Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bombs Bursting in Air? Not.

What this country needs – oh, does it need – is an issue on which liberals and conservatives can unite and on which the country can voice its approval, loudly and enthusiastically.  Here is such an issue.

It is time we should change our national anthem.  The Star Spangled Banner is hard to sing and is out of step with the national mood, which is less militaristic than it used to be.  The country, according to most polls, is tired of “bombs bursting in air” and is ready for “amber waves of grain” or “the oceans white with foam.”

You like bombs bursting in air? Then the present anthem fails on musical grounds. How many of us, hearing O, Canada sung at the hockey playoffs or the Russian national anthem sung at Sochi, sighed, “I wish we had an anthem like that.” (How many singers have had the same thought?)

If it were put to a popular vote, two candidates would probably emerge: America the Beautiful and God Bless America.  Either one, in my opinion, is better than The Star Spangled Banner.  They are both stirring melodies.  America the Beautiful was written by Samuel Ward, a choirmaster, and Katherine Lee Bates, in 1910.  God Bless America, as everyone knows, was written by Irving Berlin in 1918 and revised by him (for Kate Smith) in 1938.  Both are well known and sung often; in fact, God Bless America has become a surrogate national anthem, sung at the home half of the seventh inning at many major-league baseball games.

For more than 150 years, the United States had no national anthem.  Then, in 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed an act making The Star Spangled Banner the national anthem. It has had a long and distinguished life, but now it is time for a new national anthem, easier to sing and having more inspired lyrics. It is time to move on.  Is there a political leader around who will take up the cause?