To the editor:
Most American citizens know that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was originally a poem written by Francis Scott Key. After witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships on Sept. 14, 1814, Key wrote “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” The poem was later set to the tune of a popular British drinking song of the day and soon became a well-known American patriotic ballad.
One hundred years ago, by executive order, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that June 14 be set aside as “Flag Day” — a day on which Americans rededicate themselves to “the mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people” — with an accompanying order that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be performed at public events. And in 1931, Congress turned Wilson’s executive order into law, making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the United States’ national anthem as a symbol of a national identity that helps bind the nation together.
A fair observance of the people of the United States in 2016 finds that unity — symbolized in the flag and the anthem — has fractured into numerous splinter groups representing diverse interests and competing visions of what America is or should be.
Recently, the actions of one public figure to protest what he perceives as a racist America has inspired individuals and groups to express their dismay at the considered injustice in the nation’s system of law and order by sitting, kneeling or raising a fist during the playing of the national anthem.
Equally dismayed are those dedicated to the idea that certain “national treasures,” e.g. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” should be fiercely respected and protected.
The First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech to our citizens. Freedom of expression and tolerance are foundational principles; without them, America is not America.
While freedom to protest injustice is a basic and crucial right of all Americans, it seems sad that yet another tradition that celebrates the unity of a people, whose ancestors threw off tyranny in a war of revolution, is now diluted by a culture of mistrust and cynicism in its view of the government and its agencies.
It is not a giant leap to visualize the demise of a historical observance, where legitimate protesters are joined by those without cause for whom the flag and anthem have little meaning or those who wish to defy that tradition simply because they can.
What is wrong with America? Or better yet, what is right with America?
Jim Brunnemer, Nashville