Billy Coffey
Billy Coffey

O’er the land of the free

July 3, 2013  

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

I’ve heard there are grumblings that “The Star Spangled Banner” should be removed as our national anthem. It’s too antiquated, those grumblings say. And the words are not only hard to understand, but hard to sing. What kind of national anthem do you have if it’s hard to sing?

And to tell you the truth, some of those grumblings are right. I’ve heard the anthem positively butchered by well-meaning folks who were simply mystified by the phrase “O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.” I couldn’t sing that, either.

That isn’t to say, though, that I’m all for replacing the words of Mr. Francis Scott Key with “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” or “America the Beautiful.” I’m not. I like things the way they are just fine. Not because I love our anthem. Not because I love the words.

But because it’s endured.

We are a people who look ever forward. Hope and change are our new touchstones, and neither of those are readily found by glancing over our shoulders. No, the promised land of better times lies ahead. Just there, over the horizon.
We say that the past doesn’t matter, just the future. Not where we’ve been, but where we’re going. And while that may be correct in some aspects, it isn’t in others. In many ways the future is dependant upon the past, and you don’t know where you’re going unless you take a look behind to see where you’ve been.

That’s true in both the life of a person and the life of a country. We are not the product of our tomorrows, but our yesterdays. The freedoms we enjoy may be sustained by the continued sacrifice and vigilance of today, but they were granted by the courage of those who have gone before us. Men who held firm to the believe that freedom was worth persecution and that death should be favored over oppression.

Men who put country and people ahead of party and self. Who believed leaders were not above the public but subject to them.

Who believed that the ultimate authority was not themselves, but God.

That we continue to cling to what some see as a worn and outdated song for our national anthem is to be reminded that there was a time in our country when such men existed. Perhaps that’s why there is this slight but steady push to modernize the singing of praise for our country. It will help us cope with the knowledge that such men seem to be more difficult to find now.

Whereas our leaders of yesterday are revered, our leaders today are ridiculed. Our trust with those first great Virginians, Washington and Jefferson and Madison, have been replaced by a mistrust for those who lead us today. This, I suppose, is inevitable. The natural consequence of favoring a winning smile and a photogenic face over substance and wisdom.

Those ideas of freedom and liberty that inflamed the hearts and minds of our forefathers seem to have burned to embers now. What caused them to stand and fight now allows us to sit and rest.

So this Fourth of July weekend when we’re surrounded by the present and looking forward to the future, perhaps it would do us well to pause and look back, far back, and remember the kind of people it took to found this country. Because that is exactly the kind of people we need in order to continue it.

Let the words be sung, and let that flame of freedom and liberty ignite again. Let us all make sure that when the question is asked, “O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” the answer will always be yes.

Be Sociable, Share!
Now Available: 
The Curse of Crow Hollow

Crow Hollow Cover

“Coffey spins a wicked tale . . . [The Curse of Crow Hollow] blends folklore, superstition, and subconscious dread in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.’”

—Kirkus Reviews

Available online and your local bookstore. 



3 Responses to “O’er the land of the free”

  1. Hazel Moon says:

    Years ago at the World’s Fair on Treasure Island, I sat with my mother watching a presentation of how our flag and how our National Anthem came about. I remember even though I was a child, being so proud of my country. At school we always pledged allegience to the Flag of the United States of America, and when under God was added, we said that too. Our music teacher explained the words to our National Anthem and it should be kept because it is a great song, and the words are still true.

  2. Excellent!

    At our Independence Day celebration, after the meal, folks gathered on the porch and sang all manner of “America” songs from our home church hymn books, including “The Star Spangled Banner.” And when that was finished some of us cranked our favorite tunes, sang, air-guitared, and danced to our modern-day favorites, including that version by Madison Rising.


  3. Jacob Freeman says:

    Strong men see and resist the social engineers, glad to know there’s another strong man out there.

Leave a Reply