WASHINGTON. It’s safe to say China is not particularly happy with the US at the moment. Not only has President Trump placed tariffs on a number of Chinese goods entering America, but angry – mostly young –protestors in Hong Kong recently attacked the political symbols of the communist giant. All while embracing others instantly recognizable the world over: waving the red, white, and blue flag of the United States of America while singing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
But more on that later.
O say can you see
When President Theodore Roosevelt sent America’s Great White Fleet on a world tour in 1907, Japanese schoolchildren greeted the gleaming ships with a rousing rendition of the Stars-Spangled Banner.
It may have had something to do with composer Giacomo Puccini’s 1904 opera “Madame Butterfly,” which used the anthem’s patriotic strains as a leitmotif for the story’s American naval officer, Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton.
And it was at Chicago’s Comiskey Park that a band struck up the tune during the seventh-inning stretch at the first game of the 1918 World Series. Today, it’s a baseball tradition that has since been moved to a spot of prominence before the first pitch ever powers over home plate.
Around this time, Russian composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff arrived in America after escaping the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution. As a gesture of gratitude, he composed a transcription of the anthem. A piano roll preserves the dynamics of his performance just as he performed it a century ago.
On March 3, 1931, Congress finally got around to passing a resolution making the Star-Spangled Banner America’s official national anthem. And the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key’s poem, which survived the British bombardment of Baltimore during the War of 1812, sits on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
But the guardians of America’s cultural zeitgeist, the entertainment/media complex, have more recently related that our anthem and flag are shameful symbols of white supremacy.
Take a knee
One zeitgeist ambassador is former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, famous for kneeling in contempt of the aforementioned symbols. Kapernick recently telling footwear and apparel conglomerate Nike, for whom he is a “brand ambassador” to withdraw plans to sell a sports shoe with the Betsy Ross flag in celebration of America’s Fourth-of-July founding.
According to Newsweek magazine:
“Kaepernick reportedly told Nike he and others found the symbol offensive due to its connection to the United States’ slavery era… In more recent times, the flag has been used as a symbol by white supremacist and nationalist groups.”
The hopes of future years
It also stood victorious atop Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1863. That day, it fluttered in the warm summer breeze as Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s defeated Army of Northern Virginia limped across the Potomac River and detonated its bridges in panicked retreat.
President Abraham Lincoln later dedicated a plot of ground near the battlefield as a national cemetery. The cemetery dedicated to those who died to preserve a “nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Two years earlier, in a touching letter to his wife, Union Major Sullivan Ballou wrote how hard it was to…
“… burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.”
However, Ballou added he had…
“… no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.”
The Union triumph at Gettysburg went a long way in reconciling our flawed, slavery-enshrining Constitution with the foundational creed of the Declaration of Independence. And that reconciliation came with a heavy price in blood. A price willingly paid by Major Ballou at the first battle of Bull Run.
A sacrifice diminished by a kneeling fool whose great misfortune in life was to make millions of dollars playing a children’s game and performing as a shill for a company that sells overpriced sneakers to poor kids.
Beijing’s “radical” freedom problem
In China, meanwhile, mass demonstrations took a decided turn when Hong Kong protestors demanding autonomy from the political machinations of Beijing’s totalitarians waved American flags and began singing the Star-Spangled Banner.
China’s state-run Global Times dubbed the protestors “radical forces” engaged “in a conspiracy with the West.” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a gathering of reporters,
“As you all know, they [the protests] are somehow the work of the US” and warned that “those who play with fire will only get themselves burned.”
China’s bloody massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989 is estimated to have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. A chilling foreshadowing of what may come to those in Hong Kong who now sing,
On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
‘Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
A poignant rebuke to the America-hating promulgators of our entertainment/media zeitgeist.
Top Images: American flag at Hong Kong demonstration. China’s state-run CCTV screen capture.
Insets (left) Colin Kaepernick, NFL Network screen capture,
(right) US flag burning outside White House, RT television screen capture.