Our National Anthem: Becoming Obsolete?

Way back in the dark ages (that is, the 50s when I grew up), any time you heard our national anthem you stopped in your tracks, placed your right hand over your heart and stood at attention. Why? Because we were raised to respect our national anthem, our flag and our country. We lived in a time where to do less was unheard of.

Oh, these days you can dismiss our national anthem as old-fashioned, divisive, old-school, or whatever. But for us old farts who grew up in the 50s we always stood up during the national anthem; it was called respect for our country. You can say that we who were raised back then to respect our country in every way are just a generation of old fogies clinging to a bygone era.

But think of this: what else in America will suddenly be seen as old-fashioned, divisive, old-school and be torn down? Many schools have dropped American history, which is not only a shame but one more way to ignore our past. And as we have sadly learned, to ignore the past is to repeat the worst of history.

When I was in grade school, I read about the holocaust, the wars, the atrocities done to the innocent and more. I went to my dad, who had served in WW2 and asked him how these horrors came to be. Long story short, he told me this: “if you think that these things are over and done with, know this: they can and probably will happen again.” I asked him how we could stop this. His answer? “Pay attention and read your history.”

We are already losing monuments, statues and other reminders of days gone by. We may not like them or agree with their presence, but like it or not, they are part of our history. They are reminders that we have made mistakes in the past and we need to learn from them. If everything that offends everyone is gone, we will no doubt make the same horrendous mistakes of the past all over again.

I don’t need to list all the wrongs that we Americans have done or not done; our history teaches us this; that is, if you read history. Knowing our own history in this country is not only a way to not repeat errors of the past, but to learn how to live with each other, respect each other even if we don’t always agree on everything.

Speaking only for myself, I would be heartbroken if our national anthem became obselete. Below is the complete version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” showing spelling and punctuation from Francis Scott Key’s manuscript in the Maryland Historical Society collection:

“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb 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 wash’d 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.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d 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 preserv’d 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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