By Bill Taylor
It seems to me
It seems to me that this time of year with baseball in full swing, NASCAR and other auto races every weekend, the 4th of July, and all sorts of other activities, we are hearing “The Star Spangled Banner” lots more than the rest of the year.
In a way, I suppose that could be considered a good thing - a reminder of our country’s heritage - but even to the casual observer, the way it is so often performed and the manner in which people conduct themselves during its execution sure make a body wonder.
And, yes, I chose the word “execution” because it faithfully describes the way so many performers “murder” our national anthem.
OK, so what is the proper way to act during the playing of the national anthem? Well, the United States Code, 36 U.S.C. § 301, states that during a rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.
Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder with the hand being over the heart. When the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
Individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present and not in uniform may also render the military salute - the law was changed in 2008 to extend this privilege to veterans.
Not too complicated is it? Stand at attention; men’s hats off; right hand over heart; and, both those in uniform and veterans not in uniform salute. Too bad so many people either don’t know what to do or don’t care.
I like the college and high school football pre-game activities because the marching bands know how to play our national anthem correctly. Unfortunately, most sporting events on TV open with a singer or group giving out with what sounds like a yodeling version. Their vocal efforts wander around apparently searching for a note withing a reasonable distance of the correct one before moving on to the next often unsuccessful hunt. Makes me appreciate the mute button.
Occasionally we hear a performance that is done well. Not long ago I heard an opera singer who did a truly magnificent job at a sporting event. As she sang, the usual crowd noise and folks fidgeting died down as she captured everyone’s attention. When she finished there was huge burst of applause and cheers.
Another memorable appearance was by a mixed chorus of uniformed military - these men and women really knew how to perform - and the crowd went wild. Perhaps the most impressive performance I’ve heard was an unaccompanied solo by a Marine singing, not the first, but the fourth verse. We rarely get by the words of the first verse, and in this case, many people didn’t immediately realize he was singing our national anthem. I was so impressed that I’m including the words of that fourth (and last) verse here. Please read it slowly and maybe out loud.
“Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand / Between their loved home and the war’s desolation! / Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land / Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. / Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, / And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” / And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave / O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
There’s a lot in those words - words that would be considered offensive and unfit for our national anthem by the folks who want to eliminate “under God” from our pledge of allegiance along with all other mention of religion from our public life. Just imagine their objection to “heav’n rescued land” and “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.” And what about the motto, “In God is our trust.” - which is already under fire by these people as intolerable.
Then, too, there are those of the opinion that the first verse with its reference to “… the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air…” is too warlike, too militaristic. They would absolutely go ballistic with, “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just”- if they realized those words are part of our national anthem.
You know, maybe keeping this verse kinda hidden away- to be brought out only on special occasions and performed properly (without the yodeling) would be the thing to do. After all, it’s a reminder of our nation’s heritage that shouldn’t be forgotten. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.