The Smear-Spangled Banner

In a recent article, Steven Yates catalogs and critiques the detrimental effects of political correctness on our society. Reading his article, as well as the many others addressing this subject, you come to the unavoidable conclusion that this noxious PC juggernaut must be stopped. If not, it will ruin our society. In fact, it has nearly succeeded. But how can it be stopped? It has the support of government, academia, the entertainment field, and, more importantly, the mainstream media.

And it’s not just the New York Times that makes its reporting conform to politically correct dogma. Newspaper editors all around the country seem to apply a PC litmus test when deciding what opinions may be expressed, not only by their columnists but also by those who write letters to the editor. And, like an epidemic of Mass Hysteria, political correctness has saturated the minds of journalists themselves. Or possibly their word processors contain an editing device that will only allow certain opinions to be expressed; opinions that are becoming so bizarre, I often have trouble deciding if a column is a serious editorial or a parody of political correctness.

An example is a headline I recently spotted in the Coshocton Tribune that read: “U.S. anthem should face up to slavery.” The journalist, Russell Benjamin, stated: “I believe the time has come to change the national anthem of the United States of America. The main reason I feel this way is because the anthem we have now does not face up to one of the worst injustices committed by this country. That injustice is slavery.”

So Mr. Benjamin wants The Star Spangled Banner to be scrapped. He says: “For as long as I can remember, people have said that America is the ‘greatest country in the world.’ To me, truly great countries are those which can face up to their wrongdoing. A good start for us is to have a new national anthem that condemns slavery and other injustices, such as racism, sexism, and the horrors done to Native Americans. The anthem should also commit Americans to making sure that everyone is treated equally.”

You can understand why I would think editorials like this one are simply satirizing political correctness, but that is not the case. Russell Benjamin is serious. My initial reaction to his demand that The Star Spangled Banner be replaced with a more politically correct national anthem was probably the same as yours: this will never happen! But over the past few decades so many foolish and inconceivable things have happened that we can no longer assume that common sense will prevail.

Years ago, no one would have believed that a government agency would be created — the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — that could override the employment decisions of a privately owned company. And who could have imagined that NASCAR would someday hire a diversity consultant in response to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s complaints about the paucity of minority racecar drivers? When reparations for slavery was first mentioned, the idea was hastily dismissed as being unimaginable. But accommodating city councils in several large cities have passed ordinances requiring corporations to disclose their “slavery profits.” Now some states are also considering similar ordinances. With laws like these on the books, it is only a matter of time before reparations become a fait accompli.

I honestly believe that most Americans disapprove of the actions cited above. The same is true for Mr. Benjamin’s proposal. But, although it sounds completely farcical to us, we must realize that our opinions will be ignored. The issue will be decided by others regardless of what we think. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if elitist do-gooders made a politically correct national anthem their next cause celebre.

The arguments against The Star Spangled Banner will be the same ones used in other cultural cleansing endeavors; i.e., how it might be perceived and what it may symbolize. For example: It is a song about a flag that waved above a country where for years slavery was condoned. It celebrates a flag that flew on the ships the New England slave traders used to bring Africans to America. It is outdated and stale, a vestige from the 19th Century. Maintaining The Star Spangled Banner is like trying to turn back the clock whereas we should be moving into the 21st Century.

I can envision a national contest encouraging aspiring songwriters to submit their suggestions for the new national anthem. At first blush, a new national anthem that meets Mr. Benjamin’s objectives seems like a tall order, especially composing the words because they will be more constraining than the music. Politically correct jargon is not very lyrical because it has been cleverly crafted to sound scientific in order to bolster complaints of victim groups. But words in a song, like poetry, must be lyrical and should rhyme.

There are four words that the new anthem must contain: slavery, bigotry, equality, and diversity. And, luckily for songwriters, they rhyme! Also racism rhymes with sexism. So if one line in the national anthem ends with racism, the next could end with sexism. Mr. Benjamin does not mention immigrants or gays, lesbians, and transgendered people. This was probably an oversight on his part. But songwriters could appease these groups in the second verse because homophobia rhymes with xenophobia.

Finally, there is Mr. Benjamin’s insistence that the national anthem must include a commitment that Americans make sure that everyone is treated equally. This is easily accomplished. One line of the new national anthem would be sung: “Our intolerance and prejudice we readily admit” followed by “And, to make sure everyone is treated equally, we firmly commit.”

Gail Jarvis Archives