Rational Ignorance and the National Anthem

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Jeep has launched a public education/product promotion campaign aimed at teaching Americans the words of their national anthem, which a recent Harris poll indicated two-thirds of us do not know. I'm inclined to think the problem is not the public's laziness so much as the song's crappiness. As many Americans have noted over the years, The Star-Spangled Banner is virtually unsingable, with an overly demanding range and awkward lyrics that verge on idolatry. Almost any of the patriotic ditties that sometimes take its place (America the Beautiful, God Bless America, even Neil Diamond's Coming to America) is catchier, more meaningful, or both. Jeep should be lobbying for a new national anthem instead of promoting one that's so bad Americans prefer to remain ignorant of the lyrics so they have an excuse not to sing it.

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  1. Are they going to promote knowledge of the latter verses? The ones with the lyrics about washing away the footprints of British soldiers in blood?

  2. I’ve been of the opinion for many years that the only official national anthem should be Ray Charles’ rendition of “America The Beautiful.”

    That, or John Ashcroft’s “Let The Eagles Soar.” Kidding, just kidding.

  3. Joe’s comment reminds me of the old WW II joke:

    A soldier is on sentry duty in a forest night when he hears rustling in the bushes. He chambers a round in his rifle, points it at the bushes and calls out, “Halt! Friend or foe?”

    A voice replies, “Don’t shoot! Friendly here!”

    The soldier asks, “How do I know you’re a friendly?”

    The voices responds, “Uh… Ask me something only an American would know.”

    The soldier says, “OK, sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.”

    The voices sings, “Oh say can you see… [etc., etc.] …and the home of the brave!”

    The soldier then says, “Alright, now sing the other three verses.”

    The voice cries out, “What?! There are more verses?!”

    The soldier lowers his weapon, smiles, and says, “Pass, Friend.”

  4. I much prefer “America the Beautiful” to “The Star Spangled Banner.”

    I’m also not a fan of the Pledge of Allegiance. Not because of “under God” or any of that, just because “for which it stands” has befuddled generations of elementary school children. When I was in first grade the principal got on the loudspeaker the first morning and told us to repeat along with her. For me this was the first time I’d head the pledge, so I just mumbled along with her and the other students. When we got to the part where we said “for Richard stands” I was left wondering “who’s Richard and what’s so important about him standing?”

    I’ve since learned that numerous other people had similar confusions about that line. I think it should be changed.

    “And to the Republic, one nation…” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it won’t confuse as many kids.

  5. I’m inclined to think the problem is not the public’s laziness…

    It’s not?

    …so much as the song’s crappiness.

    Really? According to who?

    Almost any of the patriotic ditties…is catchier, more meaningful, or both.

    So we need “catchy” in our national anthem now, do we?

    To steal a line from that same Niel Diamond movie, “It needs more Boom! Boom! Boom!” eh?

    THIS is a silly thread.

  6. From what I understand, the national anthem was set to the tune of an old English drinking song. Said songs were intentially written to be very difficult to sing, thus adding to the merriment at the tavern (esp. after a few).

    If we’re going to force kids to stand/sing for the national anthem, then I agree that we should update it. I think “Sex you up” is a contender.

  7. National anthems in general are rigid, silly and grandiose. Our own current one, if taken literally, is about a piece of fabric that survived a bombardment. Yes, I know, the symbolism is that our good ol’ American spirit can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’, but there are plenty of songs by Charlie Daniels and Toby Keith that tell us the same thing. Thankfully, no one is required to sing them before a major sporting event.

  8. O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
    What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
    O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
    And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
    O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,
    Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
    What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
    As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
    Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
    In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
    ‘Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

    And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
    A home and a country should leave us no more?
    Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
    Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation;
    Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
    Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: ?In God is our trust!?
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

  9. I’ve always thought that Metallica’s “Don’t Tread On Me” would make a good national anthem…

  10. And no one says “O’re.” When I hear people singing it, they say “For.”

  11. Geez, Gary, how could people have a hard time remembering all that?!?

  12. I’m not much for formulaic expressions of fealty and subservience, but I think the Ray Charles idea is a good one.

  13. This reminds me of one of Will Ferrell’s best skits. Playing Neil Diamond for VH1-Storytellers:

    Neil: This next song, you all might like. Few people know that I am fueled creatively by my massive hatred of immigrants. [ Kenny intros “America” ] Gary and I have gone on for hours about how much we hate foreignors. Right, Gary?

