Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Fragility
Of Our

It's Fourth of July and I have my flag flying in front of my house, I've got my barbecue at the ready, and I have a box of fireworks all set to burn down the neighborhood.

All three extistent generations of my family will be spending the day together. We're going to eat pork chops, drink Coca Cola and Sam Adams, throw a baseball around the yard, and then later in the evening, we're going to head downtown (as we do every year) and watch the freakin' HUGE fireworks display our city puts on.

Of course, the fireworks are a thing of magic for me and the kids. But, they are also a reminder of the truth that our freedom was born of war. In fact, I believe that fireworks would not be so prevalent had not Francis Scott Key penned the following lyric:

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.

Francis Scott Key's The Star Spangled Banner is about the fragility of our Freedom:

Key, a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, wrote it after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, by British ships in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.

On 3 September 1814, Key and John S. Skinner of Baltimore, Maryland, an American prisoner-exchange agent, set sail from Baltimore aboard the
sloop HMS Minden flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by U.S. President James Madison. Their goal was to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, the elderly and popular town physician of Upper Marlboro, a friend of Key's who had been captured in Washington, D.C., and had been accused of harboring British deserters. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship, HMS Tonnant, on 7 September and spoke with General Robert Ross and Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner, while they discussed war plans. At first, Ross and Cochrane refused to release Beanes, but relented after Key and Skinner showed them letters written by wounded British prisoners praising Beanes and other Americans for their kind treatment.

Because Key and Skinner had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle. During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort's smaller "storm flag" continued to fly, but once the shelling had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn. By then, the storm flag had been lowered, and a larger flag had been raised.

Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, is today on display in the National Museum of American History, a treasure of the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored in 1914 by Amelia Fowler, and again in 1998 as part of an ongoing conservation program.

Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. At twilight on 16 September, he and Skinner were released in Baltimore. He finished the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and he entitled it "Defence of Fort McHenry."

July 4th is, of course, a day to celebrate our Freedom, but it is also a day to remember that we are blessed to have it, to have defended it, and to have the will to still be defending it to this very day.

I pray that we will continue to find the will to defend our Freedom in coming years.

My wife is a first-generation immigrant. Our family knows firsthand how precious the United States of America is to the world at large. We are a beacon of hope and a bulwark against tyranny. God help us to remain so.

And a profound Thank You to our fighting men. I couldn't do what you do.