Oh Say Can You See? Patriotism Must Survive

He bore witness to the bombardment from the deck of a 60-foot sloop. For 25 hours, the British Fleet rained down hell’s fury in the form of ordnance over the Americans defending Fort McHenry. And as the man on the sloop watched in horror, more than 1,500 220 pound bombs had their fuses lit by the British and were launched in rapid-fire succession at the fort. He did not see how the fort could possibly stand.

Ft McHenryUnfortunately for the British, there was a flaw in their new mortars: they had a tendency to explode in midair rather than upon impact. And the fort stood. From the deck of the HMS Erebus, the new British Congreve rockets were launched, tracing crooked red arcs across the night skies in their wake. In all, the British used five bomb ketches, ten small warships, and the Erebus to assault Fort McHenry for a full day and night. The dates were September 13th and 14th, and the year was 1814.  From the deck of the sloop, its name lost to history, Sir Francis Scott Key stood, watching, waiting, praying for a glimpse of our stars and stripes.

When at last dawn broke the horizon, Major George Armistead ordered the fort’s smaller storm flag be lowered and replaced with an impressive sight: a 42×30-foot American flag. During the summer of 1813, Armistead had requested local “maker of colours” Mary Young Pickersgill sew a flag of such size “the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance.” Mary and her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, set about sewing what would become one of the most famous flags in our nation’s history. 400 yards of high-quality wool bunting were cut into eight red and seven white stripes, each two feet wide (at the time, those 15 stripes represented the 15 states). Each star was two feet across from point to point.

PickersgillLaying the pieces out on the floor of Claggett’s Brewery, a neighborhood establishment, they sewed together a masterpiece of American pride. It was this flag Armistead raised in triumph at dawn on September 14, 1814. And, from the deck of the sloop where Key had been forced to wait out the battle due to British concern over the possibility he might have gleaned some useful intel while obtaining the release of an American prisoner, Dr. Beanes, Key finally saw it. The stars and stripes appeared in the dawn’s first light, snapping in the breeze, making a silent proclamation of our nation’s strength and enduring freedom. Overwhelmed by pride and relief, Key penned these words on the back of a letter he had in his pocket:

[blockquote]“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 through 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.” (Sir Francis Scott Key, 1814)[/blockquote]

The month of September is more than the start of school and football season; it’s more than Labor Day and the trees turning from lush green to burning oranges and flaming reds. This September, 2014, we witness the 200th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, after which Sir Francis Scott Key penned our national anthem. The Star Spangled Banner is also more than just a song. It isn’t just something we sing at baseball games or learn (and forget) how to play in our high school marching band. Key’s song is the epitome of everything Americans have – our freedoms, our liberties, our rights, and, yes, our ability to lose them.

The fighting spirit that has turned the tide of so many wars in our favor seems to be waning. It is with great pride I live in a nation where men and women choose to fight for our country, and even those of us who do not or cannot serve for one reason or another often try to find our own ways to fight for freedom, for what is right. You, our service members, are one of our nation’s greatest treasures, and without your fighting spirit, Fort McHenry would have fallen 200 years ago, and our nation would fall today. And yet, what has become of patriotism?

The Flag
At an elementary school in Washington state, 5th grade students were tasked with raising and lowering the flag each day. At the start of the school year, a single demonstration took place on how to carry out those basic actions, and then it was left to the kids. In just one classroom, which was, unsurprisingly, the class of a veteran, the importance of the American flag was discussed and a demonstration of proper flag-folding was given. But there were three classes to rotate through, so for one month at a time, each class would be responsible for the flags, and the monthly rotations continued throughout the school year. Sounds good, right?

June 19th, 2014, was the 5th-grade graduation. Before this writer’s own arrival at the school, well over 100 parents had congregated in the school’s gymnasium. In order to reach the gym, each and every one of them passed the flag pole. It was standing-room only, folding chairs packed and adults lining the walls and doorways. And yet, approaching the school entrance, an atrocity was on open display, and had been apparently ignored: the Washington state flag sat atop the American flag.

