Sunday, February 01, 2015

Why I Am So Critical of Those That Sing Our National Anthem

The Napoleonic Wars had taken their toll on British resources.  In the early 1800s they started to empress US citizens into the British Navy on the pretense that people of Irish or Scottish decent could not renounce being subjects of the King despite their US citizenship.  In 1812, the US had had enough, and war with Great Britain ensued.  It was not going well.  The War of 1812 was a naval war, and the British were the kings of the seas.  Despite some US victories in the Great Lakes, by 1814 the survival of the fledgeling nation was in serious doubt.  Washington had been sacked and burned.  The US Capitol and the White House had been torched.  Alexandria, VA had been sacked.  The British fleet set their sights on Baltimore and had only to overcome Fort McHenry, which guarded the mouth of the river.  On September 3rd, 1814, President Madison sent two emissaries under a flag of truce to the HMS Tonnant.  Their objective was a prisoner exchange, to which the British agreed.  Since an attack on the Fort was imminent, however, the two emissaries - Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner - were forced to remain on the Tonnant until the battle was over. 

The British engaged Fort McHenry on the evening of September 13, 1814.  At stake in that battle was American Independence.  Key watched the battle unfold from the deck of the Tonnant.  Inspired by what he saw that night, Key wrote a four stanza poem on the back of a letter he had in his pocket.  That poem - The Defense of Fort McHenry - became what we know today as our national anthem.  The first stanza is what we hear sung before every sporting event today. 

Read the words.  Understand what Key is describing.  Understand what was at stake on that fateful night in 1814.  And before you ever presume to sing this song in front of an audience, understand full well that you are paying tribute to the defense of a nation.  It is not a song to honor you, the singer.  It is a song sung to honor a victory, pulled from the jaws of defeat,  a victory that secured a nation.  Do not perform it.  Honor it.

The Defense of Fort McHenry:

O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

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, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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, 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.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry 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![ 

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