Monday, July 08, 2002

The Anthem as Hymn
Well, yesterday afternoon we went by the park at Meadow and Park (called Meadow Park), to hear Page and Reckless Abandon play a free concert. It was a nice afternoon, with humidity levels decreasing (Gott sei dank). We rode bikes. About sixty people were there, mostly from the surrounding, renovated, multihundred-thousand-dollar homes. It's a nice city neighborhood. You can tell it's nice because the people were drinking surreptitiously...but instead of beer in their coolers, they chilled pinot grigio and bordeaux and corbiéres...and not Boone's Farm, either (the drink of the people in another nearby park).
Page sounded very good, running through his standard set..."Skin Quarter," "I Know You Rider," "Nightrider's Lament," "Swim Nekkid," and so on. Of course, his between-song patter hasn't really changed much (word for word) since 1979. Still, good players with him and, let's face it, the price was right.
Then he began his rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." It's great, really...a bit plaintive, a slower tempo than marching bands play it, and also haunting and evocative. I've always enjoyed it when he plays it at The Diamond. A true highlight of the Richmond baseball season. So when he began, I stopped my conversation with Ellie and Nathanial and Karen and Duffy and Shell to listen. After about eight bars, people started standing up...a few at first, then more and more. You could see it in their eyes: Do I stand or do I sit? What's the protocol?'s not a baseball game, it's not an "official function," but it is the song of the country...I remained sitting...along with (some of) my friends. I could see and also feel eyes directed on us, as if to say, "Who are these hippies? Communists? Taliban? Whut the hell's wrong with them?"
So post-September 11, the freedom not to stand when the SSB is played is in danger. Hey, folks, it's just a song. Context gives it meaning and importance...but it's really

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