Australia Day

January 26

On January 26, 1808 Major George Johnston led his men to the residence of Governor William Bligh and forcibly relieved him of his post. This remains the only successful coup by force in Australia’s history.

(You may remember Charles Laughton’s portrayal of the lovable, kooky Captain Bligh in 1935’s Best Picture “Mutiny on the Bounty” which portrayed the crew’s slapstick romp through the South Pacific.)

But that’s not why they celebrate. In fact the first recorded celebration of Australia day was 200 years ago, on January 25, 1808, the night before the coup. They called it First Landing or Foundation Day. It marked the 20th anniversary of the landing of British ships in what is now Sydney, with the purpose of setting up a permanent penal colony for the Bad Boys of Britain.

Sydney Bridge
Sydney, Australia

24 year-old George Johnston was the first officer to set foot on Sydney Cove sand that day. According to legend (ie. Wikipedia) he was so ill from the boat trip, he had to be carried on the back of convict James Ruse. Ruse had been sentenced to death back in England for stealing two watches. This was later commuted to 7 years in Australia. Ruse became Australia’s first successful European farmer.

from The Birth of Sydney…<

“The grant of land made to him by Governor Phillip in 1792 was the first act in a tragedy of dispossession for Aboriginal Australia. It would take 200 years exactly for the country to acknowledge that Phillip’s declaration was a sham.”

The 1789 London Morning Herald had a different take on the budding colony:

“The settlement we are making at Botany or rather Jackson’s Bay reminds us of the origin of the Roman Empire, which sprang out of a nest of robbers…The thief colony may hereafter become a great empire, whose nobles will probably, like those of the nobles of Rome and other empires, boast of their blood.”

The report prophesied correctly: Australians are a patriotic bunch, more so in recent years. But even today 1 in 4 Australians was born in another country. And 2 in 5 have at least 1 parent born abroad.

Heavy immigration has not been without conflict. In 2005, riots in the beachside suburbs of Cronulla targeted Middle-Eastern immigrants. It was the first riot to be fueled by text messaging.

This year Australia pays tribute to a couple whose heroism will be remembered for days to come. Lorraine and Robert Steel were honored (I mean honoured) with Order of Australia medals in part for their creation of the Parkes Elvis Festival in western New South Wales.

“January’s been very quiet in Parkes and we thought that we would do something to liven up living in Parkes in January to give us some business and hopefully to give business to our local motels and eatery.”

It’s now the world’s biggest Elvis festival, holding the Guinness World Record for most Elvis impersonators in a single place.
Australia Day History
Survival Day

in nights of Auld Lang Syne – Rabbie Burns, a Great Scot

January 25

Lang syne, in Eden’s happy scene

When strappin Adam’s days were green,

And Eve was like my bonie Jean

My dearest part,

A dancin’ sweet, young handsome quean,

O’ guileless heart

–from Address to the Devil

(unpublished version)

Robert Burns

Without ever picking up a sword or musket, Burns became a national hero of the Scots. His weapon was the pen. His ammunition the Scottish language. (Yes, they have their own language).

Even in Burns’ day the Scots language (a collection of dialects such as Doric, Buchan Claik, and Lallands) had lost favor with the upper crust. The 1707 Treaty of Union had united Scotland with England to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the new establishment, for fear of sounding provincial, distanced themselves from the ‘auld’ dialects. English became the de facto language in education, and the language itself was blending with that of their neighbors to the south.

Robert (Rabbie) Burns entered the world on this day, 1759. His father was a gardener and an unsuccessful farmer, but he managed to secure an education for Robert, the first of his seven children at the village school.

“Forming a bachelors’ club and debating society at Tarbolton, young Robert became a Freemason, worked as a flax dresser in Irvine and enjoyed an active social and sexual life.”

The Canongate Burns By Andrew Noble

After his father’s death, Rabbie was forced to return to farming to support the family. It was during these years that he wrote some of his most famous poetry. (And conducted some of his more fruitful love affairs.) He also scoured the countryside collecting the traditional folk songs of his people, which would have otherwise been lost to history. His collection, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect earned him rapid fame, but not fortune.

