As unlikely as it sounds, I’m one of those people who cries at the “Star Spangled Banner.” I can’t tell you whether I do it for the same reasons as anyone else, because I don’t know anyone else who does it. I can tell you that the reasons have changed somewhat over the last few years.
I’ve always, as long as I’ve understood the words, empathized with the soldiers who dreaded the rockets but looked to them to know the flag they fought for still survived. How desperate does their need to know have to be to make it worth looking up instead of covering their heads? How much of a relief must dawn be, and how great their fear of bad news that they have to ask instead of looking for themselves?
I can’t answer those questions, but even asking them makes me cry.
In recent years, though, my attention has been a bit distracted by the rockets–the trials and dangers that briefly illuminate our long night. I’ve been watching them fly overhead, hearing them explode all too nearby. I’ve been peering through the darkness to see what they can tell me about the state of our flag. I haven’t seen much that I can be sure of, but I’ve made myself look.
But now, with a light on the horizon, I find myself understanding the soldiers better than ever. There should be a flag there, battered though it may be. Not everyone has put their heads down. Many kept fighting despite the rockets. When the sun finally rises, we should see the flag.
Will we? And how many of us will even be able to look?