- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 1999

America will soon be singing a different tune. This new song has not yet been selected, but if current trends continue we inevitably shall soon be required to discard our old National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Consider a few of the present Anthem’s problems:

*In “Zero Tolerance for Violence” public schools, kids can now be expelled merely for talking with one another or writing in any way about “bombs bursting in air.” How much longer can we permit our school children to sing what they are prohibited from saying or writing?

*Inside any airport or airliner in America, you can now be arrested and jailed for speaking aloud the same Anthem words we sing at the start of every major league baseball game.

*Under Connecticut’s new gun control law, muttering our National Anthem in the presence of a neighbor might justify confiscation of your firearms on grounds that you might be dangerous to others.

*According to what Rep. Bob Barr has said about Echelon, a secret multinational effort to detect electronic communications of possible terrorists, merely speaking the words of America’s National Anthem during a telephone chat with a friend can trigger word-recognition computers to record your conversation and pinpoint you for government surveillance.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” evokes images of war, a “perilous fight,” “ramparts,” gallantry, explosions, “rockets’ red glare,” and the red “broad stripes” of our flag that symbolize blood shed in battle to win freedom from oppressive government. All such notions are now politically incorrect. This violence-soaked song must not only be removed as our anthem; it must also be prohibited on all, not just as today some, public property. Singing it should be made a crime punishable by sensitivity training.

But every nation needs an anthem, right? Hillary Clinton would probably want to end narrow nationalisms and make the song we must sing “The Internationale.” President Clinton might want baseball fans to rise, put hand over heart, and sing “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye.

Maybe we need a national contest among songwriters and a vote by the people to give America an anthem that accurately reflects what our nation is today in its inner soul. “Give me the making of the songs of a nation,” wrote Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun in 1703, “and I care not who makes its laws.” Our new National Anthem we sing will also subtly shape our character, values, ideals, and self-image.

For years Cable News Network founder Ted Turner has called for changing our National Anthem to “America the Beautiful,” whose words were penned in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates and melody was composed by Samuel A. Ward.

“Oh, Beautiful for Spacious Skies, for Amber Waves of Grain; For purple mountains’ majesty above the fruited plain.” It is a familiar and lovely song. But its opening lines honor not a republic nor a people but a landscape filled with what Mother Earth provided before humankind arrived. These words conjure an ecologist Eden where humans are, at most, the gardeners sowing grain and planting fruit trees. Vice President Al Gore and all those latter-day pagans who worship the Earth Mother goddess Gaia would happily trade a song about swords for this anthem about plowshares.

Or, at least, they would find “America the Beautiful” better than its predecessor. But this song, too, lapses into political incorrectness. Unlike “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it says “God” sheds “His” grace on America’s “good.” Can we allow children in government schools sing about such sexist, judgmentally pro-American, religious things? Even the song’s name commits the sins of “Lookism,” and ethnocentrism, for to judge one country “beautiful” implies that other countries might be otherwise.

And almost as bad, “America the Beautiful” voices outdated, quaint notions such as “self control,” but mercifully only in later stanzas that almost nobody gets around to singing. But “God” has little meaning to millions of schoolchildren, while “bombs bursting in air” is clear. This new anthem is, on balance, the lesser of two PC evils.

What I shall miss most about “The Star-Spangled Banner” is that it was the only National Anthem to begin and end with a question that each singer, in mind and heart, was expected to answer: “Oh, say, do you see?” and “Oh, say, does that Star-Spangled banner yet wave o’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?” To those who do see what has happened to us in this age of moral downsizing and expanding government, the answer to this second question is clearly “No!”

Not because it is violent, but because this honest answer shames and embarrasses all decent Americans; but should we stop raising the question by discarding “The Star-Spangled Banner?”

Lowell Ponte, columnist for FrontPageMag.com, hosts a national show on Talk Radio Network.

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