Unlike the born-wealthy poets of his day, Burns earned very little from his writing. He continued to farm, and when the farm failed, he became an excise officer in Dumfries. His romantic, radical, idealist persona fostered by his works did not always match his life. Burns is often described as having a “weak heart,” but this did not dim his sexual escapades. He bore numerous prodigy by several women, including his long-suffering wife, Jean Armour, who bore their last child together on the day of his funeral.

from Bonie Jean: A Ballad

There was a lass, and she was fair,

At kirk or market to be seen;

When a’ our fairest maids were met,

The fairest maid was bonie Jean…

…As in the bosom of the stream,

The moon-beam dwells at dewy e’en;

So trembling, pure, was tender love

Within the breast of bonie Jean…

Burns passed at age 37 in 1796, leaving behind a romantic image of himself no man could match and a country beaming with nostalgic pride.

The first Burns’ Night was held five years after Burns’ death by a group of his close friends. They celebrated as Scots around the world will celebrate tonight:

Invite good friends, toast to Rabbie, roast said friends, drink heartily, savor the traditional haggis (everyone’s favorite) and recite the Bard’s immortal verse.

from A Bard’s Epitaph…

…Is there a man, whose judgment clear

Can others teach the course to steer,

Yet runs, himself, life’s mad career,

Wild as the wave,

Here pause–and, thro’ the starting tear,

Survey this grave

from Scots Wha Hae (unofficial Scottish anthem)

…’Wha, for Scotland’s king and law,

Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,

Freeman stand, or Freeman fa’,

Let him on wi’ me!

By Oppression’s woes and pains!

By your sons in servile chains!

We will drain our dearest veins,

But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!

Tyrants fall in every foe!

Liberty’s in every blow!

Let us do or dee!

from Auld Lang Syne

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne…


We two have waded in the stream

From dawn till dinner time;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since days of long ago…

On Marriage

That hackney’d judge of human life,

The Preacher and th King,

Observes: “The man that gets a wife

He gets a noble thing.”

But how capricious are mankind,

Now loathing, now desirous!

We married men, how oft we find

The best of things will tire us!

from A Poet’s Welcome to His Love-Begotten Daughter

(The First Instance that entitled him to the Venerable Appellation of Father)

Tho’ now they ca’ me fornicator,

An’ tease my name in kintry clatter,

The mair they talk, I’m kent the better,

E’en let them clash;

An auld wife’s tongue’s a feckless matter

To gie ane fash…

from A Red, Red Rose

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry…

Full poem recited (with sexy accent!)

Links and Info: – a Poet for All Men

Index of Burns’ Work – read it

Robert Burns Club of Milwaukee – all-encompassing resource

How to Organize a Burns Supper – celebrate it

Bay Area Bites – Burns Night – San Francisco – eat it

New York City Haggis – NYC – eat it

Once Upon a Time in the West of Scotland – a different view

Burns Night – reflections on his poetry

A Red, Red Rose – hear it

Whisky Please – drink it

Burns Supper Report – An American Toast in Scotland

Address to a Haggis – youtube

Alasitas – Bolivia

January 24

Today is the annual Alasitas festival in Bolivia’s capital city of La Paz.

Alasitas isn’t a Spanish word but an Aymara one. It means something akin to “Buy me.” And if you thought El Norte held a monopoly on consumerism, don’t put your money on it.

Alasitas is all about prosperity in the coming year. People buy miniatures of whatever it is they hope to achieve. Actually it’s better luck if someone else buys it for you. And you can buy just about anything for what your heart desires: miniature houses, miniature cars, miniature diplomas. Even miniature barber shops for aspiring hair stylists.

It’s not all about materialism though. There are miniature symbols of love for those seeking their soulmate. And miniature divorce certificates for those on the other end of the spectrum.

But the most omnipresent celebrant of the festivities is a little chubby guy named Ekeko. Imagine a cross between a cherub and your cigar-chomping great uncle Luigi. (I don’t have a great uncle Luigi but if I did, I imagine that’s what he’d look like.)

Photo by ctln, Creative Commons license
Photo by Cltn, Creative Commons license

Ekeko is the Aymara god of abundance. Ekeko, like Alasitas itself, is one of those pagan traditions the Spanish never fully wiped out. Small Ekeko idols can be found at every shop and vendor’s stand.

They did manage to change the date of Alasitas however. It was originally a harvest festival celebrated in September. It was changed to January 25 in the early 19th century to commemorate the victory of a famous battle.

