I was deeply moved last night hearing the Russians belt out their national anthem. It is a powerful song with mood shifts, somber, serious, glorious and ebullient. Our American anthem is so stiff and requires too much vocal range for ordinary people. It would not even make the top 1000, much less top 40 in the twentieth century. It’s a crappy piece of music. We might as well sing the Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars … bump bump bum dump da dum dump da dum …
Here in Colorado, we have “Rocky Mountain High.” If you ever want a shiver in your spine and a tear in your eye, stand in an auditorium and sing that song at the top of your lungs with everyone else. THAT is an anthem. THAT is what it should be – a glorious celebration of people and place.
Some people want our anthem to be “America the Beautiful.” If we have to choose between only two, I’ll take that one. But Paul Simon’s American Tune is more realistic:
I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
We’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong.
The Winter Olympics were a spectacular failure from an American point of view, that is, NBC did not make a bundle. Zounds! Americans did not win the most medals. Zounds! From the Russian point of view, it was win-win. They invested $50 billion in infrastructure, and showed the world, just as the Chinese did in 2008, that they are alive and well.
As I read the 2008 Chinese statement, they were projecting immense power in their people as they work for common goals. There was a tremendous amount of regimentation in the Chinese games. The Russians, on the other hand, came at us with beautiful spectacle and artistic flurry. It was an extravaganza of dance and color and technology. Up until 1990, as part of our propaganda system, TV images of the Soviet Union were usually in back and white. Women were dour and matronly, people projected to us as regimented into small apartments and collective farms as they were watched for any sign of disloyalty. That was probably never true. It was no workers’ paradise, but neither was it a concentration camp. That whole attitude was a a product of our propaganda system. It allowed our bankers and arms manufacturers to bust our own treasury on weaponry by claiming to be thwarting the evil Soviets.
And now look around! Americans are the ones who are being watched 24/365 as our one-percenters scour the landscape for new enemies to attack. We did a fine job of projection back then, but now it is not working quite as well. Television images bypassed our censors. The words that accompany the pictures fade away, Images rule, as all propagandists know.
Is it just me, by the way, or did Noelle Pikus-Pace-in-our-face get really old really fast? She was to be our mascot, I suppose.
What I have seen throughout these Olympics is just kids, happy kids, from all over the Northern hemisphere. Russia opened itself up to us, bypassed the American censors, and allowed us to see it in its full beauty – its people, art, landscape and to hear a powerful, moving national anthem. Of course NBC took every opportunity to make condescending remarks about mechanical difficulties, poor facilities, as if they’ve never traveled or squatted over a floor toilet. Just remember how the lights went out in Louisiana – Katrina in 2005, and the Superbowl in 2013.
And Putin, of course, was portrayed as dour and menacing. He’s being demonized in our system right now, as his country is putting up roadblocks to Wall Street and London in their incessant looting schemes. Most recently he thwarted them in Syria. Soon he’ll be on the cover of Time Magazine with horns, just as Milosevic, Hussein, and Gaddafi and now Assad have been portrayed.
What a beautiful spectacle those Olympics were. Welcome back, Russia! We’ve missed you. May the world have a little more peace, a few less massacres, perhaps even some international harmony now that you’re up and running again. You are too big and powerful to make war on – at best, we can only use you as an evil empire to justify our own aggression. But you do have the power to stop Wall Street in its tracks. And thanks for showing us your healthy, happy kids. Congrats on the medals.