There’s no mistaking Francis Scott Key for a great poet, but like other minor talents at exalted moments, Julia Ward Howe, for example, he wrote a great poem. It might seem a stretch to think of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as high art, but its first verse, despite some deficiencies, has true grandeur. Some years ago I discussed America’s anthem at Asia Times. In honor of the 4th of July, here are some revised thoughts.
There is something inherently fragile about the United States of America. France will be France and Slovakia will be Slovakia so long as French and Slovak are spoken, irrespective of their mode of government. But if Americans cease to govern themselves in a way that no people ever governed itself before, America will not be America. We are the only nation founded on an idea, rather than on blood, territory or culture. We look back at our founders with reverence. Each day we should ask ourselves whether we are good enough to keep the republic which they bequeathed us. We came close to losing it more than once. If we continue to drift into dependency, we might lose it now.