Stand Fast for Liberty: Why American’s Should Stand for the National Anthem

The National Anthem has been in the news of late, and not for its notoriously difficult to sing tune! Historically Americans have given equal respect to both the flag and the National Anthem either through standing for the Pledge of Allegiance or for the singing of our National Anthem. 21st century America seems to be conflicted about these conventions. But consider Francis Scott Key’s question in the National Anthem in light of our own context: “O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” When people begin to refuse to honor our historic symbols of freedom, it is far more than a protest; it is the beginning of the loss of liberty. To refuse to stand for the National Anthem may take a measure of courage, but it is not primarily an expression of courage. Rather, it is disrespect for the extraordinary courage that made liberty possible.

Americans have historically expressed an abiding love for liberty and for those who have so courageously won it for the rest of us. Speaking of the U.S. Marines who took Iwo Jima in World War II, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz said, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Is valor even a virtue today among Americans who show contempt for the banner of our liberty? Are they not breaking faith with those who died so others after them could have a First Amendment right to exercise?

Our Star Spangled Banner at least for now continues to wave. But let us never forget John Adams’ words to his wife Abigail Adams, on July 17, 1775, “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” As the young Abraham Lincoln observed on January 27, 1838, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” Our flag and our National Anthem should remind us, even as the Liberty Bell silently yet boldly does, to “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” When we choose to dishonor these long established symbols of freedom, we have ceased to proclaim liberty and instead dishonor all those who have poured out the last full measure of love for their country.

Francis Scott Key’s question was about the flag: “O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” But the same question must be asked today about us: Are we still the free and the brave? Do we still boldly celebrate our nation, honoring the great sacrifices expended by so many to preserve America’s freedom?

With all of its faults, America remains the freest nation on earth. But how long will we have our freedom if the example of 49ers’ Quarterback Colin Kaepernick becomes the accepted norm? Our personal commitment to liberty and our respect for the heroic courage that created and sustains America will determine the answer. Even protestors have a duty to honor the flag and the heroes that have given them the freedom to protest.

If our Founders’ could speak to us today, what might they say? Two statements from fiery founder John Adams seem to speak best:

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

“The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue. And if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.”

Our Founders would likely also have highlighted one of their favorite biblical texts. Galatians 5:1 well says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free”. If we are to stand for freedom, shouldn’t we at least stand for the National Anthem?

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