Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nuestro Himno

So finally, Bush, an issue of burning importance on which you can re-establish your dwindling credentials with your base. The national anthem translated into Spanish! What a threat to our American identity! The talk show yahoos are, it seems, up in arms--and you have the gift of another heaven-sent distraction. Who would have guessed it? Will they forgive you even your support for "guest workers" if you get behind them on this issue? Who knows? But once again we're treated to evidence of the remarkable power of a symbol, and the ability of your people to exploit it.

I have a confession for you, Bush. You probably won't like me for it but I'm going to risk it anyway: I have never sung our national anthem. Well, I've hummed along a bit once in a while, inspired by an untypical fit of patriotism--or shamed by my pitiful lack of it. But I never learned the words much beyond the bit about "so proudly we wave." As for that other thing about holding your hand over your heart, it has always seemed to me sanctimonious to the point of sheer silliness.

Okay, so I'm an immigrant. Legal, of course. Back when I was officially sanctioned as a bona fide American, I was surprised to virtually have to lie in order to receive the blessing of officialdom. Among the things I had to aver on penalty of perjury was that I had never broken the law. Well, this was in the early seventies, Bush. In the sixties, I confess that I smoked dope once in a while, along with all my fellow graduate students. But it would have been absurd to cop to this heinous crime on my citizenship application, so I lied. I'm sorry to say that I also had to lie on the part about never having committed adultery. And confirmed my perjuries with my signature on the dotted line. Send me back, if you will, to where I came from, but the truth is finally out.

One thing I plead in my defense: I never much liked "God Save the Queen" either. Nor, for that matter, as a child, "God Save the King." As a little kid, I found it infinitely amusing to add an "h" to the "save." God shave the king, get it? Bottom line, as I think I've told you before, I'm no respecter of patriotism. It has probably killed as many people as religion in the course of history, and I find it frankly a particularly odious sentiment in this new century of ours, the twenty-first, with the globe so small and vulnerable to toxins of all kinds, including ideologies.

All in all, then, I find it perfectly harmless and in fact quite touching that the national anthem should now be available in a Spanish-language version. I was talking to a good friend about this very subject only this morning, Bush, and he had an interesting point: if this is a text so sacred in its original English that it's an insulting sacrilege to sing it in another language, should those good Christians lining up to cast the first stone on the subject not be required to study their own sacred text--the Bible--in its original languages?

I imagine, though, that this is just too tempting an opportunity for your folks to make some political summer hay in what must seem like a very wintery season for you, Bush. At least it takes the collective mind off matters of lesser importance--like war, and pestilence, and world hunger, and environmental disaster... not to mention a well-documented genocide, still in progress. A propos of which, I hear there's to be a march in Washington tomorrow, begging for some action to prevent the continuing wholesale slaughter in Darfur. Will you be listening, Bush? I hope so. That would be something of which our nation could be proud.

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