“I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English,” President Bush said in April, 2006. Before you go agreeing with that, scan your own patriotic memory to see if you can do it. I’ll bet you a case of Bud Lite you can’t.
I’ve heard that I’m an excellent singer. Just ask my mom. And I’m good for the first verse and have always longed to sing it at a sporting event. I’ll do it for free.
If you are like two-thirds of the nation you don’t know the words to the first verse of the national anthem any better than George W. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that W can’t do the whole first verse or one word of the second. I’d be surprised if Obama could do much better.
And Trump? He held a rally in June for “fans” of the Philadelphia Eagles and got lost after the second line of “God Bless America.” What followed was like a bad Chinese movie with English overdubs where the lips move but the words don’t line up. “Sad,” is a word that comes to mind.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know those words either but I’m not the president standing in front of a neat and proud marine band and I’m not pretending that I do know the words on national television. I’m also not one of those screaming lefties that gets his panties in a bunch over every Trump faux pas (mess up). My panties don’t stretch that much (and sometimes I don’t wear any).
A Harris poll found that the great majority of us don’t know the words to the national anthem. I’m willing to wager that nine-tenths of the people in the nation agree with W but can’t recite a line of the second verse, never mind the third or fourth verses. Hypocrites!
OK, sing with me! (Sing to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner):
“On the shore, dimly seen through 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, now conceals, now 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.”
Francis Scott Key thought that up while watching the Brits shell an American fort near Baltimore in 1814. Key had been on a mission to save his friend, William Beanes, who had been captured by the British. Key convinced the British to release Beanes but he himself was held because he had overheard the plan to attack the city. So he scribbled his poem on the back of a letter from the deck of a British ship when he saw the American flag still waving at first light.
Somewhere along the way someone thought it would be good to set these stanzas to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a melody penned by John Stafford Smith. It became America’s national anthem in 1931. “To Anacreon in Heaven” sounds great if you have the full range of an orchestra playing it for you but the average shower singer can’t hit the high notes or the low notes, never mind memorize the words.
The lyrics were penned by a poet, not a songwriter. No one sings the tune with gusto at sporting events and official ceremonies. Most don’t know the words and those that do are probably smart enough not to try the melody where video and audio recording devices are present.
Next time you watch a major sporting event on television pay close attention to the anthem. (Don’t get your panties bunched over the African Americans protesting until you know all the words). The camera pans around the place and the athletes, cops and spectators are all muttering and mumbling, pretending to know the words and the melody. It’s a disaster! Listen closely. It often sounds like the lazy drone of distant insects. Embarrassing!
I’ve heard it suggested that we make “America the Beautiful” the new anthem and that’s not a bad idea, but no one knows those words, either. We might as well go all the way and make it simple. Real simple.
For starters we need to edit the thing down to one manageable verse. When I say manageable, I mean memorable and manageable. If the anthem has to have more than one verse let’s make it predictable like “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” or “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” And the tune? Something that any three-year-old or righteous overweight drunk can pull off with confidence. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and “We Are the Champions” spring to mind.
The old anthem is too difficult. Even Jimi Hendrix, the world’s greatest guitarist, had to soak his headband in 15 hits of windowpane acid and then light his guitar on fire just to make sense of it. The audience was on a similar trip.
I know what you are thinking. But finding that much windowpane acid these days is problematic. Besides, there’s a fire ban.
Waving the flag? Chances are it was made by a Chinese child. Of the $5.5 million in flags purchased in 2005, $5 million worth were manufactured in communist China.
God bless Americhina.
Reach Steve Skinner at firstname.lastname@example.org.