The National Anthem Problem
by: John Tyrrell
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The new Leader of the Opposition in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, created a bit of a furor when he chose not to sing the national anthem, "God Save The Queen", at a Battle of Britain commemoration ceremony.
Corbyn is reported to be both an agnostic and a republican - so a decision not to publicly request that a deity he does not believe in to act favorably towards a monarch Corbyn wants to dismiss seems to be quite reasonable.
In any event, Corbyn chose to stand respectfully and silently throughout the singing of the anthem.
Unfortunately, in the face of public pressure, Corbyn has backed down on his principled stand and announced that he will sing the meaningless ditty at future public ceremonial events.
Of course the British national anthem is not alone in its reference to a god. In many nations, there is a history of patriotism and religion inextricably linked and the various anthems reflect this. Even La Marseillaise written in an anti-clerical anti-monarchical time contains a "Grand Dieu!" buried in the third verse - though it comes across to me more as an expletive rather than a praising of some god with his greatness. And as for the US national anthem - it looks quite god-free until you get to the fourth verse at which point it seems the author felt the need to provide some religious doggerel to the believers.
But for most ceremonial occasions, we never get beyond the first verse.* The American and the French patriotic non-believers are quite fortunate. They can sing their hearts out without having to call on the unbelievable.
What about the rest of us? What can we do?
- Arrive fashionably late - this solves the problem at sporting events, though we might miss a brilliant opening scoring drive.
- Do a Corbyn - stand silently and respectfully. Simply view the music - not the words - as the expression of patriotism.
- La La La la-la-la.
- Sing your own version of the words (See Meditation 116 - My own solution eliminates both sexism and religion from Oh Canada.)
- Unfortunate coughing/sneezing fit when you reach that point in the anthem.
Enter your own solution below.
Slightly humorous aside:
* While researching the words to the US national anthem, I came across a discussion in which someone asserted that the only reason the fourth verse of the Star Spangled Banner was not sung in public today was because of pressure from atheists and secularists. He did not bring up reasons for the non-singing of the second and third verses.
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