The National Anthem and its Post-modern Silence

24 08 2007

We can’t be fooled. We won’t. We’re not too smart — we’re too self-aware.

In high school, we stood at affected attention every morning to pledge to the flag. We had to recite the words in the same fashion that Catholics re-iterate prayers that have long lost their meanings under the crushing pressure of repetition. I Pledge Allengiance…Et Cetera.

But the Star-Spangled Banner is different. You must sing it. You must sing it like you mean it, like a tenor belting it out in front of thousands. This is why we don’t sing the National Anthem. No one in my generation sings the National Anthem. We will stand at attention, even remove our hats to reveal flattened and unattended hair. But we will not sing. We’d rather sing the Soviet anthem, which gives us a sturdy pillar of irony behind which to hide (kind of like the blocks that the American Gladiator contestants hid behind in the game where the Gladiators fired tennis balls at them). And thus, we draw one of our greatest lines of distinction between generations in the lines of F. Scott Key’s ballad. Our parents will sing, at least mouth the words. Our grandparents will sing them, closing their eyes to allow the notes unchecked passage from mind to the air. But we will not. We will stand and look around, still as night.

But we don’t need to blush at this fact. We should take heart. People are singing the damn song for us. And being true Americans doesn’t require flag-waving. It requires the inner assurance that you do love, or at least enjoy, your country. No singing involved. It’s more mature that way.

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4 responses

29 08 2007
Justin

I sing this anthem all the time. Just because you’re not a true patriot doesn’t mean that everyone of your generation hates America.

1 09 2007
Drew

In high school I actually did the exact opposite. I never spoke the pledge in the morning. I even tried not looking at the flag. Admittedly though the words ran though my mind unavoidably. It was exactly because the pledge so closely resembled an affirmation of faith that I stopped participating, but also because it had lost all its meaning like you said.

But here’s where I disagree with you. Many and possibly most of our generation do not sing because many of us are sick of being inundated with contrived patriotic fervor. If for no other reason its likely because of how we were taught the history of the 20th century. Simply, songs to glorify the state reek of fascism and totalitarianism. We sing the star spangle banner before every baseball game to remind ourselves of our greatness and justify our actions. Whether you sing it or not doesn’t matter, its the fact that its played. Thats why so many of us feel disaffected and a even a little uncomfortable when the anthem’s played to large crowds.

While the domestic performance of the anthem has seemingly lost all meaning, when played oversees it always evokes profound emotion. I’ve never seen an athlete not sings along with tear laden eyes. Just think how much richer each and every note and lyric must sound when you can stand proudly in front of thousands of foreigners and be wholly proud to be an American.

1 09 2007
Drew

One last thing. And I can only hope this happened to you too.

If you remember, if you were running late to home room and were caught by a hall monitor they always made you stand in place until the pledge and and anthem were done being broadcast. Just a second ago, while looking into my fridge, I had the pleasure of visualizing the absurd zealousness they all would have in participating, almost as if god himself were watching. And then there was me, slouched over, slightly stoned, wondering how much of lauren wotring’s tits would be popping out of her shirt that day.

2 09 2007
scheity

Now those are responses!
Thank you for your candor, your insight and your references to boobs, Mr. Yanders. Well done.

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