Tomorrow morning, like every Sunday when I'm in town, I'll attend Church. I generally enjoy the service, each Sunday of the year but not on July 4th weekends.
This is the one Sunday, every year that the congregation always sings the "Star Spangled Banner."
I want to sing, just like I always want to sing at ball games and other sports events but I can't bring myself to do it.
I always stand up, trying to look inconspicuous ,which one can get away with at a sports event with 2,000 people in the bleachers, but you can't do it at Church being 6'3". 180 people attend, more or less and my wife and three daughters will be staring at me, and I know what they are thinking. "Oh God, will he do this again this year and embarrass us all."I always say to myself, "this year, I'll sing the song, after all, its not a big deal, everyone does it." The song is announced and everyone including me will stand up. I'll open the hymnal like last year but no sound will come out.
My family will stare me down, there will be a few giggles behind me and my daughters will give me that "you're so weird" look but I can't help it! Finally, the song will end and I'll quickly sit down in the pew like last year.
Why can't I bring myself to celebrate July 4th or sing "The Star Spangled Banner"? I would love to celebrate our July 4th 1776 holiday when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 225 years ago and issued the historic Declaration of Independence for the original 13 colonies. We all know how it starts.
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
My problem is another July 4th holiday weekend, 138 years ago when the fate of an independent Confederate States of America which had also declared its independence based on the same reasons as the above document was sealed in the twin Confederate defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. When I read the words of the song describing the battle at Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor;
"O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air"
I think of the 10,000 civilians in Vicksburg living in caves and eating rats because of Grant's Union Army bombardment against the innocent civilians of Vicksburg, Mississippi.When the congregation sings;
"And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion A home and a country should leave us no more?"
Here I think of Pickets Charge up Cemetery Ridge, the cannons and havoc at Little Round Top, as our forces melt away in the confusion of battle.
I can't help but dwell on what America lost in this two Southern defeats. Our original government celebrated in this song, a limited constitutional republic established by our nation's founding fathers like Jefferson, Washington and Madison was sacrificed in Lincoln's unconstitutional war against the Confederacy. We lost what we claim to celebrate in "The Star Spangled Banner". Frankly, we went into Lincoln's War with two republics, the United States and the Confederate States of America and at the South's defeat, both were lost and consumed by an American Empire that continues until this day. I also think of my home Dixie, our occupied country and ask "will there come a day, when our country should leave us no more."
"Then conquer we must, when our cause is just, And this be our motto: "In God is our trust"; And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave"
No, this Sunday, I will again, upset and embarrass my wife and family. I will not sing "The Star Spangled Banner", nor celebrate Washington's July 4th holiday until the day comes when this great anthem about freedom and independence is again a true statement about either a Free America or a Free Dixie.
I pray for the day when I can live again under a constitutional republic, where our leaders trust in God and we are again the "land of the free and home of the brave."
Until, that day, I am standing quietly this Sunday morning, until the song is over wishing it were different!
July 4, 2001