2008-07-01 - 12:20 p.m.
Happy O Canada day.
K started off this morning by blasting the national anthem out our back porch. But as a result of an accidental click-by on our music server, he played the US anthem by mistake...oops. (at least then I knew the words...). And then, he scrolled up and couldn't help himself, and so out came a Haydn string quartet playing a famous Ode to the Kaiser (which thanks to the World Cup, I now sing as Deutschland! Deutschland! Unter Espagne...ahem). But then finally we made it to O Canada! and played it, and sang:
"O Canada! bla bla bla bla!!"
(and then we downloaded the words...how embarrassing).
AND THEN, while downloading the words, I found the whole five panel G&M discussion about whether or not G-d should be mentioned in the anthem text, and how it wasn't part of the original text, but was added later, but how the French version is even more definitively Crusader Christian with references to swords and crosses, and what it all means, yada yada yada.
There's a similar discussion with the US Pledge of Allegiance which had "under God" added to it in the 1950s, I believe to differentiate a "god-fearing nation" from atheistic Commies... Don't get me wrong, words are important and very powerful. But I kinda feel like I DID these discussions already, and so it was a bit of an eye-roller for me. (I more enjoyed the US/Canada quiz and ensuing discussion. For the record, I got 10/10 right about the USA and 5/10 right for Canada - which I think sits me above average for both countries...I will print out the quiz and give it to Susi every year so that she's a prepared citizen of North America, able to leap tall newspaper quizzes in a single bound...)
But with those asides aside, along with a vow to learn the text before the next ballgame (or at LEAST before the next Canada day), K and I started getting all excited about anthems. So we played:
East Germany. - wow. Auferstanden aus Ruinen (Risen from Ruins). I imagined a bunch of enthusiastic DDR scouts in blue blazers with yellow scarves assembled in lines on a huge field, singing passionately for May Day... and those same scouts grown into cynical 40-something employees, sitting around their Stammtisch in the Kneipe, with beer and Rostbraetl, with a small laugh, a shrug, and a faint hint of nostalgia in the air. But that line - "Risen from Ruins" - it is poignant. Power of words, indeed.
Switzerland. one word. BORING.
Austria. Austria was EXTREMELY cool. Nevermind the text. You can just imagine beer and dirndls and pretzels and oom-pah bands up on mountain tops. I loved the Austrian anthem.
England. God Save Our Queen. Of if you are in the US of A, "Of thee I sing." I really like the US words to this song, and for all of my childhood I never even realized that this was the anthem for England. And when I finally did hear it (I think it might have been around the wedding of Charles and Di), I wondered why they would use a song with American Patriotic lyrics for their anthem. Sometimes I can be pretty dense.
USA. We played it again, and I know all the words - so I belted them out for a rather startled-looking Susi. In fact, I know and love the story behind the writing of this anthem, because my mother grew up in Baltimore near Fort McHenry where the text was written by Francis Scott Key in 1812. I visited Fort McHenry nearly every year when I was a kid, and watched the movie about The Battle at Fort McHenry. It always made my mother cry when the movie ended, and the curtains were pulled open to display THAT VERY SAME FLAG that Key saw - the banner waving in mid-air that he could only see flying over the fort through the light of the rockets' red glare.. And then I hate to admit it, but when the song plays now, I think of Fort McHenry, and my mother, and the story behind the writing of the poem, and going there with my grandma every year as a kid when it was 100 stifling degrees in the Maryland heat, and now even *I* start to get misty-eyed, and have to stop myself from shedding a tear. How totally embarrassing for a cynic like me. It's all about association.
So then, instead of the words, I start to think about the fact that I'm singing text that has been set to an old drinking song, or how my uncle used to break the somber mood at Fort McHenry by screaming PLAY BALL!!! at the end of that movie, to a room full of startled tourists. And then I'm no longer sitting at a Funcouver Canadians game looking like I'm about to become a bawling idiot..oh, the power of words, and the power of nostalgia, and the power of things and ideas and how we *wish* things would be.
Anyway, Happy Canada Day. Especially to those of you who have grown up with these words and this melody, and it means something to you - either through that little pocket of patriotism and pride that exists in all of us, or because of those long years of hearing it, so that you've developed your own fond history to the song and words:
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
From far and wide,
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
(and now I think I'll go listen the anthem of Slovenia...)
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...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29