    Gary: Leave me out of this, man.

    Neil: NO, I WILL LEAVE YOU IN!! Well, my love of this great and beautiful nation, and my hatred of all people with dark skin, led me to write this. On the boats and on the trains. They’re coming to America. Never looking back again. Just do the best you can! You hate your keyboard player because he’s black! Never had the courage to tell him sooo–AAUUGGHH!! AAUUGGH!! OW!!

  14. My vote would go to Queen for “We are the Champions.” I find it difficult to think of a more essentially American sentiment than “We are the champions of the world.”

  15. I like the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’, at least the first verse because its a) short and b) asks a legitimate question whether constitutional government will survive.

    ‘God Bless America’ is uniquely horrible in its idiocy and its blandness. I hate it with a passion. Also why, if a benevolent God exists, are we telling him what to do?

    ‘America the Beautiful’ is a better song especially the verse Ray Charles sings. Its hard to aruge against it.

  16. Part of the original lyrics, called To Anachron in Heaven or The Anacreotic Song (from the British club the Anacreotic Society):

    To Anachron in heaven, where he sat in full glee
    A few sons of harmony sent a petition
    That he their inspirer and patron would be,
    And a message came back from the jolly old Grecian:
    Voice, fiddle, and flute no longer be mute,
    I’ll lend you my name and inspire you to boot.
    What’s more I’ll instruct you, like me to entwine
    The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine.

    By the way, I like the fact that the anthem is hard to sing, on reach-should-exceed-grasp grounds: ideals of our country aren’t easy the attain, and the anthem is a reminder of that.

  17. To steal a line from that same Niel Diamond movie, “It needs more Boom! Boom! Boom!” eh?

    THIS is a silly thread.

    I am with madpad. As an aside, I am about as least patriotic as people get, but during the Superbowl this year, I couldn’t help but think how much I love “The Star-Spangled Banner”, especially when it is done right. If you saw the Superbowl this year, you might agree that the group that performed it this year was superb. As charming as I find Ray Charles, I would not want as my national anthem any jazzman’s freewheeling, self-serving rendition of something that is meant to represent a nation. Whenever “soulful” RnB or pop singers take the national anthem and warp it with all of their unneccesary improvisational warbling, they ruin a tune that is already beautiful(albeit difficult to sing) and which needs no augmentation. That kind of braggardly pop/country/RnB showmanship is what makes “The Star Spangled Banner” so unattractively grandiose, like so many poorly executed, gaudy half-time shows. If it were actually performed with the spirit in which it was written, it wouldn’t sound so abominable most of the time. Give me “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

  18. We’ve got plenty of raw material to work with if we wanted to put together a new one without resorting to pop schlock. How about a Walt Whitman poem set to an Aaron Copeland score? That’s about as archetypally American as it gets, n’est pas?

  19. 18 comments and no votes for “America: Fuck Yeah!”

  20. We’ve got plenty of raw material to work with if we wanted to put together a new one without resorting to pop schlock. How about a Walt Whitman poem set to an Aaron Copeland score? That’s about as archetypally American as it gets, n’est pas?

    I thought you said we wouldn’t have to revert to pop schlock.

  21. Mo-

    Fuck yeah! I’ll go for that song as our anthem!

  22. I nominate the late, great Wesley Willis to pen the lyrics for the proposed anthem, “America: Fuck Yeah!” . He’d be more reflective of current American culture than Aaron Copeland or Walt Whitman, for sure. Leaves of Grass , my ass. Not unless that’s code for ganja.

  23. How about a Walt Whitman poem set to an Aaron Copeland score?

    That’d be a good start. But it’s going to need a little more cowbell.

  24. Aaron Copeland

    Hell, if we’re gonna have something by a commie it might as well be Woody Guthrie. 🙂

  25. Ladies and gentlemen, I got a fever! And the only prescription… is the Star Spangled Banner!

  26. Along with the naval bombardment of Ft McHenry the British landed a force under Gen Ross to attack Bulmer from the south. Gen Ross was killed in the fighting and in a rare success by US forces the British were repulsed.

