When leftists suggested dumping the “Star Spangled Banner” as our national anthem and replacing it with John Lennon’s “Imagine” last month, the idea struck me as about as imbecilic as ideas get. What could be a less appropriate national anthem than a song with the lyric “Imagine there’s no country”?
But it looks like I was wrong about how far liberal craziness can go. On Tuesday, Jody Rosen, an opinion contributor at the Los Angeles Times, suggested scrapping our current national anthem in favor of the soul music classic “Lean on Me.”
Don’t get me wrong. “Lean on Me,” which hit No. 1 hit on both the R&B and pop charts in 1972, is a great song. Even the message it conveys — “Lean on me, when you’re not strong/And I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you carry on” — is uplifting. But I’m just not that sure that the song is national anthem material.
The op-ed writer begins his column by denouncing the recently-toppled San Franciso monument of Francis Scott Key. But he hastens to add that the 52-foot-tall statue, which was yanked off of his pedestal during a protest on June 20, probably deserved what it got since Key probably was a slave and his lyrics are filled with racism. (This last charge is debatable. First of all the offending lyrics come in the third of the poem’s four stanzas, which no one ever sings. Second, the meaning of the words “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave” is a point of scholarly debate, as even Rosen admits.)
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) June 20, 2020
But I digress. Rosen’s main beef is aimed at all traditional national anthems, which he writes, “direct our eyes upwards”:
The vision of these songs is celestial: O beautiful, for spacious skies; the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air. Such songs celebrate power, majesty, monumentality; often, their view is militaristic. Our current political predicament is a reminder of how thin certain lines can be, how veneration of country can curdle into nationalism, and how nationalism can tilt toward fascism.
But celebrating a nation’s power, majesty, and monumentality are precisely what a national anthem is supposed to do. I defy anyone to find a national anthem anywhere that doesn’t.
Inspire nationalism? Let me the first to break the news to Jody Rosen that nationalism — pride in one’s national heritage — is not a four-letter word. Yes, we are going through a tumultuous period now, which has prompted many on the Left to shout from every rooftop that the United States is an evil country founded on sinful behavior. That’s a total distortion of America’s history. What our brave founders did in breaking the yoke of British imperialism was a remarkable feat, accomplished by a rag-tag bunch of farmers who succeeded in beating back the most powerful army on earth. That is something to take pride in, which is precisely what our national anthem does.
If Jody Rosen doesn’t like the words or music, he’s free to go. But as far as I’m concerned, the Star Spangled Banner stays.
Howard Portnoy contributed to this article.
Cross posted in altered form at The Lid