Friday, April 28, 2006

Anacreon in Hell

As we all know, alcohol taken in excess makes you sentimental, belligerent, and stupid. Anacreon in Heaven, though superior in some respects to 99 bottles of beer on the wall, began its existence in the musical and behavioral slum of an 18th century drinking club, where beery frog-voiced young men deep in their cups celebrated drunkenness and whoring--a moral venue now occupied by frat houses, though thanks to everything from hired garage bands to ipods, frat boys rarely sing, or if they do they trail off by maybe the 85th bottle on the wall into mumbling incoherence, thank goodness.

But the uproar over the Star Spangled Banner being sung, God help us, in Spanish, has somehow revived the sentimentality, stupidity, and belligerence that provide the background noise to any drinking song, and which, if you think about the lyrics of the nationalist hymn that gave Anacreon a continued yodeling existence, have over the years found a continuing association with our national anthem as well.

Happily, nobody ever thinks about the actual lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner--for one thing, practically no one knows more than fifteen words of it--so its bombastic foolishness either doesn't rise to the level of consciousness, or if noticed, inspires only the catch in the throat mawkishness and love-it-or-leave-it truculence that right-wingers mistake for love of country.

For most people, it's more like, can we sit down now and watch the baseball game.

But not George Bush. He sees, under the perhaps distracted tutelage of a Karl Rove facing possible indictment and seemingly off his feed, a wedge issue. Republicans love those the way piranhas love blood in the water.
George Bush has entered a row about the US national anthem, criticising a Spanish version featuring Wyclef John and Gloria Trevi.
"I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English," he said when asked at a news conference.

No shit, George. And if someone hadn't produced a photo of you waving a Mexican flag to get hispanic votes in a governor's race in Texas, you'd be saying we should all wave the Murcan flag while we sing it in English, too.

I listened to the Spanish version on the BBC. It still sounds like a drinking song, but the words sound less lugubrious than in English. I say scrap the English version after the first eleven words, where most of the audience drops away anyway, and go with the Spanish after that. The rest of the Star Spangled Banner might as well be in Serbo-Croation anyway, for all that people listen to it.
¡Oh, decid! ¿Despliega aún su hermosura estrellada,
Sobre tierra de libres, la bandera sagrada?

Tierra de libres! The land of the free. Where we can sing in any language we want to.

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