Sunday, July 3, 2011

The National Anthem

File:The Star-Spangled Banner - Project Gutenberg eText 21566.jpg
Cover of sheet music for "The Star-Spangled Banner", transcribed for piano by Ch. Voss, Philadelphia: G. Andre & Co., 1862

I was sitting with some friends after church today, having lunch at a little restaurant here in our community.  These women are a little older than me. Three of them, like me, are relatively new to our community.  The fourth one is a lifetime citizen.  I'm not even really sure how the subject came up, but one of them alluded to having a Mormon for a president and what that might be like.  Another one stated that if we could have a Muslim for a president, a Mormon couldn't be any worse.  The third one said that the Muslim was in the process of trying to change the national anthem and had actually hoped to get that done before this July 4th. 

Now, I know that I have not been paying close attention to the news lately, but I thought the whole Muslim/Christian debate about the president had subsided and I hadn't heard anything about the president trying to change the national anthem.  Not wanting to appear totally ignorant, I asked why he would want to do such a thing.  The response was that he didn't like the fact that the current anthem talked about the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air; it made us look too eager for war.  These women are good people.  They are people who care deeply for this country and who have very strong feelings about right and wrong.  They are Midwestern women who believe in God and in American justice.

The subject was changed when the food arrived but I couldn't get this thing about the national anthem out of my head.  How could I have missed this news item?  Was I really that out of touch?  So I came to the internet, because we all know that what we read on the internet is the truth, right?  I searched and I searched, but I could find no statement where Barak Obama declared that he wanted to change the National Anthem.  I finally went to  I appreciate their site very much.  They look at all sides and really check all the facts.  There is no leaning in either direction.  From FactCheck:

Q: Did Obama say the National Anthem conveys a "war-like message" and should be swapped for something such as "I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing"?

A:No. That’s false. The quote was one conservative writer’s idea of a joke, which has been picked up and repeated as though it were true in a chain e-mail.
"This is a ridiculous example of how false stories are started, spread and, in many cases, believed.
It began with a column dated Oct. 27, 2007, on a Web site called the Arizona Conservative, which is written by John Semmens and clearly labeled as humor. His column, in fact, is called "Semi-News — A Satirical Look at Recent News."
Nevertheless, his column on Obama has been copied and sent around in e-mails, masquerading as true stories. The reader who asked us about it said he received it from a conservative Republican coworker. The e-mail included a note calling Obama’s candidacy "a joke."
In this case, the joke is the message falsely quoting Obama, and it’s on whomever is gullible enough to believe it’s true."

I am not here to take sides or to share my political views with anyone.  I'd just like to question where and how we're getting our news these days.  It seems that anyone can post anything on the internet and it is believed.  Anyone can write a book, and what is written is taken as the truth.  Have we lost the ability to scrutinize what is put into our heads or have we become a nation that blindly follows what someone else tells us?  When I was growing up we were taught to question and determine for ourselves a truth.  We were taught to research and never accept one person's statement.  We were taught that you listen to both sides and understand that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. 

This doesn't mean that people always intentionally tell mistruths.  I'm certain that my friends believed that what they were sharing was true and factual.  But how many people, around the world, have shared the same thing, believing it?  My first thought was, "Why would a man who is about to run for re-election do something as foolish as try to change the national anthem?"  That didn't make sense to me in an age when we know all political candidates do their best to stay as close to the middle of the road as possible so that they can gather all the votes they can.  So I questioned and I researched.

Today is the celebration of our country's independence.  It's a day for fireworks, barbecues, and friends.  We'll sing the national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, proudly and we'll wave our flags.  And tomorrow we'll go about our business as usual.  We'll move on to the next big story, the next political candidate, the next event of the summer.  We'll take for granted what our forefathers spent seven years earning for us. 

How many of you remember that the Revolutionary War lasted for 7 long years?  How many of you remember that it was another 5 years after we won our independence before we had a constitution?  Do you know the story about how our national anthem was written?  The lyrics come from a poem entitled, "Defence of Fort McHenry" by Francis Scott Key in 1814, after witnessing a battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  It wasn't until 1931 that it was made our national anthem.  Did you know that there are four stanzas to the poem? 
The 15-star, 15-stripe "Star Spangled Banner Flag" which inspired the poem.

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 home 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![

The men and women who founded this great nation, the United States of America, fought for our freedom because they didn't want to follow blindly what someone else told them.  They wanted the freedom to think for themselves, to question what was said to them and to make choices based on facts, not rumors or gossip.  I wonder what they would think of the citizens of this great country today?  Are we any different than the people of  1776?  Or have we become sheep who blindly follow the latest story being shared? 

Gee, look at all of my questions.  Seems to be a pattern, doesn't it?

No comments: