Why an anthem

A letter writer recently asked “Why an anthem, why is it sung at sporting events, why was it chosen as the “National Anthem“, and why is it a political lightening rod?”

During the war of 1812, at Fort McHenry located in Baltimore, Md., a young lawyer, and someone named Francis Scott Key, was selected to negotiate with the British navel commander, the exchanging of war prisoners. To which the commander agreed. While on one of the British ships he talked to some of the American prisoners and told them of his mission.

The British commander told Key that if those in Ft. McHenry would lower their flag he would complete the exchange immediately. However those in the fort, including men, women and children refused. Hour after hour the cannons and rockets roared, while the prisoners below kept asking Key, “Is the flag still flying?” and all through the night he kept telling them, “Yes.”

When dawn finally broke, the flag was still there , causing the British to give up in frustration. They swapped prisoners and withdrew. After being put ashore, Key then went to the fort and discovered that all through the night as one after another would fall, another would take their place at the flag to support it. This inspired him to write the poem he called “Defence of Ft. McHenry.” The words of which are the first stanza of our anthem.

The music was taken from a song “Anacreon in Heaven” written by John Stafford. Many began to sing it along with “America the Beautiful” and “America.” At the 1918 baseball world series, it was chosen to open the series, and when the band played it, the people began to rise and sing; many began to place their hands over their hearts. Thus it was adopted for opening ceremonies. Because of its history, it became the official “National Anthem” by act of Congress in 1931.

As for our flag, it has a different history, being that there were dissimilar colors and designs that were used. Some portrayed a snake that said “Don’t tread on me”; another had red and white stripes with a British Union Jack in the upper left; however, red and white stripes were the common, with the blue field added in the upper left. Finally, the flag known today as the “Betsy Ross” flag was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1778. It consisted of 13 horizontal red and white stripes, and a circle of 13 five pointed stars on a blue field. The number representing the original colonies. As the country grew and a territory became a state, a star was added, thus the 50 stars today.

Mr. Reeder asks why these things have become a political lightning rod. When those such as Colin Kaepernick and others like him use the anthem, flag or other standards in a scurrilous manner, They deserve to be hit by the lightning backlash.

Ask what these things mean to a family of those attending a veterans flag draped funeral, listening to tapes being played and the presentation of the folded flag and what each fold stands for. Ask the Marines who watched the flag raised on Mt. Suribachi, what it means to them.

Ask the mothers who place a blue or sometimes gold star in their window. Ask a stranger who escapes from a totalitarian despot to become a citizen.

Galen W. Seaman

Williamsport

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