Tuesday, August 17, 2010

National Anthem

We have the wrong national anthem. The Star Spangled Banner needs to be replaced. Anything would be an improvement, but the best choice would be This Land is Your Land.

I am sure that it won't be enough to simply say that The Star Spangled Banner is deficient, nor should it be, so ...

First of all, it feeds into the fetishization of the flag. We have a real flag worship issue in this country. I think sometimes we forget that it is a piece of cloth. The American Flag is a symbol for a lot of good stuff, but it isn't the good stuff. When you burn it you aren't bruning the freedom of religion or the right to vote. You also aren't burning something that anyone fought and died for. Soldiers mostly fight and die for one another, and their families, and maybe for the freedoms we have and teh laws and institutions taht protect them. They don't die for a flag. Again, it's a symbol. It's a meaningless symbol, if you take away freedoms to protect it. Simce it's a symbol, I'm not sure why it should be at the center of our national anthem. I also don't know why we have to face it every time we sing the national anthem. Why don't we face each other. For better or worse, we are what makes America America.

The problems with our current anthem don't stop with a flag fetish. The song is all about war, and it's not even a war most of us know took place. I think there are some folks who couldn't say when the War of 1812 took place, let alone who we were fighting or why. Even if it was about the revolution, which was obviously a formative moment, I'm not sure we should sing about it every fifteen seconds. Our country is about more than any one war. There has to be more we could sing about.

The third problem is about the historical anchoring of the song. We've had a lot happen since 1812. WHy should our anthem only speak of a moment in history that took place almost two hundred years ago. I think it feeds into the strict constructionist mind set, which as it is has way too much sway these days. We have to look beyond the founders and their lives to determine what our country and its laws should look like. A lot has changed since then. Besides, neither the Constitution nor the country it was written for were meant by anyone to be static entities incapable of growth and change.

Lastly, the song is just plain hard to sing. The national anthem of a democratic country built on immigration should be easy for every one to sing. I happen to know of a song that is easy for everyone to sing.

My song is a folk song. It is even a protest song of sorts, and this country is built on protest. It is written by one of the great song writers and protesters in American history. It describes the country, from its forests to its deserts to its coasts. It talks about how it is a land for all of us. It also mentions how it is not a perfect land, how the questioning and protest that built the country has never vanished. It is simple, inclusive, questioning, and beautiful. I nominate it. We could do a hell of a lot worse ...

words and music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

Monday, August 16, 2010

9/11 Mosque

This is about as clear as an issue can be. The construction of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks should not be stopped. Islam did not attack the World Trade Center. The religion as a whole is not responsible. The religion is not evil or any more closely connected to intolerance or violence than any other religion. Actions to stop the building of the mosque are pretty clearly in violation of the spirit of the Constitution, if not the language as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Also, any official action stopping the building of the mosque seems petty, misguided, and hateful to much of the rest of the world. Besides, it is hard to imagine a better tribute to those that lost their lives in 9/11 simply because of where they were on that day and to those the have experienced discrimination and intolerance in the wake of the attacks simply because of the color of their skin and the identity of their religion. Some issues are hard, but this one isn't.