Three Cheers for the —

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:

And I really saw it!

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.”

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20 Responses to Three Cheers for the —

  1. Pauline says:

    Perhaps singing the Star Spangled Banner should be part of our sobriety tests as it was for the Anacreontic Society of England! Surely if one can carry the tune with its impossible highs, one is sober enough to drive. I was impressed with the fact that the melody was written by a teenager!

    I’ve always liked America: My Country Tis of Thee, though I balk a bit at the last stanza.

    The flag photo is first rate!


  2. Touch2Touch says:

    What put the kibosh on My Country Tis of Thee was undoubtedly its original existence as God Save the Queen/King — Because otherwise it is certainly eminently singable. Even by me.

    (For those perhaps less up on such things as Pauline, the original title of the teenager’s melody was Anacreon in Heaven. And I wouldn’t place any bets on HIS sobriety when he wrote it.)


  3. Stef says:

    This photo is incredibly striking, intriguing, and cool – I can see why the image caught your attention. Thank you for taking the time to ‘capture the flag’ – and to then share it with us.


  4. Rebekah says:

    Love the photo!

    I’ve often thought about the fact that it’s almost impossible for any ‘ordinary person’ to sing your anthem. We watch a lot of hockey here, so I get to hear many renditions …varied ‘quality’.

    America the Beautiful always brings tears to my eyes, and I’m not even American, as you well know … I’m just so emotional when it comes to certain things.

    Happy 4th of July tomorrow!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Thanks so much, Rebekah. And happy Canada day, and every other good thing you want to celebrate!
      (I think maybe the best national anthem might be the Marseillaise; the most rousing one I know of!)


        • Touch2Touch says:

          Came through loud and clear, Rebekah! Pleasing melody is far easier to sing than our octave-stretcher —
          And the words (I looked up the text) are really nice. Thank you so much for sending the sound file!
          Everybody, here’s your opportunity to listen to the Swedish national anthem by clicking on Rebekah’s link: and here’s the first stanza in translation:

          Thou ancient, thou freeborn, thou mountainous North,
          In beauty and peace our hearts beguiling,
          I greet thee, thou loveliest land on the earth,
          Thy sun, thy skies, thy verdant meadows smiling.
          Thy sun, thy skies, thy verdant meadows smiling.


  5. thirdhandart says:

    A very beautiful, poignant photo of our flag!


  6. John Weeren says:

    Reminds me of Jasper Johns.


  7. Rebekah says:

    wow.. I had not even seen the translation! Last night, when I posted this, I was just quickly looking for a sound file…

    Happy Fourth, and I do hope you have nice weather than we have here today!


  8. Therese Bertsch says:

    I confess, of all the red, white, and blues I love ours the best! Hey, can you beat stars and stripes? Great photo, particularly for a rain-lover (it’s in my Irish bones).


  9. Patti Kuche says:

    “We still wave Old Glory down by the Court House . . . . ‘


  10. 2e0mca says:

    I Liked the photo, but thought I’d hold back until the excitement of the day had passed…and then I forgot 😦 So, belatedly – Happy 4th of July and that’s a great photo 🙂


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