https://ellenbrown.com or at http://www.publicbankinginstitute.org/
Please consider supporting the program at https://www.patreon.com/SarahWestall
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Grassroots Advocacy “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek” –President Barack Obama Our next meeting is at 1:30pm on Sunday, 6/11/17, at The Episcopal Church of St. … Continue reading →
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San Francisco Peace Vigil@ One Post Street, on the steps facing Market Street, below Feinstein’s office, directly above the Montgomery BART/Muni station)
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3-6pm: The Common Thread Collective Open Mic: Join Diamond Dave and Global Val for the mother of all open mics. Bring your poetry, fiction, politics, music, and good vibes! Listen online: http://pcrcollective.org/ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Common-Thread-Collective/142109675840591