This day, September 4, 2009, has been, without doubt, the strangest day of my life. I was sitting on a train, head buried in my laptop, minding my own business when an oddly dressed man burst in from the next car. Nobody else seemed to take notice, which was peculiar because he appeared to be wearing an early nineteenth century costume as if he were some kind of museum tour guide. The man looked about the train car, eventually focusing his gaze directly upon me! He glanced down at my computer, then at me again. He sat in the empty seat next to me and said, “My name is Francis Scott Key, are you a journalist?”
Of course my initial reaction was incredulous. The absurdity of it: Key, author of the poem that eventually became the “Star Spangled Banner,” National Anthem of the U.S., was long dead. Unsure what to make of this character, I proceeded to lie, telling him that I was a journalist. He could have asked me if I was an astronaut, and I would have done the same.
“I need to get something off my chest, and I’d like you to write it down,” he said.
“Certainly, Mr. Key. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” I told him, having decided to humor the guy. I was bored, and I was stuck on a train for the next hour, at least. He was dressed like a dandy and appeared to be harmless.
“I assume you know who I am, and that I died long ago,” he began. I nodded, and he continued, “You should know that we watch the living. We see everything.”
He proceeded to describe the present political drama in America with particular emphasis on the irrational fear of Barack Obama, “displayed in disparate, but decidedly loud segments of America’s politically motivated,” as he put it. He spoke of his observances like someone describing “Reality TV” to a person who had no idea what a television was.
With an eyebrow raised, I inquired, “What do you mean, you see everything?”
He tacitly acknowledged my skepticism and said, “Just bear with me. Yes, we watch you. There is very little else for the dead to do. Get over it.”
Key explained that afterlife viewership had fallen off somewhat during George W. Bush’s first term, but had dropped precipitously following the 2004 presidential election. “It got to be frustrating to watch, ” he said. “Your nation had clearly, jumped the shark, electing Bush to a second term.” He paused to inquire if he had used the entertainment industry phrase properly, and he was quite pleased with himself after I informed him that he had.
“We started watching again during the 2008 campaign,” he reassured me as if I were concerned about our ratings. He didn’t have to tell me it was entertaining. I saw it live!
He lowered his voice, “I happened to be in the company of Karl Marx, whose interest in the election was piqued following the primaries. It was about the time people started throwing Marx’s name around when referring to Obama. Honestly, I don’t understand it. At least when McCarthy did it, he had an external entity in the Soviet Union, to which he could, and did, attribute potential domestic subversion.”
“Marx was irritated at first,” Key explained. “Once Karl figured out that there was no real comparison between his predictive political philosophy and the proposed policies of Senator Obama, he just thought it was hilarious.” Key confessed, he didn’t think much of it at the time, but when the irrational comparisons continued past Obama’s election he became frustrated.
He wrung his hands as he went on, “You were just starting to get interesting again. You elected a clearly empathetic and erudite individual to the presidency. You celebrated well, deservedly so, but a malevolent undercurrent of fear-inspired hate persisted, and persists, which brings me to why I’m here, talking to you.”
He was visibly agitated, but at that point I was totally into it. “Go on,” I encouraged.
Key settled himself and continued, “I apologize for my candor, but the events of the present week provoked my action. Seeing a wheelchair bound woman heckled as she attempted to describe her health care plight was despicable. It was like a punch in the gut. Then I read about the Florida GOP chairman’s profound display of ignorance: proclaiming that a motivational speech from Obama to the nation’s children was somehow akin to socialist indoctrination. It’s preposterous!”
At this point, I informed him that he was preaching to the choir on this issue. I made an effort to calm him, explaining, “though it’s not rational, many are genuinely scared and..” Abruptly, he cut me off.
“But that’s just it,” he said. “The needless, pointless fear, don’t you get it? The man is the President of the United States, for heaven’s sake. Out of cowardice, some have decided to overtly disrespect and slander your constitutionally elected leader. It’s tantamount to heresy! Further, it is insulting to those who voted for Obama; perhaps, it’s insulting to anyone who has ever voted, EVER!”
Key took a deep breath and went on, “It is because this behavior is fear-inspired that I have come back. I’ve returned to take back my poem. ‘The Home of the Brave,’ sadly, is no longer applicable to a country capable of such a display.”
I sat in a state of shock, mouth agape, as the train approached the station.
Again, Key composed himself and went on, “I’m not doing this on a whim. Far from it. For weeks, I’ve heard the word ‘tyranny’ bandied about by people who have absolutely no concept of what the word actually means.”
“And, don’t think for a moment that demanding this comes without a sense of deep personal loss. Until recently, I had taken great pride that my poem was selected for your national anthem. When president Hoover signed the congressional resolution in 1931, making my remembrance of the defense of Fort McHenry a symbol of national pride, I was so excited I nearly forgot that I was dead!”
“Further, my story is not unique,” Key continued. “Take the first American president, George Washington, for example. Though he’d be the first to tell you he’s somewhat confused and embarrassed by the phallic nature of his monument on the national mall, he remains humbled by how the nation he helped guide through its infancy remembers him. Indeed, all of us whom history has chosen to smile upon following our deaths live on symbolically because living Americans honor us by remembering us and what we fought for. The poisonous political climate of the present has led to the perversion of that honor. It makes me feel dirty, to be honest. By taking back my poem, I’m symbolically washing myself.”
The train came to a stop as he finished. I followed him across the platform, begging him to reconsider. I told him that going through with his plan could only exacerbate the issue, preventing any chance for Obama to turn it around.
“Give him a chance,” I said. “With more time the displays of ignorance could subside. Give us a chance to come to our senses, to awaken to the fact that there is nothing to be afraid of,” I pleaded.
With that, the man who portended to be Francis Scott Key, paused, turned to me, and smiled.
“Alright,” he said. “If you haven’t given up, then neither will I. You’ve got until the next presidential contest in 2012.”
I barely had time to outwardly display my relief when Key turned to leave. As he parted, he issued a warning:
“Just know that if you haven’t sorted it out by then, I’ll return with others. Indeed, tell Glenn Beck if he misquotes Teddy Roosevelt again, he’ll have a lot more to worry about than losing his sponsors. The OP (Original Progressive, I’m guessing) is about ready to go ‘Rough Rider’ on his sociopathic backside.”
Following this bizarre encounter, I took some time to gather my notes and set to writing them down. Was it actually Francis Scott Key, back from the grave to reclaim his legacy? Probably not, but that’s beside the point. The perpetrators of the Obama-as-tyrant meme, and those who repeat it out of fear, or otherwise, are spitting on the very institutions they claim to hold most dear. Key, or not Key, his assessment was spot on in my opinion. I’d rather not disappoint him by giving up.
To that end, I encourage you to sign the following petition: Boycott Fox News Advertisers. Though Fox is not the exclusive purveyor of the above described fear, they are the most visible; and, for reasons I cannot begin to explain, they are the most watched.
"Defense of Fort McHenry" Image by way of Wikipedia Commons