Our ethic is "It's every man for himself. And to hell with you. Me. Me, me, me, me. My, my, I, I, I. I."
Michael Moore, interview, Bowling for Columbine DVD
America needs a national anthem that accurately reflects its cultural mindset. The present choices don't cut the mustard. Consider:
"America the Beautiful"? Beauty is for chicks and sissies. Any song with "fruited" plains plainly isn't manly enough.
"God Bless America," the song favored after the 9/11/01 attacks on America? This song sounds as if we're asking God to bless us, rather than assuming we're already God's blessed people. We can't allow any doubt on that point.
Even "The Star-Spangled Banner," with its scattershot bombs bursting in air, lacks a certain toughness. Where are the enemies crushed under heel, the resounding cock-crows of triumph, the God-given sense of entitlement that make America what it is?
What about Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Our Land" (1952)? As you'll recall, the lyrics begin:
The God-given sense of entitlement is there, as is the idea of possessing something that doesn't belong to us. But there's no sense of whom we took the land from or why they deserved to lose it. Or as one Native American put it:
Many of our people died to make this land "your" land as you marched from east to west and south to north sweeping all before you. Those of us who remain are now in large part convinced to believe this land is "your" land...to send our young in defense of your policies to foreign shores...to celebrate "your" federal holiday in honor of "your" land.
Yes! That's the spirit we need in our national anthem!
A more serious problem with "This Land Is Our Land" is its little-known last verse:
Whoa. This is liberal/socialist/Communist propaganda. It's clearly un-American. No way can any song containing lyrics like these be our national anthem.
Fortunately, my good buddy Ron alerted me to the work of the "death metal" group Morbid Angel. The lead song from their "Domination" album captures the kill-or-be-killed, every-man-for-himself mindset of America nicely. It's so representative that I suggest we make it our new national anthem. Any takers for this 21st-century brainstorm of mine?
Weak aside -- no place for those our struggle
Our Lord won't tolerate those whom through
We must dominate !
With iron through our veins and a will made so elite
Hunting for our daily bread and the sinister close in sight
Hunger always drives the beast and the women fall prey
Leading all the wonderers to certain fate
Another victim reviled
I'm staring at you through the eyes of the wolf
Tell me who is going to save you now !
Animal sense ever alert
Praise be to the father-war
As a servant I am serving myself and I bathe in anticipation
Unless you taste it you could never know
All the power our Lord bestow
With a bow and a kiss profane
Be a victor or be a victim
Since it's a rock song, "Dominate" naturally doesn't make perfect sense. But its heart and soul are in the right place. Women, the weak, and the "wonderers" will be cast aside or preyed upon. And that final line...wow.
"Be a victor or a victim": That sums up America so much better than "land of the free, home of the brave." If you're free and you're brave—not to mention angry and armed (with money or guns)—you'll dominate all those losers and whiners who get in your way. You know the people I mean. You'll be victorious over them, not victimized by them.
Let's cut out the rhetoric and cut to the chase. The goal of most Americans isn't to be free, it's to use freedom to aggrandize and enrich themselves. That's exactly the point of the much-touted American Dream. In a word, "success."
Is it any coincidence that Survivor, or "survival of the fittest," and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or "get rich quick," were the hottest properties of 2000? I don't think so. Both glorify the victor, not the victim.
Being No. 1, the prize winner, the king of the hill, the most beautiful, the richest, the best...that's what America is all about.
Remember, as football coach/slugger Woody Hayes once said, "Without winners there would be no civilization."
More "kill or be killed"
Here's another all-American song from Morbid Angel:
Cold finger on the trigger
Behind a line drawn in the sand
Anger rise !
We fight a war with much at stake
The rights of birth that no one can take
Overflowing with anger
A soon to be awakening
Will be martyrs on to glory
Dawn finds us in this rage
As it must be
This dawn of the mad
My finger on the button
With what's so foreign in my sights
Anger rise !
We wage a war ... our nature to preserve
By any means ... our enemies be gone
No longer can we wait
As an enemy drains our future
As the light of a new day shines
Our anger fuels our march this dawn
Call of duty ... all the minutemen rise and shine
Call of duty ... only sovereigns stand the test of time
Inspiring, no? Maybe we could replace "Hail to the Chief"—another less-than-illuminating tune—with this lovely gem. Or if the Republican Party needs a theme song...well, 'nuff said.
