Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Francis Scott Key and the future of Informal Inquiries


First there is this from The Writer's Almanac:


It was on this day in 1814 that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner,"  by witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. It had been a dark summer for the young United States. Just three weeks previous, on August 24, British troops had set fire to much of Washington, D.C., including the Capitol, the Treasury, and the president's house. President James Madison had been forced to flee for his safety. Americans were terrified that the British might choose to invade New York or Philadelphia or Boston and destroy those cities as well.

The British had recently begun using rockets, a new military weapon adapted from Chinese technology. Francis Scott Key was horrified as he watched these rockets raining down on Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor. He watched the bombardment all night, and he had little hope that the American fort would withstand the attack. But just after sunrise on September 14th, he saw the American flag still flying over the fort. In fact, Francis Scott Key might never have even seen the flag if the fort commander, Major Armistead, hadn't insisted on flying one of the largest flags then in existence. The flag flying that day was 42 feet long and 30 feet high.

Francis Scott Key began writing a poem about the experience that very morning. It turned out that the battle at Baltimore was the turning point of the war. Before the war, the American flag had little sentimental significance for most Americans. It was used mainly as a way to designate military garrisons or forts. But after the publication of "The Star-Spangled Banner," even non-military people began to treat the flag as a sacred object.

And there is this personal postscript:

Recent conduct by NFL players -- not standing during the National Anthem --  can be handled with an easy change to the game plan: do not play the National Anthem at sporting events. Instead, reserve the use of Key's song for official, governmental, military, and similarly situated situations. What could be more simple as a solution. I guess some people will disagree with me. 

Future postings here at Informal Inquiries will be occasional rather than frequent.




14 comments:

  1. I would agree with that, as it seems more likely than the NFL firing anyone who uses the platform to pretend they're 'making a difference', or the media refraining from chasing a story like a lawyer after an ambulance.

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    1. Stephen, no spotlight equals no showboating by overpaid fools.

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    2. Indeed...of course, I only watch one NFL game a year, and then only because I am invited to a superbowl party with excellent chili, jalapeno poppers, and summer sausage.

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  2. another segment of American reality with which i am not in touch... boy am i out of it... and i like it that way...

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  3. R.T.--I wouldn't change anything. People and the media will lose interest after a while once they see it's having no effect, except, of course, for making them instant celebrities. I say, if it makes them feel good, then who am I to interfere. The game goes on and nobody is hurt.

    Andy Warhol's words "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." This is their moment, aside from their athletic fame.

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    1. Fred, perhaps the problem will become a larger malignancy without a cure.

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    2. R.T.--do you see those demonstrations as a malignancy? Could what causes those demonstrations be the malignancy?

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    3. Fred, I see the malignancy as citizens with a lack of civility and respect exacerbated by self-centeredness, irrationality, and ignorance. I'm not taking a political position, either conservative or liberal, but a position focused on civic responsibility and a sense of decency (especially as it involves respect for some people's commitments and sacrifices on behalf of the country). In other words, being more succinct, I see the malignancy as a selfish lack of respect for others.

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    4. R.T.--is the refusal to stand for the national anthem a malignant act?

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    5. ''Tis a symptom of the disease of disrespect.

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  4. I would agree, but I am interested to see what effect, if any, the sharp drop in TV ratings will have. It's easy to be brave when it costs you nothing.

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    1. Frank, maybe the marketplace will solve the problem, but I have doubts.

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