Wednesday, June 6, 2012

So the national anthem is "embarrassing"?

Today, June 6th, 2012, is the 68th anniversary of the Normandy Landings in France, commonly referred to as 'D-Day'.  68 years ago, at least 4,414 Allied troops were killed as they set foot on French soil - 2,499 Americans and 1,915 from other nations.  Several thousand more were wounded.

It's perhaps not inappropriate on such an anniversary to consider Bill Press's disparaging views about the US National Anthem, 'The Star-Spangled Banner'.  Here's what he had to say yesterday.

I guess I can understand that he finds the anthem difficult to sing:  so do I.  However, I can manage it, and I'm proud to do so.  What gets me is his subsequent comments about its meaning.  I quote:

"I mean when you think about it, it’s bombs bursting in air, rockets' red glare, it's all kinds of, you know a lot of national anthems are that way too, all kinds of military jargon, and the land there’s only one phrase 'the land of the free' which is kind of nice, and 'the home of the brave'? I don’t know.  Are we the only ones who are brave on the planet? I mean, all the brave people live here. I mean it’s just stupid I think. I’m embarrassed, I’m embarrassed every time I hear it."

Mr. Press, 68 years ago today, 2,414 young American men died in the midst of their own experience of 'the rockets' red glare' and 'bombs bursting in air'.  An unknown number died on that same day in the war in the Pacific - the first air strike by B-29 Superfortresses had been made against Bangkok the day before, and on that same date an invasion fleet departed Pearl Harbor to invade Saipan on June 15th.  Those young men died, and thousands more were injured, in order to ensure that you and I didn't grow up speaking, reading and writing German or Japanese.  We're free because they gave up their lives - and their freedom - for us . . . and they certainly were brave . . . so I don't think it's even remotely embarrassing to honor the freedom for which they fought, and their bravery, in our national anthem.

It's entirely possible that I'm only here today because of the 'land of the free and the home of the brave'.  I've written before about my late father's experiences during World War II.  He was English, of course, and served in the Royal Air Force;  but from that earlier article, here's one of his tales that may strike a responsive chord with US readers.

Dad always spoke very gratefully of the help the USA provided. One of his favorite stories was the time he flew into an US Army Air Force base in North Africa in early 1943 in a very worn, clapped-out C-47 transport to collect some spares. He was treated to a GI lunch, and over the meal said something about how hard it was to keep the old transport going. To his astonishment his host, a USAAF Colonel, said off-handedly, "No problem - we'll give you a new one. Sign here!" and handed him a clipboard full of Lend-Lease forms. He duly signed on the dotted line, and the Colonel led him and his crew to a brand-new C-47 that had just arrived from America. "Take this one," the Colonel invited, and left them to get on with it.

When Dad arrived back at his squadron in a brand-new transport he was apparently the hero of the hour . . . although he later confessed to me that for the rest of his time in the RAF he dreaded receiving a letter demanding to know why he had dared to sign for an aircraft without official authorization. He fully expected to be required to pay for it! Fortunately the bureaucrats never traced the paper trail back to him . . . probably because he claimed to have signed the Lend-Lease form using the name "Flight-Lieutenant Winston S. Churchill"!

My father flew many thousands of miles in both the old and the new C-47's.  The old one was so worn out that he described it as an adventure just to keep it in the air!  Apparently the new one was much more serviceable, and he felt a lot safer in it.  It may be that American generosity, exemplified by Lend-Lease and that replacement C-47, helped to bring me into the world by keeping my father alive (where the old plane might have finally given up the ghost and killed him in a crash).  We'll never know . . . but it's a nice thought, isn't it?  (It is to me, at any rate!)  I therefore have a very personal reason to be grateful to the 'land of the free and the home of the brave' - quite apart from the fact that it's now my home.

Mr. Press, I'm not embarrassed in the least to sing our national anthem.  On a day like today, when I consider how many men died 68 years ago to ensure that we could go on singing it, I'm not ashamed to admit that I feel a lump in my throat, and a tear comes to my eye.  Veterans are like that, Mr. Press.  Many of us have 'been there and done that' ourselves, and we know the price of freedom.  Too many of our comrades in arms have paid it.  That's why this will always be the 'land of the free and the home of the brave', Mr. Press . . . because far too many of her brave men gave their lives and are buried all around the world, so that those of us living here can enjoy the freedom for which they died.