While this placement of the national colors below state colors may not cause a collective gasp of horror, it should. It’s disrespectful. It’s a flagrant violation of flag etiquette, and the entire point of etiquette is to show pride and gratitude to this symbol of our nation, which so many have sacrificed and given their lives to build and maintain. It also showed a lack of caring on the part of the students; it was thoughtless. However, it also demonstrated thoughtlessness on the part of the school administration. Could no one be bothered to make sure the flag is properly displayed? All it would have taken was a second’s glance out the window. Finally, it’s impossible no other adult entering the school noticed. Of course some did, although many said they didn’t when they were asked. Those who did notice displayed one of two traits: ignorance of flag etiquette and/or flat-out not caring.

POW KissIf this seems to be an isolated event, it certainly was and is not. Among the flood of disrespectful images this past year was a photo of an airman apparently French-kissing the shadowed profile depicted on the POW flag, a soldier ducking (and mocking) the raising of the flag on post by hiding in her car, and, of course, a so-called military honor guard posing in wildly inappropriate ways around a casket. That last one bore the caption “we put the ‘fun’ in funerals.” One theme rang true: there was a divide between those who felt these behaviors were unpatriotic and disrespectful and those who felt it was nothing but harmless fun. Those demanding respect for our nation’s flag and fallen were told to chill out, and those claiming it didn’t matter quickly began to bear the brunt of a rising tide of anger. Patriotism in America is in danger.

Patriotism used to be a way of life. Hats were doffed and hands placed over hearts to show respect to the flag, and respect was automatically shown to service members. Even in the course of my own fairly young generation, the changes have quickly become glaring and disturbing. Today, hats remain jammed onto heads and hands stay stuffed in pockets during Sir Francis Scott Key’s emotionally-written national anthem, children don’t know and don’t care how to raise and lower the flag, let alone fold it, and, yes, there are those among the military ranks showing a blatant disregard for the very things they’re supposed to be fighting for. It is simultaneously infuriating and heartbreaking, and we as a nation cannot go on in such a manner.

On the day the flags were reversed at the elementary school, I, along with a friend who had accompanied me, briefly spoke to the school office personnel before going outside to remedy the situation. An attempt to raise the flag to its peak before lowering it failed because the ropes had been so hopelessly manhandled, and the American flag was not only in the wrong spot, it was reversed. Between the two of us we managed to correct it without our national colors touching the ground, and all the while parents filed into the building, heedless of the display of disrespect on the school’s front lawn.

The moments spent on the flag that day drove home a few simple points. Patriotism in our country is so lacking it’s almost at its breaking point, and without patriotism, without an understanding and respect for the things this nation was built on, how will we survive? Who will fight for our precious freedoms if no one even knows what they are?

The lack of a basic understanding of history in schoolchildren, which is an entirely separate story, is a factor here, and one that could be remedied by parents taking the time and effort to instruct their children. Yes, historical education and patriotism start at home, and, hopefully, spread from there. Our nation is in dire need of the life-giving patriotism it was founded on.

200 years ago, Sir Francis Scott Key was so deeply moved by the sight of our colors that he wrote our national anthem. Do we have any Sir Francis Scott Keys today? Who will write the next chapter in our nation’s history? Can it be done with our patriotism and national pride lying in tatters on the ground? This is your wake-up call. Patriotism is not dead, but it is gasping for air. What can you do to save it?

Don’t just talk about it; do it. In celebration of the month of September and the 200th anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner, let’s commit Random Acts of Patriotism. We live in what is still the greatest nation on earth. Let’s fight to keep it that way.

What Random Act of Patriotism are you committing?