If another Hitler or Stalin arises, I nominate David Vincent, the genius who wrote these lyrics, to write his anthem. Morbid Angel has captured the mindset of gun nuts, militia men, criminals, despots, and Nazis everywhere.
Tim McVeigh, who qualifies as a gun nut, militia man, and criminal, certainly understands and appreciates this kind of music. As a recent book on McVeigh reports:
The theme of these songs is clear: Take the law into your own hands to redress perceived grievances against you and yours. If someone has victimized you, victimize others to get the money, power, or "justice" you deserve. We might call this a vigilante or Punisher mentality.
For the media preferences of other serial killers, see The Evidence Against Media Violence.
What about rap?
Rap is a pervasive influence among today's youth. An article in the LA Times, 3/29/01, describes the messages broadcast over the airwaves:
At worst, "everything is 'Yo, wassup, wassup, playa?'" says Walt "Baby" Love, a veteran Los Angeles radio personality, now with KJLH-FM (102.3), which plays older R&B music. "Ignorance is supreme. Some of these people on the radio nowadays, they don't care if someone walks down the street and shoots 10 people. They'll make some joking comment about it."
[M]ost urban DJs indulge talk of "big pimpin'"—the violence and ostentatious wealth—that fills much of gangsta rap.
The whole point of rap seems to be inflating one's ego at the expense of others. On many rap albums you can hear self-important boasts of superiority and dominance. The message is that winning is everything. Do whatever you can to reach the top and destroy anyone who gets in your way.
Allen Iverson, a pro basketball star, gained notoreity for the hate-filled lyrics on his first rap album in 2000. Iverson's lyrics are typical of many rap songs. These songs are too profane and incomprehensible to qualify as our anthem, but they reveal our national character. They tell us what people will say and do to appeal to others—to be a popular success.
Compare Iverson's "40 Bars" to Morbid Angel's "Dominate" and "Dawn of the Angry":
40 Bars by Allen Iverson
Jewelz aim to slain anything on this plane
You man enuff to pull a gun be man enuff to squeeze it Hats off to the hardcore niggaz FUCK the rest
In my guess y'all useless, just talkin music
Won't catch me as a victim and a rap casualty
Y'all slobbin I'm spittin wit a mouf full of rage Everybody stay fly get money kill and fuck bitches I'm hittin anything in plain view for my riches I'm a giant y'all midgets I know killaz that kill for a fee
That'll kill yo' ass for free, believe me
How you wanna die fast or slowly? Takin anything that's rightfully mines
Die reachin fo heat, leave you leakin in da street
Dominate and Dawn of the Angry by Morbid Angel
Cold finger on the trigger
With what's so foreign in my sights Leading all the wonderers to certain fate
Another victim reviled Weak aside -- no place for those our struggle
Leaves behind Dawn finds us in this rage Hunger always drives the beast and the women fall prey As a servant I am serving myself and I bathe in anticipation Be a victor or be a victim I'm staring at you through the eyes of the wolf
Tell me who is going to save you now !
We fight a war with much at stake
The rights of birth that no one can take By any means ... our enemies be gone
The views in these songs embody the American credo. "I'm the greatest, I'm a giant, I'm a victor...and you're a loser, a midget, a victim." "I make the rules, you obey them." I'm not an expert on rap, so if anyone knows a rap song that would make a good national anthem, please suggest it for this contest. (No profanity, please, since moms and kids will be singing the new anthem at baseball games.)
Defenders claim rap merely reflects our troubled youth's pain and anger. Okay, fine...then why is so much of the pain and anger directed at women, gays, and other rappers? Are women, gays, and other rappers causing the problems of troubled youth—or any youth?
I don't think so. This "pain and anger" argument is an excuse to justify "Dominate"-style ranting that otherwise would be socially taboo. It's no more valid than the Twinkie defense in the Harvey Milk killing.
Just kids being kids?
One typical counterargument to all this is that violent songs don't mean anything. They're just our kids' way of irritating their parents, as kids have always done. From Elvis Presley on, music is only about harmless rebellion.
The SchoolRumors.com affair puts the lie to this claim. On a website most parents didn't know about, boys and girls posted vicious, hateful attacks on their peers. Today's kids aren't pretending to be angry, they really are angry.
Here's what one writer had to say about the mentality of Andy Williams, the Santee shooter who killed two and wounded 13. From the LA Times, 3/9/01:
But even in the movies, of course, 15-year-old heroes don't have guns. And in real life, most boys, most people, no matter how angry or frustrated, are able to control their behavior, if not their emotions.
