Our national... question?

Two hundred and forty three years ago today, the founders of our nation gathered and agreed to a document that began with these immortal words...

"When in the course of human events….”

And thus, the grand American experiment in liberty formally began with a bold Declaration rooted in our understanding of God-given rights, a firm rejection of man-driven tyranny and a profound confession of mutual reliance on Providence and our fellow man.

It was an experiment that would cost many their lives and put everything at risk. Yet at the heart of this Declaration and the very essence of this land we call America is a constant recognition that the future of our nation is perpetually in the balance — determined by each generation’s willingness to stand and sacrifice.

+ + Our national question...

This tension between a nation’s greatness and its inherent vulnerability can be seen in our National Anthem. A quick survey of most anthems finds much bravado and national pride. Our English forebears sing “God Save The Queen,” a sentiment that did not play well on this side of the pond. “Advance Australian Fair” proclaims the anthem from down under. “Home to great daughters and sons” sing Austrians about their “much praised” land. “Beloved land amongst a thousand others,” sing Brazilians. “True patriot love in all thy sons command” sing our friends to the north. Even the world’s smallest country, Monaco, proclaims in its anthem, “Forever, in our land, one flag has flown in the wind.”

Yet in arguably the most powerful and free land in the history of the world, a different anthem is offered. After a night of intense fighting, Francis Scott Key peered into the “dawn’s early light" to see if the American troops had maintained control of Fort McHenry. The first stanza of his poem, which later became our anthem, posed an enduring question: “O say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, over the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Instead of an anthem full of pride and inflated language about our greatness, Americans sing forth a national… question. Every time our anthem is sung, that question goes forth: Will we survive the battles of the night? Will our flag of liberty under God still be raised at the dawn’s early light?

The question is answered in the following stanzas. But it seems fitting that these words are not sung as our anthem. Instead, at every formal gathering and every sporting event, our national question goes forth...

...Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave over he land of the free and the home of the brave?"

This is why America is unique among nations. Yes, we can question. Yes, we challenge each other "in order to form a more perfect union." And yes, we acknowledge that the future destiny of our nation is always in question, dependent on the faithfulness and determination and dedication of patriot-citizens who are willing to answer the call. And to stand for the anthem And boldly sing forth our national question, knowing that the answer depends on our Commitment to liberty and our firm reliance on The Creator and each other.

Happy Independence Day!

Steve Elliott, Grassfire

P.S. The final installment of our "Thriving 101" video series includes this story of our "national question." Go here to watch.

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  • Judith Mower
    commented 2019-07-04 12:38:53 -0400
    Thank you for sharing this!!!!! I hope and pray every American reads and remembers every word that our National Anthem stands for. May our “STAR SPANGLED BANNER” keep on waving every morning in our wonderful country. ( I wish I could say our United States of America, but we are from “united”. Thank GOD, that HE is in control. Other wise the world would have destroyed itself long ago.