Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

The first verse of our national anthem is a question. We almost never sing the other verses–honestly, they’re not nearly as inspired, and they’re more than a tad jingoistic. No loss. But the first verse is a question worth asking, every day.

I don’t mean to be unpatriotic, but I do mean to say say we should always check in, because the answer to the question “Are we free this morning?” is never guaranteed for anyone. It’s just as uncertain now as it was 200 years ago, when Francis Scott Key was stuck on a British ship the morning after the decisive Battle of Baltimore and couldn’t see what flag was flying over Fort McHenry.

This is why I still get teary-eyed at the anthem. I’m not childish enough to worship the flag or the various nationalist myths that surround this country’s founding or destiny, but I do appreciate how fragile and precious the right answer to that particular question is. And the answer can change at any time. It’s important to keep asking and working to make sure the answer is what we want.