Oh, say! can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
Oh, say! does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? (Francis Scott Key, 1814)
What does the flag of the USA represent to the more than 323,127,513 (United States Census Bureau, 2017) people over which it waves? By the US Census Bureau’s data from 1790 when the first census was taken in the United States, the United States first enumerated approximately one-hundredth (3,929,214) of their current population. Through sweat and through tears, through battles and fears, the nation’s people set their sights on being a global leader in every sphere. Through strategic wit, combined with military might, the United States of America waved the star spangled banner and encouraged all those who saw its stripes to dream of the impossible, and to work to make their leaders’ visions real.
As the United States of America celebrates another July 4th, 241 years of independence and sovereign rule, one cannot deny how far they have come. On a brief drive through a local township yesterday, my friend and I observed an unusual sight. There were blankets and tarps spread out in what seemed to be a man-made version of a patchwork quilt over huge portions of green grass. We wondered out loud what was happening, and finally realized that the town’s people were reserving their spots for the huge parade that was planned for Main Street the following day. What was most unusual to us was the fact that these items were set up and left by their owners in full expectation that they would not only survive the weather throughout the night, but that they would be present when they arrived the next day, with no one disputing their right to the spot. A simple matter to some, but a loud message to many who have immigrated to the United States from places where people fear leaving anything out because the scarcity of material goods causes criminal behviour to thrive.
Order. Respect. Hope. These are what the flag of the USA represent to the more than 323,127,513 (United States Census Bureau, 2017) people over which it waves. These are the dreams which Americans have and exhibit through their daily commitment to life. The Constitution of the Republic which they pledge often, reminds them that they are built on law and order, by the people for the people. The values of liberty and freedom for all encourage others to show respect for what they love, and respect for what they do not understand. In practice and in speech, American patriots at home and abroad, fight battles everyday to protect the rights of others to exist. From the deep woods of the South to the rocky snow-covered hills of the North, and all the fields in the middle, there are channels and opportunities to ensure that the underdog has a chance to one day succeed.
Hope! This is what springs eternal here. This is what brings people of other nations here. When they watch their television sets or surf the internet, news from America signals hope to the viewer with dreams that anything is possible here. Anything can be accomplished here. No goal is beyond reach. It is large enough to get lost in. But small enough that each can have a corner. Even for those pushed to the sidelines, like the biblical characters Joseph and Ruth, there is grain left in the corners of the field for the poor, the lame, the foreigners, the widows, and the orphans. The battle is real. The obstacles are real. But the people are true to the fight they believe must be won.
On this July 4, 2017, take another look at Independence Day. Consider the meaning behind the words recited by American patriots and the Republic for which it stands:
I Pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America.
And to the republic, for which it stands, one nation under God.
Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (Balch, 1887; Bellamy, 1892).