Happy Memorial Day—What is Patriotism to You?

The winner for this week’s Reader Sunshots series “Frozen in Time” goes to Owen Dawson for his picture titled “Vietnam Memorial.” Here is a critique by Baltimore Sun director of photography Robert Hamilton. “This was an interesting category. Photographers could interpret the category in many ways such as winter scenes, action photography, or as our winner did, capture a moment in time that gives the viewer a creative perspective. Dawson used just the right control with the field of focus to bring attention to the names on the wall, but still give form to the veteran in the background who had stopped to study the Vietnam Memorial.”

The sacrifice and heroism of America’s soldiers is remembered today—Memorial Day. And patriotic song, including “The Star-Spangled Banner,” has and will be part of this day of somber reflection and fun-filled celebration. In fact, in many ways it is the sacrifice of the nation’s fighting men and women that has sanctified music as patriotic. Key’s Banner honors the courage and fortitude of the defenders of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, but it was the subsequent use of the song in the Mexican-American War (1846–48), Civil War (1861–64), Spanish-American War (1898), and finally World War One (1917–18 for the U.S.) that increasingly linked song to flag and country, and burned the emotional resonance of the tune into cultural memory making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the only possible choice as the nation’s anthem in 1931.
Yet patriotism means many things to many people and we’d love to know what it means for you. What thoughts come to your mind on Memorial Day? What does “The Star-Spangled Banner” mean to you? Please comment below…

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