April 30, 2006

this bud's for you, Anacreon

So this afternoon I sat down with a punch bowl full of Cocoa Crispies and a giant glass of orange-mango juice and turned on the tv. Apparently my dad was the last one in there because it was on MSNBC. I'm not a huge fan of 24 hour news channels. Sure, sometimes I need a laugh, so I flip on Tucker Carlson to see his rediculous clown ties, but that's about it.

Anyway, they were discussing "Nuestro Himno," ("Our Anthem") a new song by latino recording artists. Literally translated, it is not the same lyrics as "The Star Spangled Banner." Because of this many people are up in arms, including President Bush. Why? Because the melody is the same, but the words are changed. The people opposing this song are saying that "The Illegal Alien Anthem" doesn't have the same value as the original english version. Good point, because that tune is strictly AMERICAN DAMNIT!!!

Yeah... not so much. Many have heard that the tune is actually an english drinking song. Sorta. It was basically the theme song of... well, more or less a gentleman's club. "To Anacreon" was the name of the orginal song. Anacreon, as I'm sure all my loyal readers already know, was a Grecian poet known for... drinking songs. So "To Anacreon" isn't so much a drinking song in itself, but moreso an ode to drinking songs and erotica.

Back on the subject of the American National Anthem. Sing it. Right now. Do it.... Go ahead, I'll wait for you to finish...... Okay, so maybe you got through it in one try, didnt even have to strain yourself.... But chances are you didn't. "...Who's broad stripes and bright stars, through the mumble mumble mumble." Okay, maybe you do know the whole thing, I do (I'm an Eagle Scout though... I'm supposed to know it). But what does it mean? The lyrics are from a poem written by a guy who was on a boat to negotiate the trade of some P.O.W.'s. While he was there he heard a plan to attack Baltimore. So before letting Francis Scott Keys go, they locked him up so he couldnt go inform his country that they were about to get attacked. So he sat in his cell and watched as this fort got bombed to shit for a day and a half. At sunrise he peered out his cell and "the flag was still there." He was excited and inspired, so he wrote this poem, "Defence of Fort McHenry," the first stanza of which is now known as "The Star Spangled Banner."

So there's your history lesson of the day. The point of all that is to get some feel for where the guy was coming from when he wrote these words, since it isn't the tune that should really be in question here. Well the head honcho behind the record label responsible said they recorded this song so spanish-speaking people could "fully understand the character of the Star-Spangled Banner, the American flag and the ideals of freedom that they represent.” Sounds reasonable to me. So why not just translate it word for word? Well the big deal with this whole thing seems to be the not assimilating. Bush said, "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English... And they ought to learn to sing the National Anthem in English.” Sounds like a fine request to me.... If english was our offical national language. But currently on a federal level there is no national language. I do think that people should learn english to use our schooling system. I see nothing wrong with ESL classes. I see nothing wrong with a parent not being able to speak english, but the child does and attends public school.

On this MSNBC report they interviewed John Teeley, of the Center for Immigration Studies (have you seen "Thank You For Smoking" yet?), who had this to say: “You are talking about something sacred and iconic in the American culture. Just as we wouldn’t expect people to change the colours of the national flag we wouldn’t expect people to fundamentally change the anthem and rewrite it in a foreign language.” The Atlanta Braves add an s to the last word of the song, but I don't see him up in arms about it. He also said something to the effect of "America has always had a contract with immigrants that says 'You adjust to us, we are not going to adjust to you.'" Really? Where does it say that in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution? My opinion on this is like my opinion on female pastors: Man, Woman, or child (or in this case english, spanish or ...god forbid... french): if the message is right, who cares?

I do not think people should be so quick to dismiss "Nuestro Hymno." The point of the National Anthem is to represent our country. It is a bonding experience for sporting events. A way to illustrate, and even raise national pride. "Nuestro Hymno" is not trying to take away from that. It is not trying to replace "The Star Spangled Banner." It is simply trying to relate that national pride to people who otherwise would not necessarily understand "The Star Spangled Banner."

Posted by hollimer at April 30, 2006 1:42 AM

preach on, holler. i totally agree with you. i am having a hard time with all these immigration issues, because if we had laws in the 1930s and 40s like they want to make now, then i wouldn't even exist. my dad's parents both came over here from latvia, and my grandma and her mother and brother left latvia after russia took over and her father was sent to a "work" camp, where he eventually died. if they had stayed even one more day, my grandma and her mother and brother would have probably also ended up in camps. so thank god that they had another country in which to take refuge.

and to everyone who wants to "kick the mexicans out of our country", unless you are a native american, you are a F-ING HYPOCRITE!

Posted by: jen at April 30, 2006 10:03 AM

I agree with Jennie about the difficulty of this immigration stuff. We've had some very racist and restrictive immigration laws in the past. (If you don't know anything about it, look up the Chinese Exclusion Act sometime.)
I had a class last semester that was called "Law and Citizenship in the American Novel." Between that and the anthropology class I took last summer, my eyes have really been opened up to a lot of things about our country's past.
Personally, I understand why we need barriers for immigration. But I also know that a decent portion of our economy is based on the work of illegal immagrants who we are igoring. I think the guest worker program proposed by Bush is actually a pretty good idea.

Posted by: Dan P at May 1, 2006 3:30 PM

Firstly, it was Francis Scott Key (not Keys) who wrote the lyrics, and he wasn't in a cell, but in a cabin locked up on a frigate off the coastline of Maryland.

Secondly, the national anthem is the entire four verses, not just the first. Just because it is only the first verse which gets performed in public on most occasions does not make that the criteria.

Thirdly, there has always been controversy about the national anthem. And a lot of people do get 'up in arms' by the various liberties taken with the lyrics of the song. Jimi Hendrix may be famous, and so are Roseanne Barr, Julio Iglecias and many others, but there's been a whole LOT of upset over the way they performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" in public.

Fourthly, there have been bills sent to Congress, attempting to put restrictions on how to perform it in public (which were defeated, by the way). There have been numerous bills to attempt making some other song the national anthem.

The real fact is, it was -written- in English, and it should be 'translated' into other languages, not 'modified and adapted' for other languages. When a large percentage of this country doesn't speak spanish at all, and then they find out that it isn't the real song, it's been changed, that is insulting and humiliating, because it is using the fact that they can't understand it to slide changes in. That's not fair.

There was a spanish version as early as 1919, published by the Schirmer Corporation. Nobody got upset about -that- translation because it -was- a translation, not an adaptation which english speakers wouldn't even know wasn't the real song without some spanish-speaker interpreting it correctly for them.

Posted by: Barbara R at November 21, 2006 4:05 PM
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