Is there a national anthem that isn’t, at its heart, simply an unquestioning proclamation of the glories of that nation?
“The Star-Spangled Banner” famously starts and ends with a question, the only anthem that does so.
It begins, “Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light/What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?”
In the version sung daily at ball parks and other venues across the land, the anthem ends, “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
The opening question was addressed to the first generations of Americans, those who fought in and lived through the war that gave us our freedom, the Revolutionary War, and the war that secured our independence, the War of 1812.
The second question is addressed to us, as it has been to every generation since the siege of Fort McHenry two years after the outbreak of the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words that became the national anthem.
Almost 200 years later and 237 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate today, we are still challenged by the question.
Is the America of 2013 still the land of the free?
Daily, our freedom is under attack at home as well as abroad.
Today, tighter security is in place for the annual Fourth of July Boston Pops concert and fireworks on Boston’s Esplanade. The new security measures include a ban on backpacks and coolers on wheels. They were driven by the Boston Marathon bombings on Patriots Day that killed three spectators and injured more than 260, including some who were horribly maimed.
Also at home, the actions of agencies of our own government, including the National Security Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and even the Justice Department, threaten to erode our constitutionally guaranteed First Amendment and other rights.