It’s Monday, November 2, 2020. Tomorrow is Election Day.
Our national anthem fails.
For starters, it’s not great music. It’s hard for a lot of people to sing well.
The words were written by Francis Scott Key after a battle two centuries ago. So it’s about “ramparts” and a “perilous fight” and “the rockets’ red glare.”
The tune was stolen from a song written for a British social club.
Is that who we are as Americans? Really? Is this song the best we can do for this country that we say we love?
I don’t have a candidate to replace it. But I know what I’d love to incorporate in it.
Let’s capture what this country really is. What it has become since the battle of Fort McHenry in 1814.
I want something about the states, each with their own claim to beauty and culture and valor.
I want something about where “hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day,” as in Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.” I want something about vegan hot dogs. Also pizza and bulgogi.
Mention the polio vaccine, the Wright Brothers’ airplane, the first telephone. Also: the Ford Mustang, an Apple Mac, blue jeans.
There should be something about a Pete Alonzo homer into the middle deck of Citi Field. A Sue Bird pass for a teammate’s basket. Simone Biles doing a perfect triple-double on the floor.
Something that captures a kid’s joy at all the red envelopes received for the lunar new year. Kids in costume celebrating Purim. Awards day at a Compton high school.
A tractor pull at a Texas county fair. A quinceañera in Phoenix. The Eid celebration in a Detroit mosque.
Something that reflects the sorrow and gratitude felt as you drive past the neat rows of graves at a national cemetery. The pride of a Colorado veteran saluting at his town’s Memorial Day ceremony.
And the tune?
This is the country that produced Gershwin and Ellington. Brian Wilson and Stephen Foster. Carole King and Dolly Parton. Stevie Wonder and Tito Puente. Aaron Copland and Cole Porter.
We can’t do better than a British club song?
We are the United States of America. We are greater than the sum of our parts. When we diminish any of them or many of them, as our government and some of our people have for the past four years, we diminish all of them.
It’s time to celebrate ourselves instead of trashing each other. It’s time to get back to the business of being the world’s greatest country.
We’re better than our national anthem.
But our national anthem is just fine compared to how much better we are than Donald Trump.