During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key, from a ship off shore, witnessed the endless horrific night-long bombing on Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy. From his position he had no way to know what the outcome had been. As he woke up in the morning and his eyes witnessed the American flag soaring high in the air on top of the fort, he could not contain his happiness at the sight of American triumph and wrote, originally as a poem, The Star Spangled Banner – referring to the American flag he saw – on the back side of a letter he found in his pocket.
No institution by man is infallible. As any structure with age and lack of restorative attention loses its integrity, so too does a country. A house in time needs replacement of its roof, repair of worn walls and added support to its foundation. One may not relish the run-down condition of one’s home; yet one loves it enough to repair it. Defects in a home do not warrant its destruction. Nor should the fate of a country so be determined.
The Flag is not a symbol of what is wrong with our country, but rather is a symbol of what is right with it. What was witnessed at the Battle of Fort McHenry, can also be witnessed in any disaster, great challenge or atrocity that has and can befall our nation. At these times we see Americans stand up and step forward. For when things are at their worst we are at our best. Throughout past and recent events in history we have become accustomed to the courage and sacrifice that is the American spirit; those members of the police and fire departments who rush at the threat rather than from it; from military who risk life and limb to preserve the security, integrity and identity that is America, whether at home or abroad; and individual citizens who do not hesitate to come to the aid of a fellow countryman, despite the inherent danger to self. For this the Flag stands. Despite our differences-and they are deep and many-when the chips are down we come together, no matter what the cost may be.
As history has shown, no country lasts, nor Flag waves, forever. It will not be the aggression alone of some foreign enemy that brings about the downfall of a country but instead the indifference of countrymen and corruption of its leaders. For power, not respected and left unbridled, corrupts the best of altruistic intentions. That sad day of reckoning will be realized when the flag lowered at dusk does not rise with the next dawn. May we pray that “Old Glory” will be the exception and not the rule to such a tragic end as history pens its final page.
Love is made manifest in many ways. Love of country is but one, which is only preceded by love of neighbor and that of God; Who is love itself. Yet love of country is an important one, for a nation fashioned on a foundation of love secures the way for other phases of love. No one truly understands the importance of country except in the context of love. For country, as love itself, is never more appreciated than when it has been lost.