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine Ainsworth

Katherine is a military and political journalist with a reputation for hard-hitting, no-holds-barred articles. Her career as a writer has immersed her in the military lifestyle and given her unique insights into the various branches of service. She is a firearms aficionado and has years of experience as a K9 SAR handler, and has volunteered with multiple support-our-troops charities for more than a decade. Katherine is passionate about military issues and feels supporting service members should be the top priority for all Americans. Her areas of expertise include the military, politics, history, firearms and canine issues.
Katherine Ainsworth

17 thoughts on “Oh Say Can You See? Patriotism Must Survive

  1. What can I say other than yours is a good and inspirational article. I don’t know what you should do with someone like this. I first think, they should be court marshaled as they are clearly in uniform and on the clock for Uncle Sam, but that probably wouldn’t “take” with this idiot. If they didn’t serve time or get a “Double D” and a “through the gate”, I am sure that someone would have the presence of mind to assign Little Miss… “whatever” a perimeter foot patrol at a retired radar station or a retired SAC site in Alaska or somewhere further north. As to the “honor guard”. In my ranks, you would rather see hell first hand than see me if you pulled one of these stunts. Be advised.

    1. John –
      Thank you, and thank you for taking the time to comment. You make a good point in your last sentence that the punishment does not seem to be doled out in a fitting fashion right now. I also remember a few years back an Army PFC going AWOL because he didn’t want to go to Iraq, this was at the joint base near my home at the time, and he was quite literally not reprimanded or disciplined at all. In fact, if memory serves he also wasn’t deployed but was allowed to remain stateside. The airman “kissing” the POW image – and I bet she neither knows nor cares that silhouette is of a real man, Jeffrey Heisley – was handled poorly as well. I’d be absolutely thrilled if there was someone such as yourself coming down on them much harder.

  2. Ms. Ainsworth’s article is poignant and touching and I respect much of what she said. As a Boy Scout I learned the correct way to fold our flag as well as the correct way to display it, even in times of mourning and emergencies. Ms. Ainsworth stated that Francis Scott Key “wrote our National Anthem”, what Mr. Key wrote was a poem that was then set to the tune of a favorite drinking song of the time. This assured that many people could sing along! But this is a point overlooked by those who choose to paint our history as pious and without the taint of anything unsavory. This very blog posted a photo on September 11th of this year along with an article about the Twin Towers. The photo however did not show the two square buildings rising from Manhattan, New York int the United States of America but the round Nahe Petronas Twin Towers in Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia, a majority Muslim country. Yet I have not seen any comment on this blog about THAT incorrect and offensive faux pas.

    1. Thanks for your comment. To your point about this blog posting an article about the Twin Towers – our only 9/11 piece was the “Have We Forgotten” article, linked here: https://blog.uspatriottactical.com/forgotten-remembering-911-thirteen-years-later/, and that remains exactly the same as the day it was posted. Nothing was edited or removed, and we can assure you, no images of any Muslim buildings were posted at any time. You must have us mixed up with another website.

      1. Ms. Ainsworth,

        I have returned home from my vacation and as promised I have found the photo of the of the Petronas Towers looming over Kuala Lumpur with Old Glory superimposed over said image with the words
        “Honor our heros and BE PATRIOTIC REMEMBER 9/11” followed by “SHOP NOW”. Here is the link to it. Sorry, I could not paste the photo itself.

        I appologies if my earlier posting linked this image to your blog as clearly it is not. It is the image that U.S. Patriot Tactical used to entice its clients to shop to show their patriotism. I find it odd, don’t you?

        1. Hi Rory! We want to thank you for calling this to our attention. Fortunately, we caught this email before it went to everyone on our list – it did sneak out to a few test contacts, of which you were apparently one. We apologize profusely for the error and please understand it was absolutely not done intentionally. Our designer chose the image and it was rectified as soon as we became aware of it. US Patriot is a veteran owned, American company, and we work very hard to support our troops in whatever capacity they serve.

