The words are like glue to my heart. Thousands of times I've sung it and only recently fully appreciated it. From miles away, I hear just the tune and see lips moving and my eyes become cloudy and blur my vision.
The song reminds me that our freedom came at a great cost to people and families who took the land for us.... It reminds me of my home.
It's the song of my history, my country:
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?
The Star Spangled Banner was written from a ship by Francis Scott Key in 1814 while he and a few friends were on a mission approved by our (then) president, James Madison. Their objective was to secure the release of prisoners that the British had taken prisoner during a hostile takeover attempt of Fort McHenry, an American fortress.
At first, the Brits consented to release the elderly doctor (that Key had come for) but later relented, even keeping Key onboard until they knew the outcome of the battle.
Key witnessed a brutal bombardment of the fort and surrounding areas, but was able to see through bombs lighting the night sky that the American storm flag was still hanging, tattered, but there. He etched a poem he called "The Defence of Fort McHenry" that would later be set to music and sung at countless sports events, political gatherings and Fourth of July celebrations.
The British never took the Fort. America beat the best Army and Navy in the world through pure guts and mean tenacity. The same year, the White House would be burned down by the British and Dolly Madison would rescue the beloved painting of George Washington out of there for posterity. It hangs in the restored White house today.
If you fast-forward about two hundred years, you arrive here, today (minus four years). We are a changed world. On Saturday, the USA will play Britain in the world cup. Britain is ranked higher than the USA is in football, but they were also ranked higher in 1814 so I'm not so sure who will win the match. I will watch it to see who will actually sing the anthem, who will remove their hats, who will honour our country and solidify that we can still kick British ass.
In comparison, the South African National Anthem is new. Compiled of three different anthems in five different languages, the song was made official under the scrupulous watch of Nelson Mandela in 1997.
What America does not know is that the song speaks of healing. First it evokes God's mercy and benevolence on a land that needs Him and has always acknowledged Him. Secondly, it incorporates respect and (true) diversity in its languages. Thirdly, it is a compilation of freedom songs, worship and protest songs. Together, they are homogenized into a beautiful tune... one that speaks volumes.
Almost no one I know has memorized the whole thing.
Lulu, my friend used to have a ring tone of a small boy singing "La-la-la-lalala, Africa...." and so on. It was cute. But to their credit, the RSA does well with an anthem that is only 13 years old.
What's our excuse?? Why doesn't everyone SING the USA National anthem?? Why don't they pause and thank God for the people's sacrifices that secure our freedoms?? Are they THAT in a hurry for the game to begin?? By comparison, South Africans are the same, but it's all kind of a shame.
I wish we would sing these beautiful words.
Just for reflection: here's the words of the RSA National anthem....
(Xhosa) Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika ( God [Lord] bless Africa)
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo, (Raise high Her glory)
(Zulu) Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Hear our Prayers)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo. (God bless us, her children)
(Sesotho) Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, (God we ask You to protect our nation)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, (Intervene and end all conflicts)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, (Protect us, protect our nation, our nation,)
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika - South Afrika. (We sing, South Africa - South Africa)
(Afrikaans) Uit die blou van onse hemel, (Ringing out from our blue heavens,)
Uit die diepte van ons see, (From our deep seas breaking round,)
Oor ons ewige gebergtes, (Over everlasting mountains,)
Waar die kranse antwoord gee, (Where the echoing crags resound)
(English) Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.
Sing, people... sing in praise and Thanksgiving!!