In Defense Of The National Anthem: The Metaphor Of Our Past

Scott Heavey

theroosevelts has come to the defense of a bad national anthem -- and he is wrong -- but we let him make his case anyways and no, this has nothing to do with Spurs.

Today, March 6, 2013, rumors leaked out of the SB Nation Soccer offices that the editorial board was emerced in an intense debate -- a debate that is as old as our nation (America) -- but this discussion looked at this tired debate with a new angle.

For a long time, our national anthem been viewed as nothing more than adequate. Not bad and not great -- just sort of there. Nobody can argue this (except maybe the combined choirs of our military academies). It is not La Marsiellaise, it is not the Russian national anthem. It is average, it is the Peter Crouch of National anthems.

But today was the first time to my knowledge that a new question was raised: is a song about the War of 1812 good enough to be our national anthem?

It is a war that we decidedly lost. It was a war we didn't ever really need to be in. It was a war that we all sweep under the rug in hopes that nobody will notice it happened. Is that a suitable subject matter for the song that represents our nation?

The obvious answer is OF COURSE IT ISN'T!

This is a war that we were not prepared for in any way -- militarily, monetarily or politically. This was the international relations equivalent of the little nerdy kid trying to stand up to the bullym but forgetting to got through the training montage first. Oh, sure, the English were just sort of stealing our sailors or something, but who cares? If it wasn't a big enough deal for your 8th grade history teacher to spend more than two seconds on then it clearly wasn't that important. But oh no, we had to go get all cowboy'd minuteman'd up and think we could pull off that Rocky II level upset twice in the span of 30 years.

Sure, we barley beat the greatest military force the western world has ever seen, we are just as ill prepared and now they are REALLY pissed at us so lets fight them again. What a great idea! And we got crushed. The British literally burned our capital after they ate their way through a White House state dinner . Our one big victory of the war was in a battle that happened after the peace treaty was signed (damn you, sea travel!). This, by all rights ,shouldn't be what we glorify in our national anthem, right?

Well It's a good thing that the war isn't what the anthem was about. The anthem itself is not about the war as a whole because that would be stupid. It was about a moment, one moment in one place that captured the ongoing American spirit. Look at the lyrics .

Oh, 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 thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

It's the eyewitness account of Americans holed up in a fort besieged by overwhelming force, just getting pounded to dust all night by cannon and rocket fire. And against all logic, all possible odds, and all good sense they refused to lower the flag. The symbol of thier nation, the symbol really of their defiance of the greatest military might in the world would continue to fly.

It is that great American scrappy underdog spirt that says you may be 100 times stronger than me on paper, but fuck you, you still have to come take what is mine from me. I don't just give it up. It is about the awe that Francis Scott Key felt seeing this event unfold at a truly humble fort in Baltimore harbor .

And a few hundred years latter this might seem more trivial, an emblum of a past we have outgrown. We, all of us reading this, were born and raised in the era of Pax Americana. We have never known a time when we were not the strongest nation in the world. But much like anything else in this, our great melting pot, we grow and we evolve, yet we should never ever forget where we came from. Be it grandma getting off the boat at Ellis Island, or grandpa coming from Mexico seeking a better life for his children.

Or that we were once not the baddest nation on the block.

There was a time when people tried to push us around and whether it was smart or not, we stood on principle and said, "no, you cannot take from me what is mine without a fight." We, here and now, basking in the glow of our superpower nation should always remember the time when we were the meek, but stood up to the strong. That is what our anthem is about. So while it is not musically and lyrically as stirring by itself as some other songs, the idea behind it, the story behind it most certainly is.

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