A Lesson from the Birth of America’s Star Spangled Banner
Held captive on a British warship in Baltimore harbor, Francis Scott Key watched anxiously as British naval forces bombarded Fort McHenry, which guarded the City of Baltimore. It was 1814, and the unseasoned, new country was under attack from the British Empire, again. As Keyes watched the battle unfold, he knew American’s future was uncertain.
Like anxious Americans today, Mr. Key, the author of the Star Spangle Banner, concerns were well founded based on his personal observation of the battle. Like Mr. Key in 1814, Americans today wonder if the Republic will survive the extreme polarization of the government along political lines. Even though national polls across the country describe Americans’ extreme displeasure with politicians, the U.S. government continues to ignore the purpose of the government is – to govern all the people.
The Constitution clearly enumerates the powers of each of the three branches of government and safeguards a degree of overlap to prevent the dominance of one branch while not marginalizing the others. To work, the U.S. republic requires a degree of cooperation, as well as respect between the branches, something that has been missing for quite some time.
As Mr. Key would attest, the American defenders of Fort McHenry, mostly volunteer militia members, rallied to resist the British attack. The extraordinary resilience his countrymen exhibited and the relief that the American flag whipped proudly in the morning breeze inspired Mr. Key to pen the song that would become America’s national anthem.
Some 200 years after America was last invaded, the U.S’s legacy is in jeopardy. Yes, the Japanese Empire attacked America on her soil at Pearl Harbor and al Qaeda on 9/11, but the natural protections afforded by vast oceans and friendly neighbors to the north and south, really means America has no natural enemies and a remote prospect of foreign invasion. Yet the country remains embroiled in a perpetual state of warfare. Since the end of World War II, whether “police actions” in the Caribbean to large-scale wars in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the U.S. government keeps U.S. troops engaged in worldwide battle.
What’s the motive that drives America, the bastion of political freedom and personal liberty, to engage in such hostile global conduct? Prior to the World Wars the U.S. flexed its economic muscle by competing and trading on every continent. The American economic powerhouse defeated democratic threats in Europe and rebuilt the shattered economies as the so called “arsenal of democracy.” In fact, many scholars attribute the American democratic and economic models as the ultimate cause of the downfall of the Soviet Empire. It was breadlines, not frontlines that ultimately collapsed the Marxist-Leninist model. Perhaps, “exporting democracy” through force of arms is not such a good idea and American political/military leaders should strive to return to the basics of economic competition through free enterprise to restore the world’s confidence in America as a tireless friend, and staunch advocate of individual liberties and personal freedom.
For 200 years Americans have enjoyed unparalleled success in the economic competitions between governments and societies. Americans are tough, fearless, and driven to succeed because America appreciates the great gifts and rights God has given all people, regardless of race or religion. Americans are proud to be Americans.
As for Fort McHenry, Americans seized the day because they believed in a set of values and understood the responsibilities incumbent upon Americans to preserve the “great democratic experiment.” Maybe, just maybe, this 236th celebration of American Independence provides us with an opportunity to rededicate the focus of American interests that have made Americans’ prosper as a people and a nation. And just maybe, it’s time to end the ceaseless adventurism in foreign lands and rebuild a little American goodwill.
Happy Fourth of July…
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