No Pledge, No Anthem, No Chauvinism

A Letter to the Anchorage School Board regarding the proposal to force Anthem Listening
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Dear Board,

Once again it would appear that Mr. Donley 1 promotes a bizarre and inappropriate “solution” to address an as yet unrealized problem.

I initially supposed that Mr. Donley felt that a full and comprehensive study of our unsingable US National Anthem  — only adopted in 1931 for the purposes of promoting Maryland —  a product of plagiarism from a tune known far and wide as a celebrating drinking song, the lyrics of which were written by a racist observer of a bombardment that was the result of ludicrous policy implemented by the Jeffersonians, leading to a war that no one in their right mind wanted, that was a huge embarrassment to the US —  should rightfully be the subject of study by public school students for the purpose of increasing national cohesion through an appreciation of American exceptionalism. 2

NOT SO! Mr. Donley wrote that all he wants is to play the National Anthem, without apparently addressing any of the odious aspects thereof, and ignoring the invitation thereby to all our students to “take a knee” during its playing. Excuse me, but it really sounds like Mr. Donley is looking to create not only a problem, but a basis upon which to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees. I wasn’t aware we had that money to burn.

Mr. Donley says he is concerned about history and civics, and yet he seems not to have learned anything about either. Mr. Justice Frankfurther once expounded opinions much like those promoted by Mr. Donley 3 If you did not know who the author was, you might be forgiven for thinking it was Himmler…

National unity is the basis of national security. * * * The ultimate foundation of a free society is the binding tie of cohesive sentiment. Such a sentiment is fostered by all those agencies of the mind and spirit which may serve to gather up the traditions of a people, transmit them from generation to generation, and thereby create that continuity of a treasured common life which constitutes a civilization. We live by symbols. The flag is the symbol of our national unity, transcending all internal differences, however large, within the framework of the Constitution.

No wonder that opinion lasted only three years.

Whatever Mr. Donley’s delusions of his childhood, flags have rarely been unifying in anything but battle, as flags, like anthems, serve only as litmus tests, and are senseless in a pluralistic society. The US National Anthem signifies the unlawful acts associated with the international hegemony that the US has pursued for decades. It signifies the governmental misconduct with respect to a long list of populations. It signifies repression, at home and abroad. “But not so!”, you cry. But you, living in your Norman Rockwell glass bubble, are not the arbiter of universal reality, and millions of Americans have applauded actions taken during the anthem for the purpose of exercising free speech regarding this country’s horrific abuses (now in the limelight more than ever)!

If you want cohesion, bond over a common understanding of our history, good, bad, AND ugly. Bond over a universal sense of compassion and good will to all (an aesthetic apparently denigrated by both our State and Federal Administrations). Bond over a commitment to education and facing the world and the future intelligently ans rationally (as opposed to attacking teachers, slashing educational budgets, and demeaning academia).

The world Mr. Donley wants to recapture is gone forever, if it ever existed. It is time for Mr. D to either decide to join the 21st Century or be relegated to the trash heap of U.S. History, along with the culture warriors now playing “gubmint” in Juneau. YOU, however, are in the business of educating children. It is high time you got on with that, whether or not Mr. Donley is up to it.

Painting of Anacreontics

Anacreontick’s in full song, by James Gillray (died 1815), published 1801.

  1. Anchorage Daily News, https://www.adn.com/opinions/2018/11/16/anchorage-schools-should-start-the-week-with-anthem-flag-song/
  2. Whatever someone might posit that exceptionalism might be…
  3. Frankfurter, Felix, and Supreme Court Of The United States. U.S. Reports: Minersville District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586. 1939. Periodical. https://www.loc.gov/item/usrep310586/.

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