Sunday, June 2, 2013

Our National Anthem...

There are people who hate the United States' national anthem because they hate America or are ashamed of it. That is not the case here. Then there's those who hate the national anthem because it's a nigh-unsingable chunk of musical diarrhea that doesn't do justice to this great country. That is the case here. While I love my land, the national anthem makes me want to crawl under a (Plymouth) rock.

Seriously, what's it about? It's based on the poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry", written by Francis Scott Key, who observed the British bombing the American fort during the War of 1812. The words were set to an English song, and there you have it. President Herbert Hoover signed a law in 1931 that made the song our official national anthem.

We didn't win, but we didn't lose either! Woo! USA!
Here's how I understand our current national anthem:

"We're getting the crap kicked out of us by the Royal Navy
They're bombarding us non-stop
They didn't take the fort, but on the other hand, we didn't hurt them either
Hey, our flag is still flying!
Is it still doing so today? Just checking..."

Really now. That's it? And never mind trying to sing it. Wow. How many millions of hours of Youtube has been dedicated to the endless flubbing of the national anthem? Hell, even most professional singers, you know, those people who are paid to do this, can pull it off without embarrassing themselves, our country, and our ancestors.

And it really gets painful when famous singers try to put their own spin on it, improvising their way into the ninth layer of Hell. What's their rationale? Ego? Trying to make it sound better or easier to sing? It's like trying to make a cow dung sandwich more palatable by adding random spices that everyone hates.

A national anthem needs to inspire. It needs to extol the virtues of your country and make you proud. And last of all, the damned thing needs to be singable.

What America (chief exports: reality shows, obesity), needs is a stirring national anthem the likes of those from some our friends oversees. Check out Great Britain (chief exports: Monty Python, Dr.Who). Their national anthem is God Save The Queen, whose melody we Americans adopted for My Country Tis Of Thee (which would make a better national anthem for us, for that matter!). It's much easier to sing, though admittedly it really doesn't talk much about Great Britain itself; it's more of a "Hooray for the inbred royalty types who really don't contribute all that much to our country these days!" type of anthem. In my humble opinion, they should go with "Rule, Britannia".

Well, France (chief exports: snails, brothels) provides a better example. Have you ever really looked at the words to La Marseillaise? Holy crap, these guys mean business! This is one of those "rise up, patriots and kick the enemies' asses and bathe in their blood!" type songs. Speaking of the French national anthem, if you haven't seen Casablanca, first of all, shame on you, you ignorant Philistine! Second of all, see it, if only to see that amazing scene in Rick's Cafe, where the bar, filled with French expatriates, gives a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise, drowning out the German soldiers who are singing "Wacht Am Rhein". I tell you, once you sing that song, you just want to reach over and punch a Nazi (and sadly, you only have to travel as far as America's heartland to find the nearest ones)!

And speaking of the Germans, (chief exports: Volkswagens, odd porn), they, too, have a "rah-rah, we rock!" sort of song called Deutschlandlied, and most of us Americans mistakenly call Deutschland Uber Alles, or "Germany above all", a phrase only found in the first stanza. Well, after World War II and eventual reunification, Germany adopted the third stanza as the national anthem, thereby removing the first stanza's whole uncomfortable "We are above the rest of the world", a sentiment which was really popular before World War II ended, and the second stanza, which appears to extol the virtues of German wine, women, and song; oh, and loyalty too. Of course, that stanza may not play well to German feminists, teetotalers, and people who can't carry a tune, so yeah, it was probably a better idea to just go right to the third stanza, which talks of justice and freedom. But however the lyrics go, it's undeniably a stirring piece of music that makes you want to go right out and annex the Sudetenland be proud of your country.

Hell, even our friendly polite neighbors to the north, Canada (chief exports: Mounties, hockey) have O Canada, where they basically assure their nation that, "hey, Canada, we got your back, eh?"

Uh..wrong Celtics there...
Now, being of Irish-Portuguese-Bermudian descent, I have to admit that I have no idea what sort of anthems they have. With the Irish, I'm sure it's either some Celtic thingy called Tir Og Na Blargh, or something like "Where the Hell did my Guinness go?" As for the Portuguese, I'm sure it's some sad lamentation like "We were really hot stuff way back in the 15th century; what the Hell happened?". An as for Bermuda, since it's a British possession, I'm sure that when it comes time to perform the national anthem, they all just wave vaguely in the direction of Britain and utter "Um, yeah, what they said..."

Here's the alternatives for our national anthem:

America the Beautiful- You know this one. Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, amber waves, fruity planes, etc. This one actually mentions our country by name, and says "Hey, this is an awesome place!" Unfortunately, it's a non-starter because it mentions God, which is sure to get some people's panties in a twist.

America- Also known as My Country Tis Of Thee. This could work, though I don't know how popular it still is. Fun fact: When I was a kid, I thought the line was "Land where my father died, land where the pilgrims cried". All I could picture was these guys with muskets and buckle hats, sitting on Plymouth Rock and crying their eyes out. Well, no wonder they were crying; their fathers were dead! Of thee I sing, indeed! Problem with this one is that it already copies the melody from God Save The Queen.

God Bless America. This is a nice song with a sweet sentiment, but nope, there's that "G" word again. Wouldn't want anyone's head to explode, now would we? I mean, it's not like any other country uses "God" in their lyrics, am I right? Oh, hello, Britain! How's it going?

Stars and Stripes Forever. Not really very singable, though still very stirring. And it was composed by John Phillip Sousa! Yay, Portuguese Power!

Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean. Now here's an oldie. But it may be too obscure.

God Bless The USA (by Lee Greenwood). Oh, sweet merciful crap on a stick, not THIS one! Please!

Coming To America (by Neil Diamond). NO! Stick to Sweet Caroline.

American Pie (by Don McLean). Oh bloody Hell, now you're just messing with me. UGH

Well, not to brag, but I've come up with my own entry, and it's called 'Murica! It goes something like this:

'Murica! We're Number One! (repeat 13 times, once for each of the original colonies)
'Murica! We rule!
Huhhrr duhhhrr
Derp! F**k!
U!S!A! U!S!A! (repeated an indeterminate number of times)

Short, sweet, simple lyrics that can't possibly be screwed up, and bordering on incoherence. It would be a winner at sporting events, and really now, wouldn't you like to see Beyonce belt out "Derp! F**k!" before a baseball game? I know I would!
photo credit: S. Yodo via photopin cc

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