Your good luck wish isn’t complete until you have your miniatures blessed by one of the many priests wandering through the streets just for the occasion.

This year Alasitas precedes a momentous event in Bolivian history. Tomorrow Bolivians will vote on a new constitution. President Evo Morales calls it a milestone for indigenous peoples:

This fine land belongs to us: Aymaras, Quechuas, Guaranies, Chiquitanos … The rights of those that were born in this land are recognized in the new constitution. — Reuters

An Aymara Indian, Morales is the country’s first indigenous President, even though indigenous descendants make up over half Bolivia’s population. He’s also a controversial left-wing leader, whose nationalization policies have received criticism from the previously right-wing government. Politics is personal in Bolivia; clashes have led to violence over the past couple of years.

The Catholic Church has not taken an official stance in the political debate, but one group calling itself “Iglesias Re Unidas (Reunited Churches) opposes the new constitution with the slogan, “Choose God. Vote No.”

Either way, as the vote falls one day after the start of Alasitas, you can bet Ekeko will have his say.

John Hancock: Handwriting Day

January 23

John Hancock

Break out those quills…today is National Handwriting Day. And by no coincidence it’s the birthday of Founding Father John Hancock, famous for signing his name on the Declaration of Independence large enough, so the story goes, for King George III of England to read it without his glasses.

John Hancock made his fortune by inheriting his father’s shipping business. During the days of high British taxes, Hancock was charged with smuggling, but he was lucky enough to have future President of the U.S. John Adams as his attorney. After a five-month trial, the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. The smuggling charges actually increased his popularity among the increasingly rebellious citizens of colonial Massachusetts.

In 1775, when the British declared that they would absolve charges against any colonists willing to put down their arms and live in peace, they made two exceptions: Sam Adams and John Hancock.

Also that year, the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia elected John Hancock as its president. Under Hancock, the Continental Congress declared the independence of the United States of America and drafted the document which proclaimed it so.

In July, 1776, 100 “Broadsides” of the first Declaration of Independence were printed. These didn’t have any of the Founding Fathers’ signatures—Only two names: John Hancock, President of the Congress, and Charles Thompson, the Congress’s Secretary. And they weren’t signed. The names were printed. Had the Revolution failed at that point, Hancock and Thompson would have been screwed.

As fate would have it, the revolution didn’t fail. In August the entire Congress put their names to the nation’s founding document. That’s the Declaration we’re familiar with, with John Hancock’s scrawling signature overshadowing all others.

There’s no evidence he claimed the large signature was so “King George can read it without his glasses,” a story that gained momentum years after the signing. He was however known for his flamboyance and vanity, and the boast would not have been not out of character.

Hancock's famous signature on the Declaration of Independence
Hancock's famous signature on the Declaration of Independence

After the Continental Congress, Hancock became governor of Massachusetts, a position he held for much of the rest of his life.

Even today, the term “John Hancock” is synonymous with “signature.” Which is why today is National Handwriting Day, an unofficial holiday promoted by producers of writing tools, who have plenty of reason to promote this holiday.

Whereas penmanship was once considered an indicator of status and intellect, in recent years handwriting itself has joined the endangered species list. According to Lisa Marnell, Director of Handwriting Help For Kids:

Fourth- and fifth-grade kids are learning keyboarding when they would’ve been honing cursive writing, which is much faster than block printing…Also, many younger kids are starting school without the hand strength they need to write well – holding a mouse or playing with a Game Boy simply doesn’t develop fine motor skills.

These days you can write anything on a computer or even a phone, except for two simple yet untype-able words: your signature.

Who knows, we may go back to the olden days–the days when most ordinary people knew how to write only one thing: their signature. In which case, John Hancock would still be the most apropos symbol of our nation’s penmanship.

Broadside version, Declaration of Independence
Broadside version, Declaration of Independence

*Only 25 original Broadsides of the Declaration of Independence exist. One of the best preserved Broadsides was found in 1989 when a bargain-hunter at a flea market bought a $4 picture because he liked the frame. He took it home to discover the Declaration of Independence behind the picture. It last sold for $8 million.

Ukrainian Reunion: a holiday not forgotten

It was on January 22 in 1919 that the two republics making up what is now Ukraine signed the Zluky Act that would merge the two into one, thus uniting the Ukrainian people.

