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July 3, 2012

The bombing of Fort McHenry, September 13, 1814. This was the first recorded use of solid-fueled rockets in wartime, by the way, with “Congreve rockets” by the British.

It’s NOT “The Fourth of July.” Not only is that stupidly obvious, like we Americans are too dumb to know what the date of the holiday is, but it’s like we don’t want to say that the day celebrates our INDEPENDENCE – not just from Britain 250 years ago, but from tyrants everywhere and at all times.

Well, it should mean that. Like Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Day and of course Christmas, we tend to forget the reason for the holiday in favor of things like cookouts, parades (with less having to do with patriotism all the time), and, God preserve us…sales. Calling it just “The Fourth of July” should sound as dumb to us as it must to non-citizens. Canada has “Canada Day” and that makes sense. We could call it “USA Day” and that would bring it into focus fast.

Another pet peeve of mine is that fireworks shows all over the nation that are accompanied by music, recorded or live, tend to end with…Tchaikovsky’s “Overture 1812.” OK, it has cannons – which are usually set off at random, instead of the way the bells and cannon were originally intended to work. But it was written to celebrate the Russian army’s victory over Napoleon in…1812. It wasn’t written until much later, of course, and actually was first performed in 1882.

A little known fact is that the version we hear most of the time today is not the only edition that was written. The musical material in it changed with the politics in Russia. Following the Russian Revolution, the Tsar’s Hymn – which is where the cannon shots are written – was replaced by “Be glorified, be glorified, holy Rus!” from Glinka’s “Ivan Susanin.” Yeah, politics.

During 1812 we had our own war going on…the one with the British that said, “Yes, we really mean it! We’re not subjects of the British Crown.” (They were apparently slow learners.) The poem by Francis Scott Key that became “The Star Spangled Banner” was written during his incarceration by the British during the 1814 bombing of Fort McHenry.

Little known also is that there are four verses. This last one is my personal favorite:

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Have a wonderful Independence Day! Let’s celebrate our independence!


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