At the Smithsonian, Americans reflect on the battered flag that inspired the anthem – in the spotlight once again as the president rails against NFL protesters

It is two centuries old, spans 30ft by 34ft and has suffered the effects of age and being snipped for souvenir hunters. The original star-spangled banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become the US national anthem, lies horizontally at a 10-degree angle of elevation in a low light chamber at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington. Visitors file past silently and reverently as if beholding a religious relic.

“Patriotism: love of country,” Marcia Walker, 71, a retired nurse from Granite City, Illinois, said during a visit on Monday when asked about the meaning of the flag. “It’s not just for the military but it’s a feeling each and every American should have for our justice system and our ability to love and respect each other.”

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