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Above the Noise, Not Part of It

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June 18, 2019

Our National Anthem

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 thru 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 through 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?

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!

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!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest 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!

“The Star Spangled Banner”  Francis Scott Key, 1814
The national anthem of the United States of America.

When I was very young, I was taught verses one and four.  Somewhat later, oh…third or fourth grade, I think it was…I learned the others.  Yes, I grew up in the days before the “stand respectfully if you don’t care to sing” rules.

My wife directed me to a YouTube video of a nice little nine year-old girl singing it in front of a stadium full of football fans.  You know the type…it makes the rounds of e-mail chains once in awhile.  Funny thing…that nine year old is in her teens, now…but I digress.

Used to be that, if the national anthem was being played, people ON THE STREETS would stop, face a flag, (they used to be everywhere), and put their hands over their hearts.  Many would even sing, no matter how badly!  Not infrequently, a tear would show itself on a face in the crowd.

As I alluded, this video was several years out-of-date.  I shan’t name the team for which this rendition was being sung, nor even the city.  Suffice it to say that I felt pity…and then shame, for them…Why, you ask?

Because up until recently, stadium announcers did not NEED to ask people to STAND.  They did not NEED to ask “gentlemen” to “remove their hats” during the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” as they do today.  Sad enough, from my perspective.  But this video, even four years ago, did what they usually do.  It panned around from the Army Reserve or USMC Honor Guard to the sidelines of players and faces in the crowd.  Not all that long ago, it was unusual to see a player that wasn’t at least lip-syncing with the words.  In this particular video there were none.

At first, as I said, I felt pity for the people of the city where this game was held.  That pity begat shame, and that shame begat revulsion.  In an era that both enshrines and derides a football player for his open devotion to his G-d, this nation gives him the liberty to do so.  You may disagree with that player.  You may disagree with the NASCAR driver who promotes his faith.  You might not be squarely behind the golf pro, the tennis pro, the Olympic athlete or even singer, actor, scientist or politician that openly thanks or makes reference to their particular version of the Divine, but just as surely as it is your RIGHT to feel that way, it is their RIGHT to do it in the first place…in complete and utter disregard for your “feelings” about it.  So you’re even.

So…still think that a nod of reverence for those words at the beginning of this essay are “old fashioned” or “unwarranted”?  Still think that they give you the “right” to be “free from” such displays of faith more than they have a right to make those displays?  Why?  Fair is fair, right?  During the football game, one side doesn’t have the right to commit fouls at the expense of the other, does it?  In the “big race”, one car isn’t allowed to have an extra hundred horsepower, is it?  Fair is as fair does.  Give and take.  Live and let live.

I don’t presume to insist that schoolchildren in this day and age must needs be taught all four verses of “The Star Spangled Banner”.  Do I believe it would make this nation a better place for them and their children?  Yes, I do, but they are your kids.  Not mine.  Live and let live.  Neither have you any complaint if my children do, in fact, know all of those words…and teach them to their children.  Fair is as fair does.   I DO, however, believe that ALL children in these United States should learn at LEAST the FIRST verse.  The ones who don’t “believe on it” may “opt-out” of singing it, but I still believe it should be TAUGHT.  Right up there with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Preamble of the Constitution.

And I honestly don’t care if you agree with me or not.

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