The two republics were the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic, and the triumphant ceremony took place at St. Sophia Square in Kiev (below).

Signing of the Zluky Act, Jan. 22, 1919

It is a rare holiday in Ukraine in that it does not mark an occasion of sadness, defeat, or bloodshed.

Unfortunately this newfound unity of independence was short lived.

That same year Bolsheviks gained control of the country and declared Ukraine a part of the Federation of Soviet Republics. Thousands of Ukrainians died in the fighting, but this is nothing to the numbers who would perish over a decade later when the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin enforced an unprecedented, massive famine throughout Ukraine killing millions.

On January 22,1990 the Ukrainians celebrated their Reunion Day publicly and proudly for the first time, creating a 300,000 person human chain that stretched from Kiev to Lviv. This show of solidarity hastened the downfall of Soviet influence over Ukraine, which declared its independence in 1991.

“My nation has proved that Ukraine can never be deprived of freedom. It is no longer possible to divide the people into westerners and easterners.”

— announcement on the celebration of the Reunion Day of Ukraine, 2007, decreed by President Viktor Yushchenko

Ukrainian Flag

The Day Ukraine United
Den Sobornosti, or Unity Day
The Ukrainian National Revolution: 1917-1921
належить 22 січня 1919

Sunday Bloody Sunday

January 22

“We, workers and inhabitants of the city of St. Petersburg, members of various sosloviia, our wives, children, and helpless aged parents, have come to you, Sovereign, to seek justice and protection…”

Thus began a petition to Nicholas II, Czar of Russia, protesting the working and living conditions in St. Petersburg.

It didn’t work.

The peaceful protest was led by a Russian Orthodox priest named Father George Gapon, a “simple-hearted priest, with a rather childlike faith in God and Tsar,” according to Henry Woodd Nevison (The Dawn in Russia, 1906)

A massive December strike at 174 factories, including the electricity plant, had paralyzed the city. Gapon led approximately 15,000 workers and their families to the Tsar’s Winter Palace with their list of grievances.

According to Nevinson, “Father Gapon organized a dutiful appeal of the Russian workmen to the tender-hearted autocrat whose benevolence was only thwarted by evil counsellors and his ignorance of the truth.”

Father Gapon was the chief scribe of the petition to the Czar. It asked for an 8-hour work day, freedom of assembly to unionize, improved working conditions, medical aid, higher wages for women, freedom of speech, press and religion, and an end to the Japanese war.

The petition ended:

“If you do not respond to our prayer, then we shall die here, on this square, in front of your palace. We have nowhere else to go and no reason to. There are only two roads for us, one to freedom and happiness, the other to the grave. Let our lives be sacrificed for suffering Russia. We do not regret that sacrifice, we embrace it eagerly.”

Despite this claim, the workers and their families did not seem so willing to embrace their fate after 200 of their number had been slaughtered via bayonet and bullet by the Czar’s guards as they approached the palace. (Nevinson claims 1500 dead. The government’s official count was 100.) Hundreds more were injured.

Depiction of Bloody Sunday
Depiction of Bloody Sunday

The Czar didn’t get the petition.

Having been warned of the Sunday march Nicholas had skipped town.

Word circulated about the country, and the numbers of the dead increased with each telling. In Moscow and other cities angry workers rioted, demonstrations turned violent, and thus began the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Father Gapon was not killed in the massacre, though many  around him were. He sneaked out of the country, making his way to Western capitals such as Paris, London and Geneva, to garner international support for the cause.

Gapon was announced as a hero by both Leon Trotsky and the New York Times

Strangely enough, word leaked that Gapon was not only a friend of labor, but also a double agent working for the Okhrana, the Czar’s secret police. The Okhrana clandestinely created or infiltrated union assemblies in order to snuff out the agitators and arrest them.

Gapon’s intentions before the massacre, whether he had any idea of the outcome, will never be know for sure. Nor will we know if, horrified by the events of Bloody Sunday, Gapon’s newfound anger toward the Czar was sincere. It may well have been.

What is known is that soon after his return to Russia, his dead body was found with a rope around his neck in an empty cottage outside the village of Ozerki, Finland.