You might want to think about that before sounding off about how our national anthem "embarrasses" you.



The Raving Prophet said...

National anthems are always flowery. They ALWAYS lift up the land of which they sing. That's kinda the point. Who wants an anthem that is all mealy-mouthed with "We're a nice place with nice people, not that others aren't good too..."

That's just stupid.

I'm proud of our national anthem, especially of the rest of the verses (too many people don't know there's more than one). I'm proud to sing it. Whenever I do, I think of those who went forth to ensure we CAN sing it... and never returned.

That guy needs to spend some time thinking less about how we need to please other nations and more about the reasons Francis Scott Key wrote that song.

LabRat said...

The original tune is a British drinking song whose awkward highs and lows were designed as an "another round?" test- if you could make it through a verse you weren't too drunk for another. Key wrote patriotic American lyrics over the drunk redcoat's ditty.

Frankly this makes it more awesome for me. Not less.

Dirk said...

Well-said, Peter.

Kit said...

Agreed, more awesome, not less. The fourth verse is my favorite.

North said...

It IS difficult to sing - a lot of work.

It is also a lot of work to make money for yourself and family in the U.S.

It is a lot of work to have a good marriage.

A lot of work to do a good job raising children.

It is a lot of work to be a good child of God.

It is a lot of work to be a honorable, trusting friend.

Let's write a different anthem for the weak. For those offended by rockets. For those that can't ever be brave.

Then kick them the fuck out of this country.

Borepatch said...

Press is a hypocrite. He'd never in a million years do the same analysis of La Marseillaise which is just as martial. You might even say ferocious.

At the risk of Godwining myself, Hitler's favorite Opera was Richard Strauss' Elektra which has a similar message about purging the race/nation by spilling impure blood.

But he'd never write something like this, because the bien pensants would be shocked at his simplisme and lack of nuance.

David said...

I remember once reading a story by the late Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard, about going to a baseball game with his father when he was a young boy.

Grizzard recalls his father belting out the national anthem at the top of his lungs when it was played before the game, and afterwards young Lewis told his father, "Dad, it embarrasses me when you sing the national anthem that loud." The elder Grizzard replied, "Son, it embarrasses me when you don't."

Shame Bill Press wasn't fortunate enough to have a dad like that...

Firedigger said...

Sounds like Mr. Press' ratings are in the dumper and he's trying to get noticed. After all, bad publicity is better than no publicity at all. I say treat him like a petulant child-ignore him.

Anonymous said...

Someone once said that you can't mindlessly sing the "Star Spangled Banner," and they are right. Which to me is a feature, not a bug. I'm a professional musician and as many times as I've sung the anthem, I still have to think about where to break the phrases for the right meaning, which means I spend a fair bit of time thinking about the words. Not a bad thing, IMHO.


perlhaqr said...

Drinking songs. Now there's an old custom that would get you looked at like a complete loon in a modern bar. :D

Anonymous said...

People forget that as late as the Spanish civil war, men SANG as they went into combat. And sang about that combat when they drank. A custom that begs to be re-instituted,I think......JohninMd(help!)

Stretch said...

If Mr. Media is even aware of the other verses what would he make of the words;
And conquer we must
Whan our cause it is just.
And this be our motto;
In God Is Our Trust.

Would make his Liberal head explode.

Plastic Cows said...

The only competition for best national anthem in the world comes from Australia's Waltzin' Matilda, which is the popular national anthem, if not the official one. And who gives a flying flick what the politicos think if the people think different. The Auzzies have a ghost story for their anthem, which is pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

We can only pray that shit for life press does not make it to age 69. Some terrible, painful, hopeless event over takes this BBFN. It is only fair it should.

JD(not the one with the picture) said...

I'm embarrassed that Bill Press is my countryman. Every time I hear the anthem I sing it, my eyes water, and I answer the questions. Bill Press can go to hell.

Thornharp said...

Many years ago when my wife and I had season tickets to the San Jose Symphony, the conductor (Cleve) led off the first concert with the national anthem. I was happily surprised at how many of us in the audience knew the SATB arrangement. Sounded pretty decent, and WHAT A RUSH!