History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Our National Anthem warrants a fresh analysis

"Of thee I sing. . ."
One of the most-viewed photos in my Flickr account is of the MACA boys basketball team standing at rapt attention for the National Anthem. What makes the photo interesting is the bagpipe player seen behind the players, rendering the anthem. Bagpipes are quite the novelty. In the old days, military units used this instrument to intimidate the enemy, such was the grating quality of this instrument. We see (and hear) this in that movie about the Battle of New Orleans, with Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson. (Every time I type Heston's name, I have to see if it has one 's' or two.)
We re-acquaint ourselves with Jackson every time we use a $20 bill. I'm not sure Native Americans should be too enthused about this. And did you know that Jackson used inhumane tactics in winning the Battle of New Orleans? And that the battle wasn't even necessary because hostilities had officially ceased - word simply didn't arrive in time. At any rate, much blood was spilled in keeping the American flag as our vibrant symbol from sea to shining sea. Canada decided England wasn't so bad after all.
Our Southern states tried making a break in the mid-19th Century. Southern people get twisted up like a pretzel in trying to reconcile their rebellion with their patriotism today. Southern people are the most ardent in supporting the most conservative-leaning politicians, the politicians who are so fervent about national defense and supporting Old Glory. If you say the flag is just a piece of cloth, you'll be pilloried.
Colin Kaepernick
We have this flag along with the National Anthem which are supposed to represent who we are. But sheer patriotism can have its shortcomings. We see this primarily when our nation's leaders say a war is necessary. The first Iraq war was a patriotism orgy. It was a police action. Iraq never had the resources to challenge us. The second Iraq war had a drumbeat of "patriotism" leading up to it. We put our normal critical thinking aside. Somehow we had to achieve vengeance in the wake of 9/11. Turns out Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it. Turns out he had no weapons of mass destruction. He was a more or less typical Middle East strongman. He would have been the first to suppress Isis, using the kind of brutal tactics that Isis itself displays. Hussein was a secular leader.
Our jingoistic urges are accompanied by so much flag-waving. We saw one of the most boisterous patriotic displays prior to the Super Bowl that immediately followed the first Gulf War. After so many years reminiscing about World War II, maybe we had an urge to bring that type of accomplishment into the present. The memories of World War II may be a springboard for justifying more military forays, as a way of celebrating the goodness of our nation.
In Viet Nam this urge turned into an indescribable nightmare. I'm not sure why Korea called for such a toll of lives lost. George W. Bush's second Iraq war is now viewed as a mistake. We get into these episodes with such effusive patriotism and flag-waving.
The National Anthem started getting played at sports events as a way of commemorating the end of World War I. War is nothing but bad. Why do these memories have to survive with such fervor, feeding into a new jingoistic urge every few years?
 
Reach for the high notes
The National Anthem by itself is currently getting some much-deserved scrutiny. Thanks to NFLer Colin Kaepernick, we're beginning to ask some questions.
The song as a work of art is, well, cumbersome. This is a fact and not opinion. It is a fact because the song has a vocal range going way beyond what is considered easy to handle for a vocalist. That is its biggest weakness. Secondly, the song glorifies war. War should always be considered a last resort. Today we use foreign aid and sanctions as a way of keeping various interests in line around the world.
The Viet Nam war mystifies me most of all. That miserable conflict left scars on my generation, for those who fought and those who protested. It left scars in more subtle ways, as a whole generation of youth (from when I was "youth") had deconstructionist ideas pounded into them. My generation was encouraged by a plurality of our educators to reject tradition and convention in all ways. This was because the American public was too unquestioning about the war for too long. "Let's throw out everything we think we know." Everything. Let's question the preponderance of 90-degree angles in architecture. That's how we got the UMM science auditorium. Our public library's exterior rejects 90-degree angles, probably just as an artistic statement. The library should have just been designed to make sure water drainage from the roof could be handled. But such was our world of the 1970s, an avant garde place with notions that were really quite ridiculous. We recognize the ridiculousness today. We don't want to remember the folly. We don't want to talk about it. I periodically like to remind people.
More of us are questioning whether the National Anthem needs to be played before every sports event. If the purpose is to celebrate America, it seems OK and benign, but if the purpose is to feed into our jingoistic urges periodically, it's morally questionable. Kaepernick is making his statement because he feels racial minorities are abused in this country. We need to pause and reflect on our values.
Why don't some high schools just cease playing the National Anthem for sports? What does the National Anthem have to do with sports? What connection does it have to the profit-driven world of pro sports? Unless we are worshipping profit along with the flag, and maybe that is in fact happening.
 
Our history is messy, complicated
As a boomer generation member, I have a sense of pause about our cosmetic expressions of patriotism as with the Anthem. Our whole society was dragged into the Viet Nam war. There were consequences for everyone. As a writer I was encouraged to show suspicions about our national leaders, to assume the worst motives more often than not. Watergate fed into that in the richest way. But remember, the Viet Nam war cast a wide shadow at the same time the Nixon administration was unraveling. Extrapolated to the local level, my deconstructionist attitudes meant we shouldn't even trust community leaders of various stripes, e.g. school superintendents.
We were done no favors having such skeptical attitudes instilled in us. There seemed some justification at the time.
Maybe we should actually blame the so-called "Greatest Generation," a term coined for the book that had Tom Brokaw's name on it even though it appears the actual work was done by other people. Today we feel this limitless affection for the Greatest Generation. But they appeared to be the ones who sat back and just let awful things happen through the 1960s and '70s. Remember the mom character in "Almost Famous" who scolded her child about having a Paul Simon album because the singer's eyes had a look that maybe suggested drug use? That's our moms and dads, so many of whom voted for Nixon.
Here's a suggestion: Let's have "America the Beautiful" played before our sports events. It's a serene and inspiring song that doesn't have "bombs bursting in air."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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