We’ve gone from protests, to riots, to autonomous zones, to attacks on police, to calls to abolish the police, to the destruction of statues, to the defacing of our most sacred memorials. Who knows; calls for the destruction, replacement, or renaming of the Washington Monument and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials may be next. It’s time to push back on what has morphed into a comprehensive assault not only on America itself, but on the very conditions of social peace.
Yet people are afraid to push back, chiefly because they are afraid of being called racist. The racism charge — wildly expanded to cover the entire American “system” — is the shield behind which an agenda of anarcho-socialist transformation now advances. No proposal is too outrageous to float, so long as opponents can be tarred as racists for rejecting it.
The way to turn this around is to sing. Specifically, the way the push back is to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Activists are now proposing to replace the “Star-Spangled Banner” with John Lennon’s “Imagine.” They say that if a tradition “hurts any part of society” we should “just throw it away.” It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that an anti-national anthem that rejects the deeply held religious views of countless Americans, the rights of her property owners, the life’s work of her entrepreneurs, indeed the very existence of America itself, might “hurt some part of society.”
My book, The Lost History of Western Civilization, begins with a discussion of Lennon’s “Imagine.” Lennon’s song is more than a popular anthem now sung at the dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Times Square. It is also the veritable program of the academics who have for decades rejected not only America, but Western civilization itself. As I show in the final part of the book, the program of Lennon’s “Imagine” is behind the race-obsessed thought-policing that has so dangerously seeped out of the campus and into our culture. In effect, the struggle between “Imagine” and the “Star-Spangled Banner” has become the politics of our day.
We should start singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” to show that we reject the dangerous anti-American turn of the movement led by Black Lives Matter. Yes, black lives — like all lives — do matter. Unfortunately, the organization that goes by that name has been using the noble desire of Americans to condemn racism as a cover for its outrageous and destructive agenda.
If you happen to be strolling by alone while an angry crowd is defacing a statue, I suppose it would be prudent to think twice before breaking into the national anthem. A larger crowd of onlookers could do it, however. Crowds in our reopened restaurants could certainly start singing our national anthem. In Italy, people managed to sing together on lockdown. Zoom videos of groups singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” might make a nice reply to movie-stars singing “Imagine.” Trump voters will be all in on this, but Never Trumpers and moderate Democrats should join as well. Surely they don’t hold with the folks who are pulling down statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and Ulysses S. Grant. Democrats traditionally celebrate the founding of their party with Jefferson-Jackson dinners, after all.
The bipartisan nature of this proposal notwithstanding, I suppose there’s a danger here of “politicizing” our national anthem. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed. And singing our national anthem is the best way to push back. It is powerful — as anyone who has watched Casablanca will know — yet it is also positive and peaceful.
No doubt there will be instances when a group singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” is drowned out by a larger (and likely much younger) group singing “Imagine.” Some of our citizens may already be that far gone, sad to say. But if that’s so, we need to know it.
In the end, and overall, I’m betting the “Star-Spangled Banner” will win. And why not try following the “Star-Spangled Banner” with “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” and “God Bless the U.S.A.” There’s a generation or two out there that’s barely heard any of these songs. It is time they did.
Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.