September 01, 2011

New Flag for Libya

François Mori/AP

Libyans wave national flags in Tripoli’s Green Square, renamed Martyr’s Square, during morning prayers Wednesday on Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Libyans are also celebrating the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi.

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“The children are drawing pictures of the new Libyan flag, something that would have gotten them arrested only two weeks ago.” (National Public Radio, 31 August 2011)

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The first time I ever heard of Tripoli was when, as a child, in a school classroom, our music teacher taught us to sing, among other things, the United States Marines’ Anthem, the “oldest official song” in the U.S.

First verse:

From the Halls of Montezuma,

To the shores of Tripoli;

We fight our country’s battles

In the air, on land, and sea;

First to fight for right and freedom

And to keep our honor clean:

We are proud to claim the title

Of United States Marines.

Montezuma, or Moctezuma (1466–1520), was the Ninth Aztec Emperor at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The last elected ruler, he invited his enemies to his coronation and drew blood from his body with the sharpened bones of jaguars and eagles. In his palace, this divine ruler, so powerful no one could look him in the face, drank spiced chocolate from golden cups. The name MOCTEZUMA is now a station on the Mexico City Metro line.

“From the Halls of Montezuma”is about the Battle of Chapultepec, which occurred during the Mexican-American War, 1847.

As for Tripoli, the Libyan capital (in Arabic: طرابلس‎ Ṭarābulus; Libyan Arabic: Ṭrābləs; Berber, Ṭrables; Greek, Τρίπολις, Trípolis), it means “Three Cities.”

“Shores of Tripoli” refers to the “Barbary (from Heyreddin Barbarossa, c. 1478–1546, the red-bearded Ottoman admiral/pirate/pasha) Wars” in which the U.S. had had enough of paying piracy tributes to the Barbary States (Tripoli, Tunis, and Algeria) and effectively stormed the harbor, negotiating a peace agreement.

I wonder to myself now why we, in a public primary school in Toronto, Canada, were taught to sing this song. We sang “TRI—PO—LEE” and “MONT—E—ZU—UMA.” Like Craymo, we were taught to sing this song in unison. Briskly, smartly: “UNI—TED—STATESMA—RINES.” I always felt that the “statesma” was a little much.

Comments (1)

  • The Arab Spring in to Summer and Fall is ripe for all young ‘statesma’ sharing spiced chocolate from golden vessels. Down by the local bay and drying river bed, with hopes of developing clean honor in at least three cities at once, let’s draw those maps with children and all of the freedom fighters with covered or cropped hair and henna bearded pashas. The Arab Spring in to Summer and Fall is ripe for new anthems. Grazie Norma.

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