Land of the “Free,” Home of the “Brave”

It’s in our national anthem, it’s chiseled in stone, it’s known around the world – it’s our motto, our claim to fame as a country, I suppose. Perhaps at one time it was applicable, when it needed to be, but in the years since the American Revolution, that creed, that promise, has become a burden. To me, “land of the free and home of the brave” is an antiquated statement in every sense. It’s a nuisance, as you’ll see.

            Starting with the first part of the phrase, “land of the free,” we already run into trouble. Or, I should say that the phrase was only true for a select few. White men are generally the “free” in that statement, with everyone else experiencing something much less than freedom. I’m sure it was empowering at the time and throughout history, but the phrase itself seems a rather arrogant distortion of the truth. It never really applied to the country at all. Whether a woman, an indigenous person, or an enslaved person, historically, the phrase comes up hollow, and continues to do so.

            But my main point of contention comes with how poorly the latter part of the creed, “home of the brave,” translates into contemporary times. To the people the phrase matters to, once again white men, “home of the brave” amounts to a justification of their impropriety. I’m certain those delightful fun-seekers at the January 6, 2021 insurrection are proud to consider themselves among “the brave.” But as far as modern delusion goes, the phrase has served as a dangerous call-to-arms for the sorely misguided of America.

            When it mattered, America showed its bravery, I suppose. In fleeing oppression in England, early colonists came here in defiance of their former lords, only to oppress everyone they found. That bravery was expended on the voyage overseas from Europe, it soured into delusions of grandeur and power.

            But now, when misinformation is ubiquitous, when citizens can choose their own information source to confirm their existing beliefs and biases, “home of the brave” has become a total nuisance. The misleading phrase seems to tell insurrectionist-types that they need to fight for America, and be brave, to maintain their freedom. The trouble is, theirfreedoms are not at stake. The stakes are wholly misconstrued. While the far-right seems to think that everything is being “cancelled” and their rights are in jeopardy, not much has changed. It’s a supreme privilege that so many white folks stormed the capitol with little to no consequence, if that’s not an indication of freedom, I don’t know what is. Meanwhile, protesters continue to march in the streets to protest grave injustices perpetrated by the police – but sure, it’s the white “patriots” that are really the victims here.

            I’m not suggesting we getting rid of “land of the free, home of the brave,” nobody would go for that. I’m simply pointing out that the phrase has misled generations of right-leaning people into thinking that not only are their rights being trampled, but they have to fight for them. There are Americans fighting for their rights, and they’ve been doing so since the civil war – and to be clear, they’re not white folks with land and guns. So, to those taking it upon themselves to storm the capitol and “taking back what’s theirs,” they are the brave, they are the free. But that simply isn’t true. They’re misled, they’re mistaken – and perhaps someone should tell them, because they’re sure as hell not going to listen to someone like me. 

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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