    Ross is said to have said befor the attack “Tonight I shall be in Baltimore or HELL”.

    My question is: Is there some way to tell the difference?

  27. Hell, if we’re gonna have something by a commie it might as well be Woody Guthrie. 🙂

    Or better yet, Ashlee Simpson.

  28. Isaac Bartram,

    *ouch* 🙂

    I have to agree, Baltimore proper is a pit. 🙂

  29. I like “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Just thought I’d throw that in, since no one else seemed to be.

  30. My choice for a Natiopal Anthem:

    There are those who think that life has nothing left to chance,
    A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.

    A planet of playthings,
    We dance on the strings
    Of powers we cannot perceive
    The stars aren’t aligned,
    Or the gods are malign…
    Blame is better to give than receive.

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
    I will choose a path that’s clear
    I will choose freewill.

    There are those who think that they were dealt a losing hand,
    The cards were stacked against them; they weren’t born in Lotusland.

    All preordained
    A prisoner in chains
    A victim of venomous fate.
    Kicked in the face,
    You can’t pray for a place
    In heaven’s unearthly estate.

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
    I will choose a path that’s clear
    I will choose freewill.

    Each of us
    A cell of awareness
    Imperfect and incomplete.
    Genetic blends
    With uncertain ends
    On a fortune hunt that’s far too fleet.

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
    I will choose a path that’s clear
    I will choose freewill.

  31. Gary Glitter,

    You say that every city is a pit. Which city is the heavenly roost that you call yours? I bet it’s a pit.

    (And no, I’m not from Baltimore, nor do I reside there).

  32. I like “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Just thought I’d throw that in, since no one else seemed to be.

    Eric the .5b, I was defending it, too, for the record.

  33. Great Gary. Go from a song impossible to sing to one where I have to twist my nuts to reach Geddy’s high notes. At least I have the adnoids for it.

  34. smacky,

    Hey, its a good song. 🙂

    I don’t live in a city. Hell, I don’t even live in an incorporated area. 🙂

  35. Hey, its a good song.

    Gary,

    I agree. I am not afraid to admit my allegiance to Rush (…aaaaaand Satan!). But jc brings up a good point, based on the common critique of “The SS Banner”. Even I have trouble reaching Geddy Lee’s high notes…and I’m a chick.

  36. I like the warlike aspects of The Star-Spangeled Banner, especially in the “unknown verses.” For multiple, and admittedly rather conflicted, reasons. People need to be reminded: if you want to have a nation-state, this is what’s involved. It’s not about post offices and NPR.

  37. Stevo Darkly,

    Well, if I had my druthers, we’d sing La Marseillaise. At one time it was commonly taught in American public schools. I’ve always wondered if they translated it, since its a rather bloodthirsty song.

    Allons enfants de la Patrie
    Le jour de gloire est arriv?.
    Contre nous, de la tyrannie,
    L’?tandard sanglant est lev?,
    l’?tandard sanglant est lev?,
    Entendez-vous, dans la compagnes.
    Mugir ces farouches soldats
    Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
    Egorger vos fils,
    vos compagnes.

    Aux armes citoyens!
    Formez vos bataillons,
    Marchons, marchons!
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons.

    Amour sacr? de la Patrie,
    Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs,
    Libert?, libert? cherie,
    Combats avec tes def?nseurs;
    Combats avec tes d?fenseurs.
    Sous drapeaux, que la victoire
    Acoure ? tes m?les accents;
    Que tes ennemis expirants
    Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire!

    Aux armes citoyens!
    Formez vos bataillons,
    Marchons, marchons!
    Qu’un sang impur
    Abreuve nos sillons.

  38. Someone’s in a sing-songy mood today…

    [smacky looks conspicuously towards GG]

  39. I was defending it, too

    Cool, Smacky.

  40. Give me back my broken night
    my mirrored room, my secret life
    it’s lonely here,
    there’s no one left to torture
    Give me absolute control
    over every living soul
    And lie beside me, baby,
    that’s an order!
    Give me crack and anal sex
    Take the only tree that’s left
    and stuff it up the hole
    in your culture
    Give me back the Berlin wall
    give me Stalin and St Paul
    I’ve seen the future, brother:
    it is murder.

    Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
    Won’t be nothing
    Nothing you can measure anymore
    The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
    has crossed the threshold
    and it has overturned
    the order of the soul
    When they said REPENT REPENT
    I wonder what they meant
    When they said REPENT REPENT
    I wonder what they meant
    When they said REPENT REPENT
    I wonder what they meant

    You don’t know me from the wind
    you never will, you never did
    I’m the little Jew
    who wrote the Bible
    I’ve seen the nations rise and fall
    I’ve heard their stories, heard them all
    but love’s the only engine of survival
    Your servant here, he has been told
    to say it clear, to say it cold:
    It’s over, it ain’t going
    any further
    And now the wheels of heaven stop
    you feel the devil’s riding crop
    Get ready for the future:
    it is murder

    Things are going to slide …

    There’ll be the breaking of the ancient
    western code
    Your private life will suddenly explode
    There’ll be phantoms
    There’ll be fires on the road
    and the white man dancing
    You’ll see a woman
    hanging upside down
    her features covered by her fallen gown
    and all the lousy little poets
    coming round
    tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson
    and the white man dancin’

    Give me back the Berlin wall
    Give me Stalin and St Paul
    Give me Christ
    or give me Hiroshima
    Destroy another fetus now
    We don’t like children anyhow
    I’ve seen the future, baby:
    it is murder

    – suggestion for new national anthem

  41. Well, if I had my druthers, we’d sing La Marseillaise

    Gary, you know, sometimes you just make it too easy for me.

    Must…resist….temptation…to….discuss….identity…issues…

    Hit…post…now…before…I…give…in…

  42. No one posting has ever seen “The Dish”, I guess… school band in New Zealand or Australia plays the song they most associate with America to welcome the US ambassador. So everyone rises for our national anthem, the “Hawaii 5-0” theme!

    No awkward lyrics to remember, just an energetic, kick-ass anthem. Short, bouncy, with a big finish – now THAT should be our anthem!

  43. hey thoreau/gg/jb/the merogingovian (or whatever the hell that frankish king was) – you do indeed have more nics than anybody can count. i thought you lived in NYC….. where you are a journalist. an engineer. an engineer writing journalism. or something like that.

    oh – ben stein said he didn’t know you 🙂 *chuckle.

    theme to knight rider?

  44. Papaya SF wrote “By the way, I like the fact that the anthem is hard to sing, on reach-should-exceed-grasp grounds: ideals of our country aren’t easy the attain, and the anthem is a reminder of that.”

    That’s a beautiful sentiment. Cheers.

  45. lc, how about…

    (cue accordion)
    It was a slow day
    And the sun was beating
    On the soldiers by the side of the road
    There was a bright light
    A shattering of shop windows
    The bomb in the baby carriage
    Was wired to the radio

    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    This is the long distance call
    The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
    The way we look to us all
    The way we look to a distant constellation
    That?s dying in a corner of the sky
    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    And don?t cry baby don?t cry
    Don?t cry

    It was a dry wind
    And it swept across the desert
    And it curled into the circle of birth
    And the dead sand
    Falling on the children
    The mothers and the fathers
    And the automatic earth
    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    This is the long distance call
    The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
    The way we look to us all
    The way we look to a distant constellation
    That?s dying in the corner of the sky
    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    And don?t cry baby don?t cry
    Don?t cry

    It?s a turn-around jump shot
    It?s everybody jump start
    It?s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
    Medicine is magical and magical is art
    The Boy in the Bubble
    And the baby with the baboon heart

    And I believe
    These are the days of lasers in the jungle
    Lasers in the jungle somewhere
    Staccato signals of constant information
    a loose affiliation of millionaires
    And billionaires and baby
    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    This is the long distance call
    The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
    The way we look to us all
    The way we look to a distant constellation
    That?s dying in a corner of the sky
    These are the days of miracle and wonder
    And don?t cry baby don?t cry
    Don?t cry

  46. I’m with the “only pussies can’t sing the Star Spangled Banner” crowd. Besides, if having a national anthem stolen from an Irish drinking song and dedicated to killin’ Europeans isn’t appropriate, then nothing is.

    Ray Charles is too genteel. Nice guy, maybe it should be the anthem of Sweden or someplace inoffensive like that.