          (FYI, all links are automatically removed from comments)

    2. You are correct that “The Star Spangled Banner” was a taken from Key’s poem and set to “The Anacreontic Song.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible and rarely is for me to fit every detail I’d like into an article, and this is a sizable article. However, just as the final sewing of the flag taking place in Claggett’s Brewery was not unsavory, neither was or is it “unsavory” for our national anthem to have been set to what was actually an 18th century gentleman’s club tune. Technically it was a drinking song, but not remotely by today’s standards of such a song. Actually, “The Anacreontic Song” was written by John Stafford Smith, a church organist and composer with a stellar reputation. Smith was, in fact, one of the very first musicians to recognize the brilliance of one of the most gifted composers in history, collecting many of his manuscripts and attributing much of his love for music to the man – who was, by the way, Johann Sebastian Bach. The music our national anthem was set to was absolutely an 18th century gentleman’s club drinking song, but those were different times. It does not mar our anthem in any way to admit its musical beginnings; to the contrary, it serves as an example of the rich tapestry of our nation’s history.

      Regarding the September 11th article, actually, the article published on September 11th was mine. It did not and does not contain any images of The Petronas Towers and none were posted anywhere on USPT’s site, either. Such a “faux pas” as you say would neither occur nor be tolerated by any of those here at USPT. These are some of the most patriotic people I know; they not only take immense pride in our nation but most have also served Her in uniform as well. Respect, sorrow, and remembrance of the events of 9-11 are of the utmost importance, and that respect extends to what images are used.

      Thank you for your feedback.

      1. Ms. Ainsworth, thank you for your quick and thorough response to my posting. I certainly didn’t mean to desparige you or your finly writen and researched article. It has been my experience in the past that many people who stand on soap boxes and shout about how ideal and perfect the past was often don’t know the actual facts and historical accuries of that of which they pontificate. Clearly you are not one of those people!

        In regards to the photo of the Petrolas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, while they may not have accompanied your article, I assure you that that was the photo on the email that I received from US Patriot on the morning of Sept. 11, 2014. I am currently out of town and therefor away from my main computer, but upon my return home I will be happy to share the email with you which I will need to find in my trash. Please believe me that this image was the one which I received–I was totally shocked to see it coming from a website that caters to our armed forces. I know the towers quite well as I was in Kuala Lumpor as I visited them just befor they were open to the public back in the mid 1990s.

        Again, thank you for your kind responds.

    3. ”Assured that many people could sing along”–the U.S. National /Anthem is actually quite difficult, if not impossible for most people to sing well. The tune spans more octaves than are in the average, non-professional singer’s vocal range. In fact, it might be one of the most difficult national anthems in the world to sing properly.

      It’s a stirring piece to listen to… just not one that can be sung beautifully by your average person in most keys. The Star Spangled Banner always struck me as a tune that sounded much better played by a (preferably military) band, rather than sung.

  3. As a 15 year old future (hopefully) soldier, I can tell you first hand that patriot needs to be revived. Time and time again I see kids fooling around during the pledge, and believe me, it infuriates me. They do things like stay sitting or mocking the Bellamy salute (for those of you that don’t know it was a pre-WWII salute to the flag that was somewhat reminiscent of the Heil Hitler salute). I sincerely hope this is just a passing phase and that they’ll realize how stupid they’re acting.

    1. Eddie,

      Thank you for commenting, it’s great to hear from a soldier in the making. Are you planning to enlist in the Army?

      The lack of respect being shown during the pledge and other times is appalling. It’s always encouraging, though, when there are young men such as yourself who not only care about respecting the flag and patriotism in general but work at it, too. I’m impressed you know what the Bellamy salute is, I guarantee a large number of people seeing your post will be hearing about it for the first time, or at least did not know the name of the earlier salute. Even though Hitler’s Third Reich salute was a perversion of the Roman salute, or so they claimed, but those similarities certainly did do away with our nation’s use of the Bellamy salute once and for all.

      Keep up your attention to detail and never stop expanding your knowledge base. You’re well on you way to being the kind of soldier we’d all be proud and fortunate to have serving this country. Hooah!

  4. I was fortunate enough to have a great history teacher in the 8th grade. As for my plan for the army, I plan to follow the footsteps of my cousin and go to West Point and eventually become a sapper. Thank you for your complements, Hooah!

