Monday, August 1, 2011
Star Spangled Moment
(Written in fall 2007)
Old Glory acknowledged the attention of the crowded stadium by gracefully unfurling her colors in the summer breeze, eager to accept the coming anthem.
Turning from the flag just enough to scan the baseball field, I spotted the singer across the stadium, preparing to lead us in the “Star Spangled Banner.” My usual apprehension at the quality of hometown divas vanished when rather than shaking out the first note, she belted out the lyrics more confidently than any other amateur anthem singer I’d ever heard—and on tune to boot.
“O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?”
Though the strength of the woman’s voice bolstered hope, my cynical side braced for the high note that most singers screech on. I clinched my eyes shut, cringing in advance.
“And the rockets’ red glare—”
My dread proved unfounded when she nailed those notes and then offered a dramatic pause in which I reveled, indulging in pride and relief.
But the pause stretched into a stop, and the rest of the lyrics didn’t ring through the speakers.
“I’m sorry.” The woman laughed into the microphone. “Can I start over?”
I whirled around to gape at her, shocked at the unprecedented request.
But unflappable, she cleared her throat and started “O saying” from the very beginning.
Settling once again into the patriotic ambiance, I turned back to the flag, my hand still resting reverently on my chest. As she neared the rocket line again, I took a deep breath and held it “through the perilous fight,” and the “twilight’s last gleaming,” all the way up to—
“And the rockets’ red glare—”
Once again the rocket line hovered in the heat-laden summer air.
With the eyes of the stadium on her, the woman shook her head. “I’m sorry. I can’t finish
it.” This time, she handed over the microphone and walked off the field, leaving us to wonder
what kind of person forgets the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Hesitantly, we lowered our hands, leaving the song half sung. The announcer yelled,
“Play ball,” the crowd cheered and the game continued as if one of the most awkward moments in the history of sporting events hadn’t just happened.
As I left the stadium that night, the incomplete anthem haunted me, making me wonder at our apathetic reaction.
The National Anthem enters our repertoire in kindergarten. Like good little patriots, we memorize the song almost as carefully as we memorize the alphabet. But even though most of us in the stadium knew the lyrics, none of us lifted our voices to help the woman remember them; instead, we allowed her to leave the sacred song unfinished.
Though, we inwardly condemned the woman’s anthem amnesia, every day we forget the blessing of living in the greatest nation. We sit around discussing the flaws and shortcomings of America, yet few people stand up to remind us of our privileged citizenship.
We’ve allowed historians to rewrite our heritage, omitting (refuse, reject) our nation’s Christian foundations. We elect politicians who perpetuate a government that forgets the necessity of our Constitution—yet so few of us speak up to remind them of these vital underpinnings of our nation’s success and survival.
With these and other significant matters being forgotten without our attempting to bring them back to the forefront of the nation’s thoughts, it’s no wonder that we carried on a ballgame and exited the stadium without taking the initiative to complete our National Anthem.
Given the chance to revisit the crowded stadium that night, as the woman walked off the field, I like to think that mine would be the voice to lead the rest of the stadium in letting the final lines burst in the air to give proof through the night that our nation still cares to remember things that are truly important—and to remind those who have forgotten.