And an unsigned letter published in a St. Petersburg newspaper read:

George Gapon had been tried by a workmen’s secret tribunal and had been found guilty of having acted as an agent provocateur, of having squandered the money of the workmen, and of having defiled the honor and memory of the comrades who fell on the “Red Sunday.” In consequence of these acts, of which he was said to have made a full confession to the tribunal, he was condemned to death, and the sentence had been duly carried out.

(The Fall of the Russian Empire, Edmund Walsh)

Some say Bloody Sunday is still going on.

The Russian Revolution: through the Eyes of a Factory Worker
Russian Police Kill Four Militants in Chechen Capital<
Russia Police Block Anti-Putin March, Detain Leaders

[Originally published January 2008]

Reunion Day – Ukraine

January 22

Reunion Day is a rare holiday in Ukraine in that it marks neither tragedy nor defeat nor bloodshed.

On this day in 1919, West Ukraine joined Greater Ukraine. The two republics signed the Act Zluky to form an independent united Ukraine. The triumphant ceremony took place at St. Sophia Square in Kiev.

Signing of the Act Zluky on January 22, 1919
Signing of the Act Zluky on January 22, 1919

The joy was short lived.

Later that year Bolsheviks gained control of the country and declared Ukraine a part of the Federation of Soviet Republics. Thousands of Ukrainians died in the fighting.

But that was nothing compared to the number of those who would perish during the horrifying Holomodor.

The Holomodor, literally “plague of famine,” was one of the most gruesome chapters in European history.

The Five-Year Plan

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin implemented the Soviet Union’s first Five-Year Plan in 1928 to boost national productivity. Nationalization appeared to work in the industrial sector as millions of workers flocked to urban areas to work. Agricultural was another matter.

Stalin failed to foresee (or simply didn’t care about) the demoralizing effect of collectivization on small peasant-owned farms, and he underestimated farmers’ attachment to the land. Collectivization resulted in lower yields and in some cases rebellion. Due to low yields, the Soviet government punished the farm workers by seizing the crops they reaped in order to feed the cities and other parts of the Union. Nowhere was this practice more brutal and devastating than in Ukraine.

The Holomodor

Blaming Ukraine for the failure of the plan, Stalin attempted to force the republic into submission by instituting the world’s most vicious man-made famine.

“When the snow melted true starvation began. People had swollen faces and legs and stomachs. They could not contain their urine…And now they ate anything at all. They caught mice, rats, sparrows, ants, earthworms. They ground up bones into flour, and did the same thing with leather and shoe soles; they cut up old skins and furs to make noodles of a kind and they cooked glue. And when the grass came up, they began to dig up the roots and ate the leaves and the buds, they used everything there was; dandelions, and burdocks and bluebells and willowroot, and sedums and nettles…”

— Vasily Grossman

It’s hard to imagine a death more cruel than slow murder by starvation. And to watch powerlessly as one’s village, family, and children wither up over the course of several months or a year.

Between 1931 and 1932 the Holomodor killed an estimated 7 million Ukrainians.

The famines of the Ukraine led to mass emigration to other parts of the globe, notably Canada and the United States.

After World War II, the Soviet Union consistently denied the extent of the Ukrainian Genocide.

Ukrainian Independence

On January 22,1990, still under Soviet power, Ukraine celebrated the anniversary of its short-lived 1919 independence publicly and proudly for the first time. On that day a human chain of 300,000 people stretched from Kiev to Lviv.

The show of solidarity reinvigorated Ukrainian nationalism. Ukraine declared its independence in 1991.

To this day Russia has not recognized the Ukrainian Genocide. So when Russia and the Ukraine battle over gas lines, it’s about more than gas.

“There were blockades along all the highways, where militia, NKVD men, troops were stationed; the starving people were not to be allowed into the cities. Guards surrounded all the railroad stations. There were guards at even the tiniest of whistle stops. No bread for you, breadwinners!

Death from starvation mowed down the village. First the children, then the old people, then those of middle age. At first they dug graves and buried them, and then as things got worse they stopped. Dead people lay there in the yards, and in the end they remained in their huts. Things fell silent. The whole village died. Who died last I do not know…

Before they had completely lost their strength, the peasants went on foot across country to the railroad. Not to the stations where the guards kept them away, but to the tracks. And when the Kyiv-Odesa express came past, they would just kneel there and cry: “Bread, bread!” They would lift up their horrible starving children for people to see. And sometimes people would throw them pieces of bread and other scraps. The train would thunder on past, and the dust would settle down, and the whole village would be there crawling along the tracks, looking for crusts. But an order was issued that whenever trains were travelling through the famine provinces the guards were to shut the windows and pull down the curtains.