    1. Eddie, it is refreshing to us old folks to hear you young folks speak of patriotism in such a positive way. Our country isn’t perfect, but having been in other countries through the years, and ours is one that is hard to beat. You have set yourself a fine goal of going to one of the military academies, and that goal is obtainable for sure with hard work, physical training and good old fashioned persistence.

      A friend of mine has a son who I chatted with this time last year. He was, at the time, a recent graduate of the AF Academy and I honestly thought I might have trouble being around him very long. I was certainly wrong. He is the nicest and most respectful young men I have ever met. He was a good listener, had his head screwed on tight and represented his family and country very well. As a fellow (in one of these “comment areas” said recently”… “be the kind of officer that you dreamed you could meet” and there is a whole lot of truth in that. You take care and do well.

      1. John I have to add my whole-hearted agreement, it is absolutely refreshing to see (although I might take exception at the “old folk” part). It’s so rare to see true dedication and patriotism in the coming generation, and so fantastic when it does occur. I have had a few experiences myself as of late discovering some of the newly minted soldiers or those going through the academies show greater promise than expected. It’s good to see. I can only hope for the day it is no longer the exception to the rule.

        Eddie, again, best wishes. Go for it, don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dreams in the Army. If I can offer any advice I am happy to. Keep at it. Hooah.

  5. Really good piece.

    I think a lot of issues come into play as to why the U.S. faces so many problems; respect for country and flag is just one. A lot of children aren’t brought up to respect the country and flag, b/c not even their parents really know anything about it. What’s not known cannot be taught.

    Many teachers and faculty (**not all**) don’t know and don’t care about real education, they just want their paycheck and retirement. Parents don’t want to be parents, then complain when schools perform just as lousy at parenting. These children grow up to be lazy, incompetent, selfish adults; mimicking their parents/grandparents; then onto the workforce and even into the military. We’ve taken God out of public life, public schools, public service, then we ask “Where is God?” when bad things occur (like 9/11 and general decay of the country).

    Lots of stupidity brewing in this country and there seems to be 2 camps of extremes. The modern, lazy, selfish, even Godless attitude of “I’m entitled to everything but won’t earn it”, versus, the hardworking, selfless, God first then country lifestyle which is becoming less and less.

    Maybe a kick in the pants is what we need and perhaps we are seeing the country revitalize into what we need to be…the bigger question is, will we stick with it? Or drop it after a period of time like a fashion going out of style?

    1. I meant to add in my rant above that in some places, especially in my state of Texas, I see a rising tide of patriotism in the young. It may not be a huge influx, but it’s there and certainly better than nothing.

      Hope is not lost, at least not yet.

      1. Erick,

        You make many good points. I do believe teaching history and respect should begin at home. It is the responsibility of parents, just as so very much is and has fallen by the wayside. The best elementary school teacher I have ever had a truly positive experience with personally was actually a veteran, and although there are certainly good teachers out there, there is also a problem in the system. But it does come down to the parents, who absolutely should not be dumping their kids at school and expecting the government to raise them. It doesn’t and shouldn’t work that way. That said, yes, the schools should be teaching (accurate) history and patriotism, in many areas history is not taught in any capacity at all in grade school. 9-11 is entirely ignored in a frighteningly massive number of schools as well, I have heard one teacher say she doesn’t talk about it because “it’s too sad” and another say it’s “pointless.”

        As for taking God out of things, it always amazes me when people try to say our nation was not founded on Christian principles, because it most certainly was. Removing him from our schools, courthouses – banning Christmas trees from government buildings and replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” for fear of offending someone, it is all providing the impetus for our nation’s decline.

        I believe you are correct that all hope is not yet lost. In fact it’s comments like Eddie’s above and those of all of you that prove patriotism is still alive and well in our country. Floundering, yes, but not yet dead. We will rally, and there will eventually be a resurgence of national pride and, I hope, a return to strong work ethics and good morals. The question is what it will take to get us there and how long it’s going to be. As Benjamin Franklin said, those who give up essential liberty in order to obtain temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

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