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26 August 2011

National Anthem... Too Violent?

An Indiana college has banned the Star Spangled Banner at all sporting events.  Not just the words, but the music as well.  Seriously.  I'm not making this up.

At first they felt the lyrics were too violent but allowed the music to be played.  Now they've gone whole hog and banned the entire thing.


I must admit, the song is a favorite of mine.  I sing it often (in the car, in the shower) -- so much so that I had to back up and reread the lyrics to make sure I wasn't missing some line about cannibalism.  What I remembered was that there were bombs and the flag flew "o'er the land of the free-eeeeeee".  I also recalled that the lyrics, originally a poem, were inspired by real life events.

During the war of 1812, Francis Scott Key was sent on a mission to secure the trade of American/British prisoners.  The British were hesitant to agree until Key showed them documents written by British prisoners that praised the Americans' kind treatment.  Unfortunately, Key also overheard British battle plans for that night and was held captive during the battle.

While Francis Scott Key was held captive, he did not receive information about the progress of the battle.  Before sunset, he could see the flag.  In darkness, nothing was visible.  When the sky lit up from "bombs bursting in air", he could again see the flag -- and know the battle had not yet been lost.  When the rocket attacks stopped, he could no longer see the flag and would not know how the battle ended until the American flag was again visible "by the dawn's early light".

I learn three things from that story.  1. Americans treated our prisoners well even back then.  2. The British initiated a battle on America, and America remained standing.  3.  Rockets and bombs light up the sky.

Too violent?  Listen, just because something has violence in it doesn't mean that it is violent.  Or, at least, doesn't mean that the primary message is violent.  In the case of this college, the college framed the song as violent, and that framing is what has made it violent.

As for the National Anthem itself, when my old roller derby league was first starting up, we sang the National Anthem before ever game.  The league was in a progressive city where "Republican" is a dirty word, and anti-Bush sentiments were approaching their peak.  There were many discussions as to whether or not the National Anthem should be sung before the games.  Some didn't want to endorse patriotism in that way.  Ultimately (with the help of me stomping my feet a lot) we decided to keep the National Anthem, because it is a sports tradition.  We were fighting to demonstrate that roller derby is a legitimate sport (and NOT wrestling on skates), and we thought it could only help our public image to follow that sports tradition.

I think that is the part of Stupid Indiana College's decision that pisses me off the most.  I mean, does anyone really know the story told in the Star Spangled Banner?  Isn't it pretty much like the Pledge of Allegiance -- something you inadvertently memorize at a young age, such that you sing a string of syllables more than you sing words with actual meaning.  Or, like Christmas carols.  (I mean, think about the Rudolph song.  What does that say?  It's okay to bully someone for being different.  And sometimes, that difference makes them a celebrity, in which case the bullies will become fans.  Okay, that's probably a stretch, but you see what I'm trying to say.)

So this college decides to make a political statement by framing the National Anthem as violent and then denies their athletes the honor of partaking in a nationwide sports tradition.  It's madness.

I lied.  That wasn't what pisses me off the most.  It's this:

“I am committed to retaining the best of what it means to be a Mennonite college, while opening the doors wider to all who share our core values,” Brenneman said. “And I invite others to join us at Goshen College as we make peace in all of its forms, even with the national anthem.”
Art professor John Blosser told The Goshen News that there is much national pride at the school, but that most people aren't going to blindly accept what the country does.

I lied.  This is what pisses me off the most:
“I am committed to retaining the best of what it means to be a Mennonite college, while opening the doors wider to all who share our core values,” Brenneman said. “And I invite others to join us at Goshen College as we make peace in all of its forms, even with the national anthem.”  Art professor John Blosser told The Goshen News that there is much national pride at the school, but that most people aren't going to blindly accept what the country does.
1. Darlings, you are free to be a Mennonite college BECAUSE this country was willing to go to war, shed blood, and lose lives to secure your rights.
2. The National Anthem isn't about "blindly accept[ing] what the country does."  It's about NOT being BLIND to what the country DID to secure your rights.
You can hate your country as much as you want, but you cannot do that without also recognizing that were it not for the blood shed to guarantee a state that preserves your inalienable rights, you might not be so able to hate your government.

We have inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by our government.  With those rights come responsibilities...  like, oh, let's say the responsibility to know why you have rights.

I wonder -- do they skip over Pearl Harbor or Auschwitz in history classes, too?  I mean, that's waaaay more violent than the stupid National Anthem.  Hell, what are they gonna do this year on the 10th anniversary of September 11th?

War is hell.  It sucks that people have died.  It sucks that anyone has to suffer from violence...  but that's part of the world in which we live.  And there is a huge difference between glorifying war and celebrating the country's ability to stand tall, survive, and thrive, no matter what anyone tries to do to take us down.

And, really, isn't that what the Star Spangled Banner is ultimately celebrating?  What's so violent about that?
O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light,What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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