There has been a lot of fuss recently about the national anthem. About certain people's patriotism, or supposed lack of it. Those who espouse the flying of flags, the singing of anthems, and patriotism, invest these things with such importance you would think that there is only one way of belonging in the country.
Quite apart from an indisputable lack of a singing voice, and sufficient responsibility towards my fellow citizens not to want to inflict my singing upon them, I don't, and will never, sing the national anthem. It represents too many things I dislike.
Is it only me who finds the frequent reference by some Americans to America being the greatest country on earth, irksome. It recalls the kind of arrogance that had G. W. Bush saying that we were either for America or against it over Iraq, and that other less than successful war, in Afghanistan. As if there were only one view to be had of the need for those armed interventions, America's, or more precisely, that of G. W Bush and his cronies. Thus it is with the flag wavers and the Anthem singers.
My first personal objection to the national anthem is that people from all over the world feel a special bond with the place they live. I feel I belong in the country I live in, and perhaps even more so in the town I live near. But I don't want to eulogise country or town. That to me would be making an unnecessary claim for them being exceptional. I can't help feeling that those Americans who make such a din over the alleged wonders of their country sound as if they are trying too hard.
The second objection I have is to the royal family. While I have no personal animosity towards them, I think of them as the rather lack-lustre descendants of a bunch of warlords. We seem, as a country, to admire people who get ahead on their merits, but want the nation to have as a figurehead someone who has the job by accident of birth. What kind of qualification is it in the twenty first century to have tenure of a high profile job because of an accident of birth. This seems at odds to what we might be expected to admire, and they really are dull and unexceptional. Through no fault of their own, I'm sure, that is what the job they have had the misfortune to be born into, demands of them.
Finally, there is the matter of religion. Not only do I feel no no urgent desire to “save the queen” I feel no need to ask a being whose existence seems to me, on the available evidence, to be mythical, to save her either. The thought of Charles acceding to the throne with, by then, a whole hive of crazed bees in his bonnet, is not appealing either.
It has been suggested to me that the royal family represent the grand sweep of English history. But despite the parlous state of our democracy, I think we are better off voting for our leaders, than having them foisted upon us. History is not only something we look back at, but something we must make. So let us deserve the British reputation for being understated, and not irritate other nations with claims of being exceptional. Perhaps, one day, the world will be sufficiently united we can appreciate the places our fellow human beings live in, without having to make overblown claims for our own, as anthems by their nature do.