Red, White, and Blue!
We Americans assume that that invariably means us, our very own stars and stripes forever, Old Glory, the one and only star-spangled banner. And so it does. But it also means (at last count) 27 other nations whose flag is also red, white, and blue! (Here’s an interesting Wiki article with the list and the flags themselves, to see how many variations can be rung on the same three colors.) It’s far and away the most popular color combination for a national flag.
Our own red, white, and blue is so familiar after 76 years of viewing that I almost don’t see it any more, at least not really sharply, really clearly. But the other day, when I drove up to my favorite writing café, Chocolate Springs, it was raining pretty hard. I was still in the car gathering up my nerve ends to dash out into the rain, when I glanced through the windshield and this is what met my eyes:
Flag etiquette when I was growing up said to take in the flag when it’s raining; but I think flag etiquette may have gone the way of all other kinds of etiquette. In any event, I was suddenly struck by this brave flag — it reminded me of that other flag that waved all through the long rainy night of September 3, 1814 (did you, like me, think it happened back in 1776?) and still fluttered there in the morning over Fort McHenry in Baltimore to signal a victory over the British in the War of 1812 (still going strong in 1814). There’s a very interesting article about our national anthem here at Wikipedia.
I have my musical disagreement with the choice of The Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem. Its lyrics are set to the music of a drinking song, for openers, and its musical range is almost impossible for most ordinary voices. My own candidate is America the Beautiful, lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates, later president of Wellesley College, my own alma mater. (There are several really good Youtubes, if you want to browse and hear all four stanzas.) But no doubt about it, the star-spangled banner itself retains its power, even in the rain.
Perhaps especially in the rain.
Happy Fourth of July — and 5th, and 6th — to you all!
N.B. Just discovered in today’s Writer’s Almanac (not much seems to have changed since then):
“In 1781, Massachusetts was the first to name July 4 an official state holiday. Congress declared it a national holiday in 1870.”