    PS I will take “America, Fuck Yeah!” as an acceptible substitute once you’ve drunk enough tequila to be unable to sing pub tunes.

  47. hey thoreau/gg/jb/the merogingovian (or whatever the hell that frankish king was) – you do indeed have more nics than anybody can count

    Wait a minute here! You think I’m GG? Huh?

    Cathy Young I could understand. Yesterday I did my best to impersonate her. But GG?

    And when did you talk to Ben Stein? Besides, my real name isn’t thoreau so if you asked him “Hey, do you know thoreau?” he’d be like “Who?”

  48. lc, is that the translation for La Marseillaise? I had no idea…

  49. That commie Fast was wrong about America ever being our National Anthem. There was no official anthem before 1931, and the tune that was considered the unofficial “co-anthem” with the SSB was Hail, Columbia!

    Hail, Columbia! happy land!
    Hail, ye heroes, heaven born band!
    Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause,
    Who fought and bled in freedom’s cause.
    And when the storm of war is gone,
    Enjoy the peace your valor won;
    Let independence be your boast,
    Ever mindful what it cost;
    Ever grateful for the prize,
    Let its altar reach the skies.

    (Chorus)
    Firm, united, let us be,
    Rallying round our liberty.
    As a band of brothers joined,
    Peace and safety we shall find.

    Immortal Patriots rise once more,
    Defend your rights – defend your shore
    Let no rude foe with impious hand
    Let no rude foe with impious hand
    Invade the shrine where sacred lies
    Of toil and blood the well-earnd prize
    While offering peace sincere and just
    In heaven we place a manly trust
    That truth and justice will prevail
    And every scheme of bondage fail

    Sound sound the trump of fame
    Let Washington’s great name
    Ring thro the world with loud applause
    Ring thro the world with loud applause
    Let every clime to Freedom dear
    Listen with a joyful ear
    With equal skill the godlike pow’r
    He governs in the fearful hour
    Of horrid war or guides with ease
    The happier times of honest peace

    Behold the chief who now commands
    Once more to serve his Country stands
    The rock on which the storm will beat
    The rock on which the storm will beat
    But arm’d in virtue firm and true
    His hopes are fixed on heaven and you __
    When hope was sinking in dismay
    When glooms obscured Columbia’s day
    His steady mind from changes free
    Resolved on Death or Liberty __

    – Joseph Hopkinson

    http://pasleybrothers.com/jefferson/Hail_Columbia.htm

    I’d hate to see the Banner replaced by any song whose sentiments are “America is pretty” or “The USA is God’s country.” Perhaps the tune of the current ditty is a bit difficult to sing, but one of life’s small pleasures is belting it out at the ballpark, loud as a bastard. The alternatives are all too quiet, with the exceptions of Columbia, The Gem of The Ocean and The Stars and Stripes Forever. As to the latter, I don’t see the point of replacing one song about the flag with another, and a march, at that.

    Nope, no way I want to give up a song that sneers at the hireling and slave who loves not liberty.

    Kevin

  50. philip.elliot,

    No, but this is a rough translation:

    Let us go, children of the fatherland
    Our day of Glory has arrived.
    Against us stands tyranny,
    The bloody flag is raised,
    The bloody flag is raised.
    Do you hear in the countryside
    The roar of these savage soldiers
    They come right into our arms
    To cut the throats of your sons,
    your country.

    To arms, citizens!
    Form up your battalions
    Let us march, Let us march!
    That their impure blood
    Should water our fields

    Sacred love of the fatherland
    Guide and support our vengeful arms.
    Liberty, beloved liberty,
    Fight with your defenders;
    Fight with your defenders.
    Under our flags, so that victory
    Will rush to your manly strains;
    That your dying enemies
    Should see your triumph and glory

    To arms, citizens!
    Form up your battalions
    Let us march, Let us march!
    That their impure blood
    Should water our fields

  51. thoreau,

    You need to get over it dude.

  52. RogL: No one posting has ever seen “The Dish”, I guess… school band in New Zealand or Australia plays the song they most associate with America to welcome the US ambassador. So everyone rises for our national anthem, the “Hawaii 5-0” theme!

    No awkward lyrics to remember, just an energetic, kick-ass anthem. Short, bouncy, with a big finish – now THAT should be our anthem!

