Happy Independence Day!
Today, I want to tell you a story, and hopefully I’ll do it justice. So, here goes.
He pulled his feet up to the bench. In the dark depths below him, dingy grey water soiled the old wood. Occasionally, orange flame lit the shimmering surface. Another explosion rocked the ship, and Francis raised himself up until he could see through the barred window and beyond. Across the harbor. His eyes searched for any sign that the battle tides had turned.
Red lines zipped through the smoke-stained sky and ripped apart whatever they touched. Even at this distance, he could hear the screams of his countrymen. Friends, colleagues, maybe even family. This cursed war had gone on too long.
Francis could not understand, couldn’t even fathom, how those who had worked so long together could suddenly turn asunder and tear each other apart. So he did what he always did when the pain grew unbearable and the confusion strangled his mind. Francis didn’t have paper or a pen, but in his mind he wrote.
He thought of the rockets and bombs shattering his hopes and dreams. He thought of all he had seen before the sun set. The flag flying high above the fort. He took all these things and he turned them into words. Deep, heartfelt words that captured his wayward agony and reigned it in so others could feel it too. Words that described his hope that all would be well.
Through the night, Francis kept watch. Rain pelted those on land and on sea, but it did nothing to dampen the smoke blurring the lines. The endless discharges revealed only one thing that kept his spirits alive. Waving pleats of red, white, and blue vibrating against the night air.
As the sun graced the horizon with her gilded beauty, the battle abated. And, above it all, the flag stood tall.
They released Francis that morning, and the first thing he did was retrieve a letter from his pocket and a pen from a nearby desk. With all his heart, he scribbled out the words that had formed themselves in his mind the previous night. When he ran out of room on the back of the letter, the margins became his masterpiece. Scribbles turned to sentences, and sentences to a final picture of what he had witnessed.
Rocket’s red glare…
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In case you didn’t realize, this is the story of Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote our National Anthem. It was not written during the Revolutionary War, as most people would think. Instead, it was written during the War of 1812. He sat as a prisoner aboard a British flagship and watched his people get bombarded without a warning. His only hope, his only eager anticipation, was seeing that flag still waving. As long as it waved, he knew Baltimore (that’s where the battle was) was safe. And, thus, America was safe.
But, Megan, what does this have to do with Independence Day? Wouldn’t a Revolutionary War story fit better since that’s when we gained our independence?
Ah, you see? That’s the point I want to make.
The War of 1812 was something of a continuation of the Revolutionary War. Unresolved issues escalated and England thought they could easily beat us and regain control of “The Colonies”. Obviously, they were wrong and we won that war. Yippee! Yay Americans! (No offense to my British friends. I love ya!)
So, again, what does this have to do with Independence Day? I’ll tell you.
Independence is not a one-time event. It’s a boxing match.
Independence is not something you can fight for once and then walk around going “Hey, look at me! I won the gold medal! I’m independent!”
Have you ever seen a boxing match? No? How about the movie “Rocky”? (Or Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, etc.) Boxers don’t punch the other guy once and expect him to stay down. They keep punching. When they get knocked down, when they’re bruised and so bloody you can hardly recognize them anymore, they get back up and they do NOT give up. They will fight to the death to win what they know is theirs. They will do anything to prove they are the better man.
Independence is not something we won during the Revolutionary War and just get to bask in the glory now. Independence is an ongoing fight. Every time someone threatens our country, our way of life, they threaten our independence. We can’t sit back and let people take what our ancestors worked so hard to keep. We must understand that the only reason our country is considered so great is because people worked hard, fought hard, to keep us free. To keep us independent.
We can’t think that we’re entitled to this freedom. We can’t sit back and do nothing. Francis Scott Key was imprisoned, and so he did the only thing he could. He recorded history from his perspective. He put his raw emotions on a page and proved just how much of a patriot he really was. Even in his darkest hour, he was thinking about his country and the people fighting to keep him free.
If he can do that much from a ship’s cell, what’s keeping you from doing greater things with your freedom?
Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!
It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You