The Star Spangled Banner: A Flag and Song For a Warrior Nation

March 6, 2010

Throughout human history, flags were visual identification of leaders, groups, armies, monarchs or nations. A flag flying usually meant some sort of control. The flag of a monarch flying over a castle could mean that the monarch is in residence or that the monarch owns the castle. A flag flying over a certain building could simply denote that a government owns it.

So, what does it say when you fly the American flag, Patriot? Who owns you? And what about the National Anthem, which is about that flag?

Is The Star Spangled Banner a proper song for a nation desirous of peace, or is it only fit for a warlike nation? Let’s look together and you be the judge.

“The Star Spangled Banner” was a poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key during the British shelling of Fort McHenry near Baltimore, during the War of 1812. It was set to music by John Stafford Smith, who used a popular British drinking song for the tune. The song covers 1 ½ octaves, and is hard to sing for most everyone.

Here are the words of the first of four verses:

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?

Doesn’t really give you a feel for anything about America, does it? All it really says is that at dawn, during a battle, the author wonders aloud if the flag can still be seen flying over the ramparts of the fort.

Now, consider the words of the song “My Country, ‘tis of Thee:”

My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!
My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.
Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.
Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

Nice, huh? It’s a love song to the country, and written to be easily sung within one octave. The tune was taken from the British anthem “God Save The King.”

All of this talk of the “Star Spangled Banner” leads me to a non-musical thought as a derivative of the article I wrote about the Pledge of Allegiance.

Let’s stop all this flag waving and false patriotism.

Patriotism is often a synonym for nationalism. English writer Samuel Johnson made the oft-quoted pronouncement that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” The “America – Love It or Leave It” crowd are nationalists, not patriots. Many are “Jingoists,” advocating the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what they perceive as America’s national interests, and have an excessive bias in judging their own country as superior to others. Most of the folks who “support the troops” are Jingoists in practice, although they would argue that they are patriots.

Patriotism is simply a love of one’s own country. But writings about patriotism as far back as Socrates emphasize devotion to humanity and beneficence. For example, providing charity, criticizing slavery, and denouncing excessive penal laws were all considered patriotic in the 18th Century. In both ancient and modern visions of patriotism, individual responsibility to fellow citizens is an inherent component of patriotism. Also, critical analysis of the actions of a government and its people are also considered patriotic. But a devotion to humanity and war in the Middle East are antithetical to one another. Choose one…you cannot have both.

When you consider those characteristics of patriotism, you see that the focus is very local. It’s pretty hard for a patriot to exhibit true patriotism in a large sphere like a nation of over 300 million people, but easy to be nationalistic and appear patriotic. That’s why I contend that most patriotism is false patriotism.

America embraces nationalism, and very little real patriotism.

From Little League baseball and soccer, up through the sporting events in high school, to college sports and then up to the professional sporting events, the American flag is flown and the events are preceded with the “Star Spangled Banner.” We even get military fighter jets flying over big stadiums in formation as punctuation at the end of the National Anthem.

But what does that say? What is the real message behind all that folderol and imagery?

1. We tell each other that we cannot even play without the government.
2. We sing about the government, which can only be a tacit approval of its existence and actions.
3. We bow our heads, remove our hats and hold them over our hearts while we either sing or listen to someone else sing in praise of the government. Is this not an act of worship? Don’t you do the exact same things on Sunday in your favorite church?
4. We submissively recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the government.
5. When we display the American flag it is always in the highest placement. Superiority denotes which entity is most important. Curiously, in the churches of Christianity in America, they see no conflict here. But American churches by and large worship both the State and their God. It’s just that in practice, the State is in the Number One position.

In my opinion, waving the flag, reciting the Pledge and singing the National Anthem is tantamount to State worship. We say with our actions that all our human life is subservient to the State.

If you must fly a flag, fly the flag of the state in which you live. Secession-minded patriots understand that their liberty will be found in sovereign statehood, not American nationalism.

Secession is the Hope For Mankind. Who will be first?

DumpDC. Six Letters That Can Change History.

© Copyright 2010, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.