    You know, just as you can sing the “Green Acres Theme” to the music of “Purple Haze,” and can sing “Theme from Gilligan’s Island” to “What Child Is This?”/”Greensleeves” … I have just figured out that you can, in fact, sing the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” to the “Hawaii 5-0 Theme.” And it’s marginally easier to sing.

    No way for me to demonstrate this, unfortunately … posting the lyrics wouldn’t quite do it. But I can hear it perfectly in my head. You just have to stretch out some of the lines a bit.

  53. And no one says “O’re.” When I hear people singing it, they say “For.”

    Unless you are at a sporting event in Baltimore or Washington DC, in which case the crowd shouts out “O!” for the Orioles.

  54. Hey, if we must give up TSSB, as an alternate anthem I suggest “Land of 1,000 Dances.” It’s a lot easier to sing — even I can do it — and think of how it would get the crowd all pumped up at a ballgame!

    Samples:

    J. Geils Band version here.

    Wilson Pickett version (the original, I think) here.

  55. I like singing it in the shower.
    So much that I actually memorized the other 3 verses so I wouldn’t have to repeat the first one. (I like to be clean, take my time.)
    It’s particularly nice to sing about “the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave.” Kinda goth, y’know….
    Back in my 20s I used to sing it with a tinge of self-conscious hipsteresque irony. Now that I’m a warmongering old fuck, I just belt it out for the sheer bald-assed glory of it all.
    “Then conquer we must
    for our cause, it is just.
    And this be our motto:
    in God is our trust!”
    What!?
    🙂

  56. I always get a chuckle out of A Day In The Life Of Green Acres, myself. http://www.maggiore.net/greenacres/sounds.asp

    There’s also that great Albert Brooks bit:

    “While we’re all waiting here
    For the ballgame to start
    Let’s give thanks for our banks
    And our two-car garages…”

    “NEXT!”

    Kevin

  57. I’m surprised we’re not touching on the larger question: Why even have a ‘national anthem’ at all?

    I’ve never understood the purpose, and quite frankly, the idea of large groups singing one brings to me images of the Mao-suited Red Chinese hordes from not that many years ago.

  58. Why even have a ‘national anthem’ at all?

    Indeed we did fine without one until 1933 or so.

  59. Why would LC suggest “The Future” as an anthem when “Democracy” (is coming to the USA) would be so much more apropos?

    By the way, there was an Isaac Asimov short story where a Nazi spy was caught based on his having memorized the third stanza of the SSB.

  60. Designating a tune as The National Anthem has the practical effect of letting foreign governments know what to play to honor visiting U.S. dignataries. Outside of diplomatic circles, there needn’t be any special status for one patriotic song over another. As has been pointed out, Wilson’s choice of the SSB was at the level of the executive ordering his underlings to use it, and Congress didn’t get around to legislating its use until 1931.

    Kevin

  61. Why would LC suggest “The Future” as an anthem when “Democracy” (is coming to the USA) would be so much more apropos?

    jens,

    Because if I remember that album correctly, “The Future” is a much better song, with much cooler lyrics. We’re a Constitutional Republic, anyway.

    – (not) Leonard Cohen

  62. Good point, Kevin. If I had read you previous post before making mine I’d have known some of that. 🙂

    Speaking of what to play for honored guests, years ago I heard this yarn.

    In order to welcome a unit of the Georgia National Guard to London in WWI a British band struck up a tune that some genius was sure the doughboys would love.

    As a result, barely fifty years after the unpleasentness that produced it, the good old boys had to march several blocks to the strains of “As We Went Marching Through Georgia”.

    Probably to heap further insult the dignitary assigned the welcoming speech might have said, “we welcome our Yankee friends”.

    I cannot vouch for the truthfulness of this story. I did add the last sentence for further fun. I’m not even sure any US troops were actually in GB for WWI, they may have all gone directly to France. But it makes a good story.

  63. America, fuck yeah!
    Comin’ again to save the motherfuckin’ day, yeah
    America, fuck yeah!
    ‘Cause freedom is the only way, yeah

  64. Julian: “How about a Walt Whitman poem set to an Aaron Copland score? That’s about as archetypally American as it gets, n’est pas?”

    And they were both gay…

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