As you know, the current war Donald Trump is waging against the National Football League has spawned widespread public discussion of respect — or lack of it — for the American flag and the National Anthem. It also affords me the opportunity to renew my previously-stated call for dumping Francis Scott Key's “The Star-Spangled Banner” […]
As you know, the current war Donald Trump is waging against the National Football League has spawned widespread public discussion of respect — or lack of it — for the American flag and the National Anthem.
It also affords me the opportunity to renew my previously-stated call for dumping Francis Scott Key's “The Star-Spangled Banner” as our National Anthem — and to supplement that argument with an angle or two I've only recently discovered.
The fundamental problem with “The Star-Spangled Banner” is that it's almost unsingable. Anyone who can offer a vocal rendition of the song without screwing it up is so rare that he or she can easily find work as a warbler at sporting events or other suitable occasions.
And if you pay attention to them, you might notice that the violent lyrics of the song describe scenes from the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. Of course, that war doesn't amount to much in the annals of American military exploits, perhaps because it was fundamentally a war of aggression arising mainly from an effort by the United States to seize Canada from the British Empire.
Then, too, “The Star-Spangled Banner” became our National Anthem only 11 years before I was born. In the previous century, anthem status often was accorded to such songs as “My Country 'Tis of Thee” and “Hail, Columbia.”
And let's not forget, if we've previously known about it, that the third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” reads as follows:
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.
What Key meant with those words, according to an essay by Jon Schwartz I recently encountered on the Internet, was that “he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who'd freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.”
In summary, then, here's the situation: Most Americans pay great reverence to a song that has NOT been our National Anthem through most of our history, a song that's difficult to sing properly, a hymn set to the tune of an old British drinking song, a song about a war that wasn't exactly among the most glorious in our nation's military annals, a song written by a lawyer who owned slaves.
As I've said here on previous occasions, I think we'd better off with “God Bless America” as our National Anthem.