It wasn’t always like this. Wikipedia relates the story of another flag flying in a land far, far away and a time long long ago.
“During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort’s smaller “storm flag” continued to fly, but once the shell and Congreve rocket barrage had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn. By then, the storm flag had been lowered and the larger flag had been raised.
During the bombardment, HMS Erebus provided the ‘rockets’ red glare’. HMS Meteor provided at least some of the ‘bombs bursting in air’.
Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, came to be known as the Star Spangled Banner Flag and is today on display in the National Museum of American History, a treasure of the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored in 1914 by Amelia Fowler, and again in 1998 as part of an ongoing conservation program.”
O 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 rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
That was from the days before salaaming, bowing and scraping became all the rage. No one in this politically correct age would have the temerity to express such sentiments today. And in other news, “The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist surveys released Thursday show the president leading Romney in Florida, Ohio and Virginia, three states critical to both candidates in November.”
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