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After 204 years or so, I guess it's too late to change our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, which celebrates our victory in the War of 1812, which occurred on September 14, 1814. The "broad stripes and bright stars" survived atop Fort McHenry, which was protecting Baltimore, the next British target after they had burned down Our Nation's Capital. "By the dawn's early light" a scrappy remnant of the flag "was still there," inspiring Francis Scott Key to write four stanzas of lyrics to celebrate this survival. You may view the scrappy remnants at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in the District of Columbia. You may find all four stanzas of what became our national anthem at http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/pdf/ssb_lyrics.pdf . Each stanza ends with a variant of the final two lines of the first stanza, quite a tear jerker.
Though "In God We Trust" became the second of our two national mottos in December 1863, later than e pluribus unum in 1795, and some object to a religious reference in what they consider to be a secular song (there are what can be called religious references in our Declaration of Independence too), a slight variant on it was suggested in the fourth stanza of Key's lyrics, "[a]nd this be our motto: "In God is our trust," which also exhort "conquer we must /"when our cause it is just." The emphasis throughout on war echoes that in France's Marseillaise, including an allusion to blood.
The melody is from a drinking song and had been reused many times since its composition somewhere between 1760 and the late 1770s as an encomium to the virtues of wine, To Anacreon in Heaven. The source of the above is a fascinating page, http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/07/the-melody-for-the-star-spangled-banner-was-taken-from-a-drinking-song. [Anacreon was, by the way, a Greek lyric poet (b. around 582 BC) who wrote hymns and drinking songs to be accompanied by a lyre.]
The actual victory of the War of 1812 was the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. And there actually was a holiday commemorating it on January 8, the Eighth, celebrated between 1828 until 1861. This battle was fought after the peace treaty, the Treaty of Ghent, had been signed in Belgium on Christmas Eve of 1814. There is a popular and familiar song celebrating this battle. Matthew Dennis wrote an article in Time magazine questioning why there were no national holidays celebrating what he described as "a series of military disasters."
The ramifications were huge--read Dennis's brief article that says so heartbreakingly much at http://time.com/3645570/war-of-1812 . Read it and weep.
But Dennis called the War of 1812 "ostensibly about securing American independence against the persistent threats of Great Britain" and the first war declared by the United States.
It is thus, I read, a second Independence Day of sorts, initially eclipsed by the timing of the New Orleans victory, on Christmas Eve.
Should I end here with this justification for an article on the Star Spangled Banner and the War of 1812 instead of something more directly related to July 4?
Not quite. In the pivotal final stanza of our national anthem are the verses "Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land / Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!"
"Praise the power" may appeal to our current president, but "peace" actually appears amid these lines, unlike in the Marseilleise's seven stanzas plus dramatic refrain.
In the Declaration of Independence, actually completed on July 2, when Congress approved it, Jefferson called the Indians "savages." I've written about this before. So do John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and Albert Gallatin in a separate document, at least twice. So did many others. The Indians had been opposing American settlement forcibly and backed the British in the War of 1812, which sealed their tragic fate; the British ultimately abandoned them after proposing a separate state for the Indians south of the Great Lakes. In return, according to Dennis, "The tribes' defeat and treaty fraud opened Indian lands to white settlers, and a series of removals (numerous "trails of tears") forcibly relocated five Native American nations and over 50,000 Native American people west of the Mississippi. White settlement of these vacated territories simultaneously spread King Cotton and slavery into the Deep South."
Back, for a minute, to the Star Spangled Banner: it's still waving over us, still calling our country "the land of the free and the home of the brave." We'll have to be brave to continue to oppose the latest threat to our freedoms, first declared as "truths self-evident" and "inalienable rights" in the Declaration of Independence, which also proclaims our full power to levy War AND conclude Peace.
To protect our rights against this latest threat to them, let us once again "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Happy July 4.
PS: I never answered my question whether the Star Spangled Banner should remain our national anthem, as tainted with bloody war as it is. I guess that any effort in that direction now wouldn't be prioritized or taken seriously, in the throes of this reign of terror. All comments pro or con are most welcome. But first let's cement a victory against the warped and violent values of the present administration. Nonviolently, of course.