Saturday, August 2, 2008

Takin' Back the Anthem

Went to a play the other day.  (I'm a theatre critic; I do that.)  Before the play began, somewhere around the usual speech about turning off our cell phones, the representative from the theatre asked us to stand and sing the national anthem.

You could almost feel the annoyance in the room.  The national anthem represents patriotism, and somehow patriotism has been "taken over" by the political right.  It seems to stand for U.S. military might -- patriots, it appears, support the war in Iraq, waterboarding as a necessary evil, and the current administration in general.  Those leftist hippies who don't support the war don't sing the anthem.

And what's really troublesome about this is that the left has sort of bought into this characterization.  It's that whole "liberal elite" business -- like we're somehow above patriotism.  Like flag waving is for those sheep who really don't understand that the war is unjust and this country is committing atrocities in the name of freedom. 

So, the woman on stage asked us to rise and sing the anthem, and the audience -- which seemed generally left-leaning -- shuffled to its feet and rolled its eyes.  And started to sing.

And it felt amazing.  Cathartic.  Transformative.  You could feel the singing getting stronger, as if we were a crowd of liberals saying, "Yeah, we're a crowd of liberals singing the national anthem.  Deal with it."  And I started thinking about all the ways that we liberal-types can still be amazingly proud of this country, despite our dissatisfaction with the policies of the current administration.  Civil Rights.  Equal pay for equal work.  Non-discriminatory workplaces.  Gay marriage (hey, we're in California).  Not to mention things like this being a country where you can go ahead and criticize the administration all you want without fear that the secret police are going to kidnap you in the middle of the night and you'll never be heard from again.  A free press.  The ability to change policies by vote and by protest. 

This is our country too -- just as much as it's the country of those who try to co-opt "patriotic" as meaning "pro-war" -- and it actually felt good to be taking back the anthem.


hewasolddog299 said...

I liked this one so much, I've linked to it.

You don't HAVE to be a political conservative to sing the anthem.

It just helps a lot...


mlraminiak said...

Yes, I'm one of those liberals.   But I'm sorry...  I HATE our national anthem.  I don't hate my country and I don't hate patriotism (per se) but I hate the song.  It's an impossible song born of war (a stupid little incidental war, at that...)  It glorifies  a scrap of fabric waving over a battlefield.  Is that what America is all about?  I hope not.  I would so much prefer "America the Beautiful" to what we sing now.

Lisa  :-]