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The Idea Mag - Issue 16 - July 31st, 2005 - Front Page


A National Anthem

While it's probably the most well know song in this country, little more than one third of Americans know all the words. Even a democratic presidential candidate didn't know all the words as he spontaneously started singing when faced with hecklers. Thousands of people will hear it played in some form as they or at least as they should respectfully remove their hats and stand in respect as our National Anthem opens ballgames almost every day.

Just as that same flag still exists the one that Francis Scott Key saw 'through the rocket's red glare' and the 'bombs bursting in air' so do the verses he penned, and the country he loved.

Today most Americans are familiar with the first verse of the 'Star-Spangled Banner' although they may not know all the words my guess would be that very few have any idea what the other verses say.

The first verse of the anthem has questions. Oh say can you see? Does that Star Spangled Banner still wave? It is the other verses that answer those questions.

The second verse4 is set around the battle Key witnessed. His prose paints first a scene of darkness as the observer wonders what has happened? Has the enemy achieved victory? Then a stiff wind whips by, and in the distance, above the fort he notices something fluttering. He can't quite make it out, until behind him morning's light breaks across the sea. Then he stands a bit taller, his hand goes to his heart, for in the distance he clearly see the tattered, battle marked flag. His flag. And it is still waving.

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream.
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

If any member of the ACLU actually read the third verse, they would sue Mr. Key for every cent he had. In their minds he would be the most intolerant, closed-minded, nationalistic, culturally bigoted, cowboy they had ever known. That might just be what I like about him, and his song. It's a warning to every enemy of America, inside or out.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight and 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.

But today's progressive culture might find the next verse even more appalling. Men stand protecting their home and country? Shouldn't that be gender inspecific? Victory and Peace is a blessing? Our security comes not from diplomacy, not from the military, but from Heaven? Where's the separation of Church and State? Conquer we must? When our cause is just? But no cause is any more just than another! No one has the right to impose their equally viable ideals on another! Our motto? In God is our trust? Outrageous!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Bles't with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Yes, today Mr. Key would be collectively burned at a religiously neutral stake by a diverse group representing all the protected classes.

And that is a sad thing, for as I think about it, it seems that if the last two phrases of the fourth verse are to be true, so must the first six.

It is also notable that there is no mention of a geographic place, no mention of a specific nation, no mention of what country this anthem speaks of. Only that it is the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

May that always be America.