Vasily Grossman, Forever Flowing

Memoirs of the Ukrainian Genocide

Khe Sanh?

January 21


[published January 21, 2009]

Yesterday I walked into a church I had never been to before to watch the Inauguration of Barack Obama.

About 200 people were crowded inside. A projector cast a larger-than-life image on the wall behind the altar– a live feed of the inauguration. The crowd was joyful, respectful, and united, as were crowds across the country. It was an unusual scene for liberals, who in recent decades have had a stubborn tendency to reserve pride in their country for moments they felt their country earned it. Today was one of those days.

The speech lived up to its hype:

“extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist…”

“reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals…”

“…in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh…”

Khe Sanh?

The man beside me gave a shout of approval. He looked about 50; in retrospect, he must have been 60. Strands of gray seeped from his dark, curly hair; his mustache and goatee were white. He had eye crinkles and big wide smile.

We learn about the battles of Concord and Gettysburg in grade school. My grandfather fought in Normandy. And though I stood at the Vietnam Memorial just two weeks earlier, I’d never heard of Khe Sanh.

I asked the goateed man, “Where’s Khe Sanh?”

He said, “It’s where I got my ass handed to me.”

+  +  +

Khe Sanh was one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War, and the siege began, coincidentally, 41 years ago today.

On January 21, 1968, a small contingent of the North Vietnamese Army began an attack on a remote outpost tentatively held by U.S. Marines and Army and the South Vietnamese Army.

Following the initial ambush on January 21, two things occurred:

North Vietnamese reinforcements arrived in Khe Sanh, reversing the tables. The initial opposing force swelled from a few hundred North Vietnamese soldiers to over 20,000, while the U.S. Marines, Army, and South Vietnamese Army hovered around 6,000.

And second, the North Vietnamese Army launched the Tet Offensive, an all-out attack on South Vietnamese and U.S. strongholds throughout the country that surprised military leaders and demoralized the American public. It also tied up potential U.S. reinforcements.

The U.S. provided intense air support for the ground forces at Khe Sanh. During the 77-day battle the Marines, Air Force, and Navy personnel flew over 17,000 missions, dropping over 30,000 tons of explosives. At one point the possibility of using nuclear weapons was even considered, though that option was taken off the table.

Today “the outline of the airfield remains distinct (to this day nothing will grow on it). In places, the ground is literally carpeted with bullets and rusting shell casings.” — Vietnam, Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit

Historians still argue whether the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive was a diversion to secure Khe Sanh, or Khe Sanh was a diversion to prepare for Tet.

What we do know is by the end of the battle on April 8th, when U.S. reinforcements finally arrived, over 2,000 U.S. Servicemen lay dead or wounded at Khe Sanh. And the North Vietnamese Army suffered over 5 times that loss.

The war raged on for another 6 years. The U.S. pulled out of Vietnam in 1975, and many veterans returned home, not to cheers, but jeers.

The Fight for Khe Sanh, 1968
The Fight for Khe Sanh, 1968

+ + +

After the President’s speech, Elizabeth Alexander read the Inaugural Poem, Praise Song for the Day:

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise…

And Reverend Joseph Lowery led the benediction:

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

We watched the U.S. Navy Band begin the National Anthem and heard its opening lyrics. “O say, can you see…

At which point the sound from the video feed, which had been touch and go during the Inauguration, gave up for good. An audible groan filled the silence. But then, quietly, another sound.


Not from the video speakers, but from within the church. From us. In the silence, the entire church stood and sang the National Anthem, without any leader, without any audience, without any musical accompaniment.

We didn’t need sound, because we all knew the words.

Some in this crowd had been deemed unpatriotic for speaking up for their beliefs during the long campaign. From the Vietnam veteran to the soccer mom, here they were in a church singing the National Anthem for no audience but themselves.

These people loved America. And they felt the thrill Francis Scott Key must have felt, when he peered from the ship where the British confined him, and saw the flag of his country waving proudly over Fort McHenry.