Saturday, January 26, 2013

American Anthem

Hey! It's a chilly rainy Saturday in Portland and who's up for some Montenegro?

Is that a great song, or what?

I needed something to be cheerful about after watching my beloved Norwich City make FA Cup history by getting shot dead square in the ass by Luton Town. Don't get me wrong; I loves me some FA Cup, but, damn, when a season goes to hell sometimes it really goes to hell.

Anyway, from there I wandered over to Gin and Tacos where this discussion of national anthems led me to this discussion of National Anthems.

The Grantland article (the second link in the paragraph above) is funny but there's some genuine truth to it.

When you get past the essential silliness of the whole concept of a "national anthem" you eventually get around to the historical use of singing as a way of bringing people together and firing them up emotionally. As I talked about the other day; some emotions just lend themselves to song. They just do. "Patriotism"? Yep.

But part of that really does involve the actual song.

And I happen to agree with conventional wisdom and agree that The Star Spangled Banner - as a song - isn't all that as a "man the barricades sort of thing. It IS hard to sing, and it does lack a ne sais pas...something that the boys from Montenegro, and the Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii, and La Marseillaise have in abundance;

Let's face it; if you're going to have a song about your country, singing it should really make you excited about your country. Patriotism is, of course, a ridiculous tribal atavism that has fueled some of the most dangerous and destructive idiocy ever perpetrated by the human race. But.


It's hard to deny that there is something very satisfying to the human soul to be part of that crowd uplifted by that singing, feeling that shiver that comes with the sensation of being armored and armed with participation in something that makes you feel bigger and stronger than your own small self. As Phillips says over at Grantland:
"A good anthem has to do a lot of things. It has to inspire. It has to instill loyalty to the nation-state. It has to be singable. Most important, it has to capture a mysterious and complex feeling of being simultaneously (a) in church, (b) about to charge the enemy trenches, and (c) at a really great New Year's party."
Those aren't very nice feelings, really, when you think about it. They have made and will make us do awful things in the name of "patriotism".

But, then, they have made us do some genuinely noble and heroic things, as well.

So I suppose what it comes down to is that even a bombastic poem set to an old pub drinking song can do that trick, when you sing in a certain way. I remember how I felt when I sang it then:

Ten feet tall and bristling with spines.

So, are we bad? Maybe so. For all our song doesn't make the Top Ten.

But maybe not quite as badass as the folks from Montenegro...

The seething hot magma at the core of the world —
Bring us our tankards, we want to drink some for breakfast!
We wean our babies on lava, and they can't get enough.
By the time they're 6, they could beat an oak tree at wrestling.
Everyone! Do you understand that we are ferocious?
We have ventured down among the bones of the mountains,
Where we killed like 50 or 60 dragons,
We didn't even keep track, that's how easy it was.
My beard is the moss that binds the stone of God's fury.
Drink with us! Drink with all of us! Be welcome!
We will wipe the floor with you and leave you for dead.
I'm in a good mood! I may dismember a bear.

Feel like humming along?


1 comment:

Leon said...

I have to say I always did like the Soviet national anthem. It's the only one that seemed purposely designed to be sung by a chorus of soldiers on a snowy December night. It's also very... moving, for some reason.

Heck, I'd drop our Canuckian anthem for a re-worded version of the Soviet/Russian anthem (anthem franchising!) Ours seems... okay... nice... kinda boring. Put in some new lyrics and punch it up a bit.

In the cold of the north,
We shovel our sidewalks,
And know in an hour,
It'll be covered up again!