Baltimoreans for good reason take pride in the knowledge that our national anthem was written in their own harbor. I’m one of them. It’s my hometown. This is why, I suspect, that I hold strong feelings about the Star Spangled Banner and the way it is presented and received at public events. Note that I said presented, not performed. There’s a difference, and it’s important to me.
What is an anthem? Dictionary definitions generally agree. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an anthem as a solemn patriotic song officially adopted by a country as an expression of national identity.
Opinions abound on the subject of how one should respond when the national anthem is played or sung at a public event. Our national Flag Code requires those who are not members of the Armed Forces or veterans to face the flag and stand with a hand over their heart. Men in these crowds are told to remove hats or other with their right hands and place them over their left shoulders. Military personnel in uniform should render the military salute at the beginning of the anthem and hold the position throughout.
What about singers? How should they present the anthem? Singer Jeffrey Osborne puts it this way: “The song is not really not supposed to be about you. It’s supposed to be about your country.” Sadly, many singers view their invitation to sing it as their chance to show off before a crowd, which sometimes includes a huge television audience. Far too many take liberties with the anthem, adding their own licks. Wrong. Osborne has it right. It’s an anthem, and by the way, that’s also a reason not to applaud it, whether you’re showing your appreciation for the singer’s mangling of the music or emphasizing your pride in your country. It’s an anthem. Treat it with solemn respect, not cheers.
Look around you the next time you’re at a public event at which the national anthem is sung or played. Most folks respond respectfully, hands over hearts, hats off. Most, not all. Recently, some have chosen not to respond in the usual way, opting instead to make a statement about their disappointments with some aspects of American life. I choose to stand, face the flag and place my hand over my heart, but I also respect the freedom of others to respond in their own way. The anthem says that we live in the land of the free. That applies to all of us, and I celebrate that freedom.
Today’s word: I, me or myself? When used as an object, me is correct, not I. Between you and me . . . (object of preposition “between.”) Our friends gave a nice party for my husband and me. Correct. Not for my husband and I. The “me” in this example is the object of the preposition “for.” My wife and myself will vote for that candidate. Just say my wife and I will vote that way. You both are used as subjects of that sentence. For some reason, many of us are uncomfortable using “I” when “me” would be correct. Get over it. If it’s used as the subject, choose I. If used as the object, choose me.