The Star-Mangled Banner

Posted: Jan 21, 2006 12:05 AM
There’s probably no single piece of writing in this country that’s as controversial or as likely to lead to fist fights as the U.S. Constitution. It’s difficult to decide which portion of the document gets people riled up the most. At times, it almost seems to change on a daily basis. On Monday, it could be gun ownership, with folks like Michael Moore frothing at the mouth at the mere thought that a law-abiding citizen might own a weapon. You’d think Moore was planning to burgle your home the way he frets over the possibility you might actually be armed.

On Tuesday, it could be the pointy-headed crowd at the ACLU that’s in full throttle, demanding that illegal aliens are entitled to all the rights and privileges of American citizens, not to mention a chicken in every pot.

But, as a rule, if you’re really in the mood to see blood spilled, take advantage of your right to free speech by taking a position on the first amendment. For instance, there are those who argue there should be absolutely no limits on free speech, even when it comes to pornography, blasphemy or sedition. For all I know, they might even object to libel and slander laws, seeing them as infringements on the people’s inalienable right to lie their heads off. These same zealots would probably object to the injunction against screaming “Fire!” in a crowded theater. To me, such an interpretation of the amendment is not only insane, but insulting to the fellows who hammered out the Constitution 230 years ago in Philadelphia. Whatever else Adams, Franklin, Jefferson and their 53 colleagues may have been, they were not lunatics.

Lately, I’ve been hearing news that Congress may pass a law making the burning of the flag illegal. Emotionally, as the son of Russian immigrants who came to this country in the hope of finding a better life, and discovered that reality for once exceeded even their wildest dreams, I can well understand the motivation. But I’m not sure I’d want to deny an American the right to burn a flag, so long as it’s not the one in front of my house, as I think his puny act of adolescent rebellion merely lets the rest of us know what a pitiful buffoon and pathetic ingrate he is.

Not being a constitutional scholar, I am naturally reluctant to become too embroiled in these matters. However, there is one thing about which I have a strong opinion, and I find it odd that nobody else seems as incensed as I. I’m referring to the singing of our national anthem at public events.

Admittedly, “The Star-Spangled Banner” lacks a certain something, musically speaking. But over the years, singers ranging from Kate Smith to Richard Tucker have been able to do it justice, merely by singing it simply and sincerely. But at some point during the past ten years or so, certain female singers have decided that the only way to perform it was as if they were auditioning to provide orgasms for a porno soundtrack.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps these song birds don’t intend any disrespect to the anthem. Perhaps they simply don’t understand that patriotism means loving your country, not having sex with it.