In the end, the thing that made Andy Williams different from millions of frustrated and vengeful students was the gun. Without the gun, there would be no tragedy, no sorrow, no fear, no anger spreading like a familiar stain across the country. Without the gun, he might have thrown some rocks, spray-painted a wall, slashed a tire or even an arm. In high school, we all have our moments of insanity. "Rebel Without a Cause," S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" all touch that nerve. In those years, we all want to be prettier, more popular, faster, stronger, smarter, tougher, cooler, better. We want to be loved, respected, admired. But if that doesn't seem to be happening, some will settle for being feared.
"I'm staring at you through the eyes of the wolf," sings Morbid Angel. "Tell me who is going to save you now!" We don't know if that was Williams's state of mind when he was shooting, but it's a good guess.
"Dominate" goes way back
I wish I could say these songs are an aberration, but they exemplify centuries of Euro-American history. We can trace the "dominate" mentality at least back to the Bible, which promoted the idea of Judeo-Christians as the "chosen people":
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
[W]hat is man that thou shouldst remember him,
Mortal man that thou shouldst care for him?
Yet thou hast made him little less than a god,
Crowning him with glory and honor.
Thou makest him master over all thy creatures;
Thou hast put everything under his feet.
If only you will now listen to me and keep my covenant, then out of all peoples you shall become my special possession; for the whole earth is mine. You shall be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.
And how did these chosen people define and deploy themselves? As soldiers in the war against Satan and his legions of unbelievers. Those who became Christians would win and enjoy the glories of Heaven. The rest would lose and be consigned to Hell.
God be praised, he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm and immovable, and work for the Lord always, work without limit, since you know that in the Lord your labor cannot be lost.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58
For to love God is to keep his commands; and they are not burdensome, because every child of God is victor over the godless world. The victory that defeats the world is our faith, for who is victor over the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:3-5
Be a Christian (victor) or be a heathen (victim).
Others agree with this position. For instance, in Intolerant Liberalism, Madeleine Bunting discusses western fundamentalism: the West's irrational belief in its own moral superiority. Identifying its source, she writes: "Its roots go back further to its inheritance of Christianity's claim to be the one true faith."
And from an article titled Gandhi's Seven Root Causes: An East-West Dialectic Synthesis by Dr. Gerry Lower:
In the JudeoRoman world, there was no religious sin, however, in failing to honor the ethical precepts of nascent Christianity. That is one of the more obvious differences between nascent Christianity and the JudeoRoman church which the Roman emperor, Constantine, established in the name of Christ. Rome's unholy synthesis of Christian ethics and Jewish (God-given) and Roman (Imperial) law provided Rome the absolutist, self-righteous authority to conquer the western world in the name of an ethical morality which it seldom, itself, practiced, most noteably at the top. Rather, JudeoRomanism has provided the driving attitudes beneath western imperialism, colonialism and the current Bush administration's religious capitalism. The western world remains Roman after all these years, still Catholic despite the Lutheran and myriad Protestant Reformations.
For more on the origin of the urge to dominate, see Manifest Destiny = America's Pathology.
Us vs. them
These attitudes continued through the years. St. Augustine defined non-Christians as sick or evil. Popes declared themselves infallible and launched Crusades and the Inquisition. Columbus implemented the Christian mandate to enslave and convert the barbaric Natives. Americans decided it was their Manifest Destiny to bring God-given civilization to the continent and the world. They all believed it was their birthright to dominate.
Dominating in good conscience meant rationalizing your ungodly behavior. So proponents of Western civilization—again, the chosen ones—portrayed their opponents as animals and children or as evildoers and agents of Satan. As one example, here's a quote about James Fenimore Cooper, author of Last of the Mohicans (1826), one of the first great American novels:
Cooper captures his society's obsession with domination by imbuing his main protagonist, Hawkeye, with all the desired traits of the new Americans. Hence, Cooper "chose as a hero a man who subdues the Indians and the wilderness, [and] ris[es] to a position of influence within his community" (Tuska 57). A position based on Hawkeye's whiteness. For, as Hawkeye ironically exclaims: "I am not a prejudiced man, nor one who vaunts himself on his natural privileges, though the worst enemy I have on earth, and he is an Iroquois, daren't deny that I am genuine white" (Cooper 31). Hawkeye continues his polemic speech against the Native Indians: "I call them Iroquois, because to me every native, who speaks a foreign tongue, is accounted an enemy" (50). Hawkeye incorporates the tenets of his Judeo-Christian ideology, literally.
