Why do we stand for the national anthem?

Double meaning intended!
I’m old enough to remember the queen’s silver jubilee. That at least was tempered by some robust criticism, as a friend recently reminded me (my own memory being only marginally better than that of a goldfish) by the Sex Pistols…

God save the queen,
She ain’t no human being,
There is no future
In England’s dreaming.[1.]

A clever piece of marketing, designed to appeal to the large proportion of the population who don’t want to be ‘reigned over’. That may have boosted sales, but in my opinion it was head and shoulders above most of the pop music of the time, and certainly of anything that’s around at the moment. Apparently it reached number one in the charts, but in a shameful, if not entirely unexpected act of censorship to appease the establishment, it was curiously missing from Top Of The Pops.

Forty-five years on, and this time around I hardly noticed any dissent – so much for progress! We’ve had to suffer weeks of sickening sycophancy by the media, with the royal frenzy cheer-led by the monarchy’s partner in crime (against the people) the Church of England.

But hearing the national anthem for the first time in a long time brought back into my mind a rather tricky ethical question – if I were to find myself at an event where the national anthem is played, and everyone else stands up, what do I do? This was very nearly tested a few weeks ago at the English Haydn Festival (yes I know; not very trendy, but Haydn’s music is considerably better even than that of the Pistols). The opening and closing concerts were to start with a rendition of the national anthem. In fact I decided only go to one concert from the week-long festival, so it was easy enough to avoid these two.

But the dilemma remains – what would I do if I were to find myself at an event where the anthem is played, and everyone is expected to get to their feet? For me the national anthem, which entreats a character I’m certain is fictional (god) to ‘save’ (whatever that means) a head of state there by right of birth, is an insult to my beliefs. The idea I should be expected to honour it by standing up is ‘like, against my human rights and shit’. What do I do? Remain resolutely seated, the subject of the disapproval of everyone around me, and risking verbal, or even physical abuse from one or more of my fellow human beings who happen to be joyfully unburdened by the affliction of free-thinking? Or abandon my own principles and stand to attention with the rest of the herd?

What would you do in my position?

text and ‘Black Jack’ image © graham wright 2022

[1.] NOTE: apologies for any offence caused to residents of Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland, by the band failing to acknowledge that the UK is so much more than just England.

About literarylad

Graham Wright is a freelance writer and author. His first novel, Single Point Perspective, is set in and around the city of Manchester, where he lived and worked for more than fifteen years. His second, Moojara, is set in and around the world, but mostly centres on Perth, Western Australia. Both are works of dramatic literary fiction - imaginative, serious and thoughtful, but with a sense of humour. Graham is currently living in north Shropshire, where he is busy working on novel number three.
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