March 1, 2011
Okay, Ill admit it: I cannot sing anybodys national anthem. When I sing in the shower, the water stops. To carry a tune, Id need a forklift.
So I think Im an impartial judge of anthems. And I dont take kindly to liberals knocking the Star Spangled Banner. Their latest excuse is the mess of a job done by Christina Aguilera at the Super Bowl. They call it the star mangled banner in Washingtons political insider sheet, The Hill.
First, the singers at these events arent singing the national anthem at all. Theyre singing their own made-up versions. The national anthem is a sprightly military air. That means theres one way to sing it. All the improvisations, all the fresh and new interpretations, are not our national anthem.
Now, Ray Charless America is a wonderful adaptation of the century-old patriotic song. Nobody is saying you cant have variations in old music. And, too, you can add new tunes all the time.
God Bless America was once new before it was the Republican national anthem. It was especially moving, however, when it was first aired. Then, war in Europe seemed inevitable and Kate Smiths rendition of the Irving Berlin song struck a powerful chord with Americans who thought God had indeed blessed Americawith 3,000 miles of anti-tank trench to keep Hitlers panzers away.
Similarly, Lee Greenwoods God Bless the U.S.A. hit at exactly the right moment in history. After a decade of oil shocks and the humiliation of seeing Americans held hostage in Iran, Americans yearned for affirmation. Lee Greenwoods hit song came at the moment when Country and Western music even took Manhattan. Its hard to imagine Greenwoods song taking off if Fritz Mondale had been elected president.
So, there are plenty of ways to interpret old chestnuts and, if youre not satisfied with that, write a new one. But leave the Star-Spangled Banner Alone.
We are coming up on the two-hundredth anniversary of the War of 1812. Maryland is already out with a commemorative license plate that shows the bombs bursting in air over Baltimores Fort McHenry. I know; its confusing. Its the War of 1812, but most of the exciting stuffthe burning of Washington, D.C., the shelling of Fort McHenrytakes place in 1814.
More confusing still, the war was concluded with the Treaty of Ghent, signed by British and American negotiators in that Belgian town on Christmas Eve, 1814. Yet the greatest battle was fought on January 8, 1815, when Gen. Andrew Jackson, crushed the invading British at New Orleans. If peace treaty-maker John Quincy Adams had only friended Old Hickory on Face Book when the war was over on paper, we might never have had our great victory, or Johnny Hortons classic country hit, The Battle of New Orleans:
We fired our guns and the British kept a’comin.
There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin’ on
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, Ill concede it, if Christina Aguilera wants to do her own interpretation of Johnnys song, Id say: Honey, have at it. She can probably only improve it.
Deep down, I suspect, liberals dont like the national anthem because theres all that talk of the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air. They dont like to be reminded that sometimes you have to fight for freedom.
In fact, if the Toronto Blue Jays play the Baltimore Orioles at Cambden Yards, youll hear a battle of the bands. O Canada contains the lines: We stand on guard for thee.
Those rockets and bombs in our anthem were British and hostile. Those Canadians were loyal to Britain and were standing on guardagainst us Yankees.
The final reason liberals dont like the Star-Spangled Banner, I think, is that last stanza. Check out these lines:
Oh! thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved 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.
It took an Act of Congress to make the Star-Spangled Banner our national anthem back in 1921. That was a Republican Congress. It seems the new House majority has shown up just in the nick of time.