12/14/2011 17:37

National Anthem

"We'd like to sing the national anthem in honor of our men and women in uniform without whom we couldn't be here tonight." I heard this said at the beginning of a high school choral concert. It might have been anywhere, certainly anywhere in the United States, and it wouldn't have been any more true had it been said elsewhere.

Never mind that a national anthem ought to be sung in honor of the entire nation, a group which includes far more men and women than just the ones currently wearing military uniforms. No, my dispute today is with the second clause of this sentence.

Running down a list of typical activities performed by military people, from sandbagging riverbanks to sandbagging suspected terrorists, from deafening sea mammals through reasearching biological weapons to antagonizing allied Asian governments and shooting Afghanis, I am at a loss to find anything which bears on our ability to gather at the local school to listen to children sing innocuous songs representing the majority cultural tradition of this area. We need not restrict ourselves to the immediate present; looking back across the lifetimes of the students, the lifetime of the teacher, nay even across my entire lifetime, the military has done nothing specific to safeguarding our ability to listen to 40 minutes of juvenile musical performance.

Of course, they've done something; the military has been busy. But where has there been a military threat to the operations of the local schools which our "men and women in uniform" might have quelled on our behalf? In actual reality there have been no such threats.

But mere truth doesn't interfere with the repetition.