So anyone who speaks a foreign tongue "is accounted an enemy"...the finger's on the button "with what's so foreign in my sights"...and "Hats off to the hardcore niggaz FUCK the rest." Leatherstocking, David Vincent, and Allen Iverson...three pseudo-patriots in a pod. They're a true inspiration to victors and victor wannabes everywhere.
America loves a winner
The trend of individuals glorifying theselves at the expense of others has accelerated in recent decades, which may explain our recent problems with sex and violence. These days everyone expects their 15 minutes of fame. From "Personalities Non Grata?" by David Shaw in the LA Times, 9/25/01:
The desire to escape the routine—or the horror that has disrupted the routine—is not uniquely American, of course. But the preoccupation with celebrity is, if not unique, at least far greater in this country than elsewhere. As Peter Jennings, the anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight," once observed, "No country in the world is so driven by personality," has such a "hunger to identify with personalities, larger-than-life personalities especially ... as this one."
Hollywood has helped to both create and feed that hunger. There is another, even more distinctively American force that contributes to the cult of the celebrity: our historic exaltation of the individual. In such diverse cultures as Western Europe, Australia and many Asian countries, the desires of the individual have traditionally been subordinated to the needs of the community.
But the United States was founded on the bedrock of individual freedoms; liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been self-evident truths of the American life since July 4, 1776. Academics use the term "American exceptionalism" to describe our tendency to attribute to many achievers a stature not so easily given in other countries. We are, after all, a democracy, with no monarch, so we create our own royalty out of these achievers—or, in some cases, malefactors or even innocent (or not-so-innocent) bystanders.
And from an op-ed column by cultural critic Neil Gabler in the LA Times, 2/11/01:
By the end of the 20th century, however, individualism was no longer the product of a set of political rights so much as it was a form of cultural assertiveness. Fed by a constant emphasis in the mass media on personality, exceptionality and celebrity, the individual wasn't the person who reserved certain inalienable rights to himself; he was the person who got the most attention, which is why people like Donald Trump or Puff Daddy or Dennis Rodman or Madonna have all been cited as examples of individualism when they were really examples of exhibitionism. Whereas once individualism meant protecting oneself from the incursions of society, now it was an incursion on society—a kind of showing off. That, naturally, affected the balance between the individual and the community.
It is nearly 20 years since historian Christopher Lasch, seeing this change in our concept of individualism, declared America a "culture of narcissism," but what Lasch said then has only intensified with time. The forces of consumption and advertising, the emphasis on personal psychology and the obsession with the here and now that Lasch cited, as well as the various results of these forces—increased promiscuity, drug use and other forms of self-gratification, the growth of the self-awareness movement, an increasing trivialization of personal relations and a new callousness—have all contributed to a new way of seeing ourselves not as parts of a whole, but as the whole.
In this environment, subordinating oneself to the community is actually stupid and self-defeating. Individuals generally regarded as successful are those who don't subordinate themselves. They jump from the anonymous pack. The social consequences of this new individualism are all around us. In his recent study, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," political science professor Robert Putnam found that over the last four decades, there has been a decline in civic engagement and a concomitant retreat into the self. Participation in voting, service on committees, church attendance, social gatherings, philanthropy, even the number of dinner parties—all have dropped. As Putnam makes clear, this is truer of younger Americans than of older ones. Though Putnam wouldn't put it this way, it all leads to an inescapable conclusion: Selfishness is on the rise.
Being selfish is bad, but being the star, the top dog, the victor is cool. Which is why we need a new national anthem for these increasingly selfish times. Returning to our original question of which song we should choose:
Does "The Star-Spangled Banner" say anything about subduing the Indians, taming the wilderness, or exporting America's values to the world? Does it say anything about conquering or being no. 1? No. That's why Morbid Angel's "Dominate," with its self-centered "survival of the fittest" mentality, is the best choice for America's anthem.
Vote now for your choice.
Dawn of the Angry
The Star-Spangled Banner
America the Beautiful
God Bless America
This Land Is Your Land
Natives sing it their way
Manifest Destiny = America's pathology
America's cultural mindset
That the Bible tells Christians they're superior "is a common mistake people make about Christianity."
"This piece well describes this nation's actions in situations like the Persian Gulf war or its aftermath...."
"I'm not really in favor of anything encouraging citizens to be more racist and anti-empathetic...."
Metal songs => thugs and killers: "Pretty broad stereotype there."
. . .
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