When I was in eighth grade, my favorite teacher, Mr. Trussell, posed a question to our social studies class:
“How many of you get goosebumps when you hear the national anthem? Raise your hand.”
I raised my hand, along with about half the class. He said that back in his day, nearly everyone would have raised their hands. He wondered how many from the generation following us would raise their hands.
I still get goosebumps when I hear it. I take off my cap and put my hand over my heart. I may be a little disappointed with what I see in some of our “leaders” right now, but I still believe in what America can be and what that flag represents to me.
The California branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, however, has had it with the anthem. In particular, they don’t like a couple of lines from the third stanza of “The Star-Spangled Banner:” No refuge could save the hireling and slave, From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave. Some historians believe those lines are a direct reference to the the Corps of Colonial Marines, black slaves recruited by Britain to fight for them in the War of 1812 in exchange for their freedom.
Britain and those freedom fighters lost, much to the delight of Francis Scott Key, who was not just a slaveholder but a man who had deep disdain for blacks as an “inferior race.” Though Britain lost, they refused American demands to return these freedom fighters to their slavemasters.
So, before you knee-jerk your reaction to the California NAACP’s push, consider that they might just have a point — even though we never sing that stanza because if we sang the whole “Star-Spangled Banner,” we’d never get around to kickoff and the distinctly American sport of brain trauma. If they do have a point, maybe we should consider a few anthem options.
Personally, I’d go with Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” but you probably already knew that.
Neil Diamond’s “America” is great, but too welcoming for today’s USA. I don’t think he has any songs about walls or extreme vetting.
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” sounds patriotic, but it’s anti-war, and he was a working-class draft dodger. Americans love war and prefer privileged draft dodgers.
And if Trump and Kim Jong-un keep their Tweety spat up, we could consider Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
Of course, to me, it’s not the song itself but what it should represent — freedom. We could all be singing “doo-wah-diddy-diddy-dum-diddy-doo,” so long as we knew what it represented. Frankly, I have no idea what that phrase means, but I choose to believe “freedom.”
So, fine. Let’s change it. How about Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful?” Raise your hand if you get goosebumps when you hear it.
Good. Glad to see I’m in the majority for change.
Order Chris Johnson’s latest book “Wastin’ Away Again on Margaritahill” at KudzuKid.com.