Monday, May 08, 2006

Oh say can you...something

ABC News demonstrates how silly it is to judge a person's patriotism or loyalty based on his or her knowledge of a song written about a battle fought during the War of 1812:

The tune — and its notoriously archaic lyrics — have been mangled by singers ever since. A recent poll revealed that 61 percent of Americans cannot correctly recite the lyrics, much less sing them.

So on a glorious spring day last week, we went to Capitol Hill and — armed with a cheat sheet of lyrics printed on a piece of paper — we marched up to tourists, school groups, tour guides and our elected officials and posed the question: Oh, say can you sing — the national anthem?

A Chorus of Excuses

Right away we thought we might have arrived at the home of the brave as Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, sweetly sang the entire song beginning to end with gusto, gesturing broadly over the final stanza to the gleaming dome of the U.S. Capitol building. But alas, she was the last to solo.

One congressman, Rep. Gene Green, R-Texas, sang the anthem along with a group of students from Houston's Herrera Elementary School. But most of the other dozen or so House members we approached suddenly had important business to conduct and fled after offering lame excuses.

"I can probably sing it with a group," said Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala. "If I was in a group, I would sing it."

"I'm not that good," said Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., as he begged off.

And Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, a reported target in the ongoing federal probe of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, waved us off claiming, "I'm on the phone with my wife."

The often-partisan bickering on Capitol Hill was absent on this issue: Every member of the House or Senate we approached insisted that the national anthem should be sung only in English. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif., said, "It's an insult" to use a foreign tongue.

One technique several congressmen used to demonstrate their lyrical knowledge of the "The Star-Spangled Banner" without having to perform it was to offer arcane facts about the song as they walked away.

"Francis Scott Key," shouted Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., as he rushed to the House floor. "In the harbor. The flag still standing."

"Oh, say can you see ABC?" mocked Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio.



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