I have a complicated relationship with gratuitous nationalism.
The Pledge of Allegiance (for example) is a hot mess of flaming flatulence, a socialist and racist —and incredibly successful—attempt at subjugation.
After 9/11, the American Flag began to look like performance theater, waving in every yard like some sort of collective club insignia, proving that we were the good guys.
Playing the National Anthem before sports events is downright nonsensical. I can’t believe I have much in common with Mark Cuban on anything (other than the fact that we both can't dance), but the National Anthem doesn’t represent everyone and it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with sports. Sports are entertainment. Sports are a business. Sports are not patriotic. It’s just tone-deaf to play the National Anthem at a pro basketball game or a high school football game or any game that isn't the Olympics.
But at a major political conference? Playing the National Anthem makes sense. Play on.
Look, it’s a complicated song with a complicated history. Set to the tune of an English drinking song, it requires an incredible range and a perfect pitch. It’s become a flashpoint of political tension, as those who kneel to speak out against injustice are villainized by those who see no injustice at all. No one agrees on what the National Anthem really symbolizes. And the third verse of the song is downright racist.
And yet, to me, the National Anthem is beautiful and sacred. Whether you choose to stand or choose to kneel; whether you choose to salute, or put your hand on your heart, or bow your head; whether you choose to hum along or sing or sit in silence...you do NOT perform it in order to showboat. If you can’t sing it straight, don’t sing it. And if you really can’t sing, by god, don’t sing it.
The National Anthem is a complicated song that mirrors how complicated our country is.
But it is NOT a song you fuck with. It is not a song you sing on a national stage because your daddy knows someone. This is not a song you can sing because you think you can sing.
To destroy the National Anthem is to disrespect what so many have fought for, even if we can’t agree on what it all means.
It’s interesting to me that the ones who have publicly slaughtered it the worst—Roseanne Barr, Sailor Sabol—they have been right wing ideologues who don’t even seem to understand the words they are singing.
And to them I would say—
If you are so full of hubris that you think you deserve to sing the National Anthem at a major event? You don’t.
Your white privilege, your sheltered life, everything that has lifted you to a national stage without merit,..that all is truer than any key you attempted to sing in.
I realize, Sailor, that you are still a kid, only 19 years old. You didn’t put yourself on that stage. Some truly terrible adults did.
But you are representative of what is wrong in this country: white people, stomping around, belting out their version of nationalism. And it is so horribly off-key. It is out of tune. It is embarrassing. It takes a very skilled Black man to even begin to make you sound good. A man who would never, EVER, be invited on that national stage. A man who understands music, and who represents himself --and our national anthem-- and our country, in a way that you will never understand.
In some ways, this really isn’t about you. It’s about a system that promoted you, that gave you opportunities that you did not earn on your own merits. This is really more a rant at the systems, at the people, who put you in that position. Who elevated you, who told you you were exceptional, who allowed you to believe that you were.
And the end result is that you stood on a national stage—a stage built to model a Nazi SS symbol, a literal stage of white supremacy—and you belted out a completely tone-deaf version of a song you claim to revere, to a nation you don’t even begin to understand.
|2017 Lansing Catholic Players, from left: Kabbash Richards, Roje Williams, Michael Lynn III, and Matthew Abdullah kneel during the National Anthem. Photo by Al Goldis, Lansing State Journal.|