The Flag Was Still There

I must confess, I have not been a big fan of the song, “The Star-Spangled Banner” with its difficult-to-sing melody and war references.

That changed on January 20.

I watched Lady Gaga, a pop star who has embraced being an LGBTQ icon, step up and belt out the song, gesturing fiercely to the flag and with that gesture, communicating something new. As my colleague, the Rev. Scott Prinster, so beautifully put it:

“I suspect that, like me, many of you heard The Star-Spangled Banner with new meaning in the wake of the shameful attack on the US Capitol on January 6. That the flag still waving was not only the one over Fort McHenry in 1814, but also the one fluttering over that inauguration and all that the event stood for.

My hope, as a historian and as a citizen, is that this becomes part of the new mythology of the flag and what it symbolizes for our nation. That when schoolchildren sing it, they’re not only thinking of the defeat of the British forces on the Maryland coast, but also the defeat of those who broke the windows and furniture of the Capitol, endangered our leaders, and proudly posted selfies of themselves.

And I hope that, whenever these seditious louts hear this anthem, their faces burn with shame over what they attacked and what false prophet they followed. How the Q-Anon delusionalists, the clownish shaman cosplayers, the camo-clad yahoos, the white supremacists and white nationalists, the military and police betraying their oath to the Constitution, the senators and representatives who conspired with those who would strangle our democracy, and their armchair general, goaded them and tweeted from the safety of the White House, all failed and were rounded up in humiliation to face the laws that must apply to us all. I hope that these turncoats know that this anthem now means THEM, and that our schoolchildren mean THEM when we sing it.

There is no unity when those who smear their feces in the halls of our democracy walk free and boast to their friends that they came ‘this close’ to lynching our leaders. This was not a game or a momentary lapse of reason, and I hope that The Star Spangled Banner will regularly remind them of their treachery and their failure.”

I have been … ugh, once again … heartsick, at seeing abominable, treacherous behavior be momentarily responded to, then ignored as if it were nothing significant.

I cannot change the attitudes of those “turncoats.” All I can change is me.

And one thing that has changed in me is how I view the flag, and the Star-Spangled banner. For the rest of my life, I will tell others of January 20, 2021, and how even after interference from a foreign government, an uprising of our own domestic terrorists aided by our own government leaders … still, still, we looked up and saw that our flag was still there.

And the fight for democracy lives on.