by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Since the moment it became the official national anthem of the United States in 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” has had its share of critics. It can be hard to sing. Its lyrics feature words long removed from our daily vocabulary. And, in recent decades, celebrity performers often take far too many liberties with the song — sometimes with truly horrifying results. Now, amidst the nigh-insatiable appetites of the cancel culture mobs, the pressure is mounting to abandon the anthem once and for all.
Calls to cancel the “The Star-Spangled Banner” have support from the American Civil Liberties Union and the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Music, and are featured in the Los Angeles Times. Yet despite the passion of the hate directed at the anthem, the arguments fall flat. “The Star-Spangled Banner” shouldn’t be canceled — it should be sung louder than ever. …
… [I]ndeed, the tune used by “The Star-Spangled Banner” is John Stafford Smith’s “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a British song that was performed at pubs and men’s social clubs.
But this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. What’s more subversive and snarky than using a drinking song of the nation you defeated in a war of independence to celebrate another later victory over that same nation? That the tune of the U.S. anthem is British isn’t a flaw, it’s a delightful musical example of 19th-century “trolling.”
Second, the anthem features, at most, six words that may be unfamiliar to some Americans: “hailed,” “gleaming,” “perilous,” “ramparts,” “gallantly,” and “spangled.” That’s it — six words (maybe) in the entire song. Not only is this not the end of the world, but it’s also more of a condemnation of our failed public school system than an indictment of the lyrics or its lyricist.