St. Paul’s mayor gets off to a bad start

This is shocking: Melvin Carter, at his inauguration as St. Paul’s mayor, went on an ill-informed rant against the National Anthem:

During his inaugural speech Tuesday, St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter III said he was honored to have a locally-born musician present at his own Central High School to sing the national anthem — with a big caveat.

“We cannot ignore the painful reminder, written into our anthem’s third verse, of just how deeply injustice is rooted in the American tradition … Our national freedom song is an ode to slavery,” Carter said.

“This is the American paradox, passed from generation to generation, dating back to the noble group of rich white straight male landowners who embedded into our founding principles a yearning for a set of God-given rights they sought to secure for only themselves,” the mayor added.

Carter is speaking from ignorance–about the Founders, and about the Anthem. With regard to the Anthem, he repeats a canard that has become popular among certain left-wing activists over the year or so. He refers to the Anthem’s third verse, which is almost completely unknown (or was until leftists started talking about it). This is the relevant language:

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.

Francis Scott Key merely describes the British forces as “hirelings,” i.e mercenaries, and slaves, which some of them were. (Some may have been freed slaves, too.) To claim that this makes the song an “ode to slavery” is absurd. Noting that some slaves fought for the British does not express an opinion, one way or another, about slavery.

Mayor Carter expresses the kind of divisive ignorance that we have seen far too much of in recent years. It is too bad that he has chosen to begin his tenure as mayor on such an inappropriate note.