There's no expiration date on national anthems. Nonetheless, much has happened since this September day in 1814, more than two centuries ago, when Francis Scott Key penned famous words that many of us know by heart:
"O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming? ..."
His long night's watch was not disappointing. The American flag -- "the star-spangled banner" -- appeared at dawn over Fort McHenry in spite of "the bombs bursting in air." Key's lyrics move from unsure to triumphant. Then they shift again in the final verse, where they border on warmongering:
"Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto -- 'In God is our trust ...' "
That's where the sense of a possible expiration date for this national anthem seeps in. We must conquer? Who are we to decide when a war is "just"? We live in an age when many wise souls have advocated and even shown the way to peaceful solutions for major world problems. Some have gone so far as to suggest, in the words of poet and polymath Piet Hein: "Co-existence / Or no existence."
So we would love to know: If you were going to choose an alternative national anthem, what would it be? Please send us your ideas! We know our community to be a remarkably resourceful group, and we can't wait to see what you'll share. You will find more information and instructions for sending on this page:
Salaam, Shalom, Shanti, Peace,
The Practicing Democracy Project Team