Bill Press is just the latest in a long line of (mostly) progressive types who take issue with the Star Spangled Banner being our National Anthem. Francis Scott Key penned the poem inspired by the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. It starts very simply asking a question:
Oh Say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming
For you young “whippersnappers” out there, that’s “twilight” the time of day, not “Twilight” the cheesy emo-vampire novel. What Frank is asking – is the the flag still flying over the fort. He goes on to describe the flag:
Who’s broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
Over the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
For those not familiar with battle etiquette, if the Fort wanted to signal their surrender to the ships bombarding it, they would have to “strike their colors” – cell phones still almost two centuries away. If the flag were lowered (or knocked down and not replaced), it meant that the Americans had given up.
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air
gave proof through the night that our flag was still there!
It’s important to remember that Key was on a British ship during the battle – he wasn’t suffering the bombardment, but observing it. The fact that the British had not yet stopped attacking the fort meant that it still resisted.
Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave
Over the land of the free, and the home of the brave?
This isn’t about America loving war, or being a martial people. This song is about American’s facing adversity – standing up to those who would have imposed their will upon us – and resisting. It is not war that the poem and song glorify – it is the bravery and honor of a people who do not surrender when fighting for a just cause.
We face adversity, whether it be the military superpower of the day as Britain was, or the challenges of terrorism, or fascism, or other opponents of freedom with strength and resolve. The song reminds us – all of us – that America has a long tradition of meeting such challenges head on. We don’t surrender, we don’t give up, we press on.
When the question is asked “does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave” it’s reinforcing in each of us the need – the demand – that history makes on every succeeding generation to make sure that American remains the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave.”