Irecently wrote a serious article on the decline of the economy of the United States, as experienced by most of its people, American Decline. My purpose was to criticize what I see as a decadent “national mentality” that can accept, and even welcome, commercial practices and government policies that lard the wealthy while degrading the conditions of most of the public. That decadent national mentality is most easily labeled “Reaganomics.” Its pith is the appeal to white racism, disguised as anti-socialism and anti-terrorism, in its service to personal greed. It is the hypocrisy of theft cloaked in smiling patriotism, and aiming for apartheid.
Robert Parry and Greg Palast have given objective details on the corrosive effects of thirty years of Reaganomics, and I have given subjective ones. However, sometimes an argument that is visceral, visual, perhaps illogical and reliant on memory can be more effective in transmitting an idea, and ideals. With this in mind, let’s compare two versions of the national anthem.
The Star Spangled Banner is the national anthem of the United States, and it is performed before major sporting events, like the National Football League’s Superbowl, whose 45th occurrence was on February 6, in Dallas, Texas. The singer chosen to perform the anthem for a nationally televised spectacle like the Super Bowl will be a popular performer whom the producers deem capable of reflecting the image of patriotism held by the sponsors and the audience. The singer will be proud, enthused by the opportunity for national exposure, and under pressure to satisfy mass expectations. The video record of the performance of the national anthem at the Super Bowl, this last Sunday, is also a record of who the “nationals” are that this “anthem” is being sung to. So, we can take this as an official picture of whom the powers-that-be assume is the nation, an anthropological artifact of the national mentality that produced the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvIv5dh4yys.
Former US president (43rd) George W. Bush was in the audience, on this 100th anniversary (6 February 1911) of the birth of former US president (40th) Ronald Reagan. To my mind, Christina Aguilera’s performance of the Star Spangled Banner was a perfect reflection of its situation: shrill, inflated, artless, clumsy, soulless, an anthem for plodding self-satisfied commercialism.
One can think of other “nations” that the United States was or could be, such as the one Marion Anderson sang to in 1939 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Another such nation is one the people of the United States had a glimpse of in the 1960s, but were too fearful to commit to, hence the national decline since 1980. We could be a nation of peace, brotherhood and sisterhood, economic fairness, evident justice, and artful convivial creativity; all it takes is a little coordinated energy guided by our most humane imaginations. Jimi Hendrix performed the anthem for that nation, and the Star Spangled Banner has never sounded better.
It’s been a slow sad slide from Woodstock to Super Bowl “XLV”, why not go back and start over?
MANUEL GARCIA, Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org