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0607 PD: Just dropping by. . .

Yevet Tenney Published on 06 June 2007

Today I taught my Bulgarian adopted son, Paul, the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Though he has been in the U.S. for eight years, he still doesn’t understand the nuances of the English language. So I had to explain the imagery of the song. I found myself marveling again at the rich, poetic imagery that leaps from the words Francis Scott Key penned on September 14, 1814, after a grueling 25-hour British bombardment at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

I could see Francis Scott Key there at the porthole bedraggled and worn from a sleepless night, peering into the pre-dawn light with the searing question, “Is it still there?” I’m sure he thought: “Am I going to walk onto American soil with the British flag flying over the streets of a beaten people, or am I going to see the stars and stripes victoriously slapping the breeze?”

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Key knew Washington had been burned and the Americans were paying a huge price in soldiers’ blood. The battle could go either way. He watched through the night as the volley of fire lit up the night sky, like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Lights filled the night air, but the oohs and ahhs of the crowd were the moans and groans of the wounded and dying. Imagine Key’s insurmountable joy as he squinted through the first glimmer of gray light, to see the red, white and blue, full of holes but proudly waving on the distant shore.

My daughter, Ashley, asked, “Mom, why is the flag so important?” She is a serious thinker and asks questions that make you ponder the answer.

“Well,” I said, “the flag is the symbol of a country.”

If a country loses a war, the generals surrender their flag as a symbol of their defeat. The flag of the opposing country is hoisted up a pole as a symbol every citizen will pay homage in submission to the victor’s form of government.

For example, if the terrorists took over our county, the flag would be taken down and destroyed and a symbol of the terrorist movement would be raised. Our way of life would change in an instant.

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What would change if the Taliban took over America?

The new government would enter each city, town and province, taking down the stars and stripes. They would hoist their flag above every city.

First, those who opposed the new government would be rounded up and executed in front of everyone so there would be no question in anyone’s mind about what happens to rebels. The women would be given veils and would immediately become chattel and the property of a male-dominated state. Women who spoke out or refused to submit would be executed after sadistic appetites were satisfied. Children would be taken from the home and propagandized in the state philosophy. The churches, synagogues and temples would become the property of government officials.

All Christian religions would bow to the religion of the state, and within one or two generations, America’s greatness would be a curse and a byword on the lips of Third World country slaves bound by the traditions of ignorance and darkness.

There would be no free expression, frivolous laughter or exchange of ideas – tenets that have made America a land of opportunity. It wouldn’t take long before the riches and opulence we enjoy would deteriorate into groveling poverty.

No wonder Francis Scott Key was so profoundly touched with inspiration when he wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He could see the American way of life was choice. There were no other people on the face of the earth who had enjoyed so much freedom. And if the people’s lifestyles back then were choice, what would Key say about people today?

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He would probably gasp in wonder at the gadgets, modes of transportation and the power we have over our lives. He would also probably weep at the way we take it all for granted. His fiery pen would probably write sermons to be read from every pulpit, explaining his passion for our country’s freedom. His pointed objective would be: How long will your flag wave? How long can the God of this land stay his hand and watch the decadence and sickness that sweeps the land in the form of pornography and violence? How long will he keep our enemies at bay when we defy his laws and profane his name? How long will the flag of our nation fly?

Perhaps people will say, “America has nothing to worry about. We are as invincible as the ages.” I am not so sure we are not as vulnerable as Fort McHenry in the days of Francis Scott Key. Who would have thought the British capable of burning Washington as they did in 1814?

All countries are vulnerable. Just ask the winds that blow the sands that swirl over the remains of Sodom and Gomorrah. Talk to the pyramids of Egypt and the late dynasties of China. Speak to the Greek pillars that stand as decaying monuments of that civilization’s invincibility. Walk through the echoing chambers of the Aztec civilizations that left their mark of invincibility in the tangling vines of South America.

As the French philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

I guess we would have to define great. We do have great cars, great food, great opportunities and great swelling speeches from our politicians, but I don’t think those were the greatness Tocqueville was talking about. He was talking about the deep religious commitment American people had to their God.

Goodness comes from caring about humanity more than wealth. Goodness comes from valuing honor and integrity more than wealth and prosperity. Goodness comes from morality and strict observance of laws. There can be no greatness without goodness. Goodness comes from accountability to God and reverence for sacred values. People who have lost the spirit of reverence for God soon lose the reverence for human life. When reverence for human life is gone, they become animals searching for the next kill to satiate the passion that rules them.

Of course, Americans have not come to the point where they are animals, but there are a few who have run the gambit. Those who can walk into a public place and annihilate innocent people, disregarding their pleas for help. Those are the future and the consequences of a people who have forgotten God. “The Star-Spangled Banner” says it all. Pay particular attention to the words some have forgotten how to sing.

“The Star-Spangled Banner”

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 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!

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 homes and the war’s desolation, Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us as 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!

As the patriotic season approaches, may we take time with our families to reteach them “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the values that have made us a nation unsurpassed in all ages of time.

May Old Glory wave until the flag of our Lord and Savior flies over this great land. PD

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