“Australian’s all let us rejoice, for we are young and free;”
For readers that are unaware, those are words that start the national anthem of Australia. Much is made by many about the wording of a national anthem or how it is performed. A rendition of our national anthem at the recent State of Origin rugby league match in Melbourne by a young actress playing “Annie” in the musical of the same name set social media networks alight with, in the main, condemnation of the Australian Rugby League’s choice of singer.
I have been heard to regularly lament the inappropriateness of those chosen to sing our national anthem at sport and other events of note. My frustration in that context is the fact that often the singer chosen seems to think they need to make the melody sound like one of their songs. Whilst this is something I dislike, it is not the subject of this blog. What I did want to mention however was a worrying lack of respect for our national anthem that seems to regularly arise at events I attend.
This lack of respect reached its epoch for me on Saturday night when I attended the Australia v Wales rugby union test match at Lang Park (regular followers on twitter will know that I decline to refer to the hallowed turf by its corporate moniker). As is usual for me I got to the ground early, was well settled in my seat and had already struck up a conversation with some of the fans around me in anticipation of the game ahead.
All too soon it was time for the players to run onto the ground and the national anthems. This is where my enjoyment of the night ratcheted down a notch. Upon hearing the announcement “Would you all please be upstanding for the national anthems of Wales and Australia”, an attendee sitting behind me was heard to retort “there is no way I am standing up for any stupid #$#$%# anthem”. The bloke behind me was lucky that the music had started because I was incensed. How dare he be so rude? Fortuitously, the two friends that he had attended the game with and his girl friend all castigated this individual during the break between anthems and he did stand up for the Australian national anthem.
This frankly is not an isolated incident. It seems that every time I attend an event at which the anthem is to be sung there is a melancholy that surrounds its singing. If it is not failing to stand for the anthem it is not removing ones hat when the anthem is sung or talking to your mates during the anthem.
How did we get to a point where it would seem that the singing of a song that celebrates our country is chore for many that is not respected?
The national anthem of any country is, or ought be, a celebration of its people, the country and its identity. This issue of respect for the anthem having bounced around in my head for a while, I was left to ponder what the younger generations of Australians (or of any nationality) are taught about their national anthem.
I went through school during a time when in grade 1 we learnt the words of the national anthem and at every school assembly (every week) we sung the anthem (along with God Save the Queen before 1986). The anthem was a pivotal to the teaching of history in the early grades and was interwoven through our understanding of our nation identity. Is it the same now?
Ultimately, I just don’t understand the mindset that leads one to not want to celebrate the identity of their country. I love my country and I will always sing the national anthem loudly and proudly.
The question to leave you with is: will you?