LOT'S WIFE..Turn around..look back...see with new eyes

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I have spent a lot of time looking more closely at our history, our institutions, and our beliefs. I have found that, upon examination, many are incorrect, or clouded by myth.

GOSHEN, Ind. Monday, June 6, 2011
— A small Indiana college that began playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" for the first time at sporting events last year, upsetting some who believe the song with its images of war and the military undermines the school's pacifist message, plans to review next month whether to continue the practice... Goshen College’s board of directors has suspended the practice in response to complaints. … The board of the Mennonite liberal-arts college has asked its president to come up with a song “that fits with sports tradition, that honors country and that resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies,” according to a press release.

The original flag in the Smithsonian
I must confess, like Goshen College,  our National Anthem has always bothered me.   I often thought America The Beautiful would have been a much better choice as the song of our nation.   After all, the ANTHEM does speak of bombs, rockets, and war….    But, let's turn around and look back.... at the history of  The Star Spangled Banner…and the words that are never sung....

The United States of America, quite rightly (in my opinion), went to war with Great Britain in 1812 because we DISAGREED with them over our freedom of the ocean.

We resented Britain’s interference with American international trade, their impressment of American sailors, and their obstacles to America’s desire to expand.   This led Congress to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812.

We managed to keep them at bay for at least two years. We did this even though, as a country, we were not very strong.

 During this period, the Brits were involved in an altercation with Napoleon.  At the same time that we declared war on England,  Napoleon set off on an invasion of Russia.   Everyone expected him to be successful which would result in his complete control of Europe.  Great Britain would then be on her own. This was NOT the best of times to be at war AGAIN with America.

In the beginning the British were outdone by our seamen. Commander Oliver Hazard Perry, sent this message upon winning a battle on Lake Erie in 1813, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours."

But, the British navy was mightier and they were blockading New England.  They eventually overpowered our ships.  And, New England, increasingly strangled by the blockade, was threatening to secede.

Then, Napoleon was forced, in 1814, to abdicate because he was thrashed by the Russian winter. With this concern out of the way Great Britain could now give America its complete attention.

The British planned a three-pronged attack.

From the North they would come down Lake Champlain toward New York, and capture parts of New England. From the South they would travel up the Mississippi, seize New Orleans and shut down the West. The Central prong would go for the Mid-Atlantic states and attack Baltimore because it was the largest port south of New York.

Since America, at that time, was gathered along the Atlantic coast, the taking of Baltimore would have cut the nation in two.

The success or failure of this Central prong would determine the fate of America.

On August 24, 1814, they arrived on the Atlantic coast capturing Washington, D.C..... With that done, the British proceeded up the Chesapeake Bay, toward Baltimore.

 At the time, Fort McHenry (OUR fort) controlled Boston Harbor with big guns and 1000 men.  In order to take Baltimore the British would have to capture the fort. They arrived on September 12 prepared to do just that.

Fort McHenry
 Meanwhile, the elderly Dr. William Beanes was being held prisoner on one of the British ships having been arrested in Maryland (I do not know why).   His lawyer and friend, Francis Scott Key, had come to the ship with the hope of negotiating his release.

Francis Scott Key
 Although the British captain of the ship was willing to do so, he told the two Americans that they could not leave right away.
The bombardment of Fort McHenry was about to begin. It was now the evening of Tuesday, September 13, 1814.

From their place on the ship, with the twilight fading, Key and Beanes could see the American flag flying over Fort McHenry.

They watched all through the night. They could hear the bursting of the British bombs. They could see the red glare of their rockets. The men knew the fort was holding because they could see the flag flying in the light of the battle.

The British bombardment fell silent toward morning. At this time Key and Beanes could not see what happened…it was still too dark. Had Fort McHenry surrendered or had it held fast? Which flag now flew above the fort?

The men struggled to see as the eastern sky was slowly lit by the dawn. Key and the doctor asking each other again and again "Can you see it? Can you see the flag?"

When the battle was done Key wrote a four-stanza poem sharing the events and emotions of this night.

It was titled The Defense of Fort McHenry. The poem was published in newspapers, and was immediately popular.

It was observed that the words fit an old English tune called To Anacreon in Heaven – a mostly unsingable tune because it had a large and very contorted vocal range. But, the words fit the melody so….

Key's poem soon became known as The Star Spangled Banner, and in 1931, Congress declared it the official anthem of the United States.

Now that you have the backgroud of the story,  read the words of THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER....ALL the words that are never sung and few know exist.    It is Dr. Beanes who is speaking first….. This is the question he asks of Key:

Oh! 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 rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.

Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Key answers:

On the shore, dimly seen thro' the mist 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 on 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!

Key continues (with a slap at the British):

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 footstep's 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.

This last verse expresses Key's hope for America:

Oh! 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 Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation. 

Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,

And this be our motto - "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

So today, FLAG DAY, turn around….look at our National Anthem…. See it now with new eyes.....listen to it with new ears……and sing it, ALL OF IT,  with a new voice.

It is not an anthem of war…it is a tribute, with gratitude, to the survival of our country and to the preservation of our liberty.  Our flag is still here...long may it wave!

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