Sunday, April 30, 2006

Nuestro Himno

A new "Spanish version of our national anthem" is in the news, and the song has made a lot of controversy [you can hear the song for yourself here]. The pro-immigrant side says the immigrants who haven't learned the English language will have the opportunity to learn about America: the American country, the American people, the American flag, and the American tradition. The anti-immigrant side says the "Star-Spangled Banner" should be sung in English, and when our national anthem is sung in a different language, it is insulting to all Americans. Both sides are missing the point.

First of all, it's called "Nuestro Himno" - translated in English, "Our Anthem", and it is no big deal. A Spanish version of "Star-Spangled Banner" is a misnomer. "Our Anthem" and "Star-Spangled Banner" are two separate entities. Even the lyrics of the two are different. They are talking about the same idea, but there is a difference between the two. "God Bless America" is not America's national anthem. "America the Beautiful" is not America's national anthem. "I'm Proud to be an American" is not America's national anthem. But the anthem plus all three of these have the same meaning. Two different love songs which have the same concepts are two different songs.

Musically, they are closer. I guess they have the same key; however, the "Star-Spangled Banner" is sung in many different keys (to acquire different voices). The chord progressions are similar, but there are differences between the two. The melodies are more different than the chord progressions. To an average listener, if you didn't tell him/her that song is the Spanish national anthem, that listener could not tell. Even if you translate the song to English, the average listener couldn't connect the two. The only way that listener could connect the dots is the wording of the title (i.e., "Our Anthem").

But, most of all, it is a song; that's it. It is like burning the American flag. The flag is nothing more than red, white, and blue nylon or cloth, like the British flag, the Confederate flag, the state flags, or even the "diver-down" flag. The anthem is nothing more than a song; words on music, like a rock song, a country song, or even a opera opus. The meaning behind the flag, or behind the song; that is what matters. I believe the meaning behind the song (or flag) is freedom/liberty. If you want to burn the flag, or sing the anthem in Spanish, if you don't violate anyone else's right (e.g., the flag is your property), you have the freedom to do it. I will sing it in English, but that's me (i.e., that's the only language I know!). If you don't know me by now, I have a passion about liberty. America means liberty in the 18-19th century. America strayed off towards tyranny in the 20th century, and especially the 21st century. That is why I don't get passionate when the flag is waving, or the crowd starts singing the anthem. But what I feel passionate about is to turn this country around towards the direction of liberty, again. Let's bring it back towards freedom, like the times of the Founders. And, if all else fails, I will abandon my country for something freer. Like I said, I have the desire to live in a free society. And one step in the right direction is to let individuals sing the anthem in any language they want.

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