Friday, June 12, 2009

New National Anthem?

Ed at Hot Air is conducting a poll based on this article by Michael Kinsley.

Kinsley's criticisms aren't terribly deep, and I have never had problems singing the Star Spangled Banner, but I do agree that it is not terribly appropriate for our national anthem. The Hot Air poll lists some good alternatives (most of which are discussed in Kinsley's article:

Stick with the Star-Spangled Banner
America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)
America the Beautiful
America (Neil Diamond version)
Battle Hymn of the Republic
God Bless America
Stars and Stripes Forever
This Land Is Your Land

I picked America the Beautiful, as it has always been my favorite patriotic song:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

But really any of those traditional songs would be better than the SSB. (I am not counting Neil Diamond’s America or Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land, as they are both too trite and lacking in spiritual substance. Same goes for Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, and whatever that song is that Sean Hannity plays.)

My main beef with the SSB is that it is all about the flag, not really about the country. The 4th verses is kind of magnificent, but how many Americans know the 4th verse — or even that there is a 4th verse? And the over-all metaphor of waking up after a night of disaster and discovering that our country is still there isn’t really a big part of the American experience, is it? Unless you count waking up to Ronald Reagan after the long drought of the 60s and 70s, but even that seems kind of atypical.

And if you are going to go for the struggling-through-the-long-dark-night theme, Lift Every Voice and Sing is more meaningful to a large nuber of Americans, though not as well written. Not that there is any way in hell Obama is going to touch that one.