In 1931, the Star-Spangled Banner was signed into law as the official national anthem of the United States.
While our national anthem is essentially a battle hymn (take a look at the lyrics here) that is not the case for many countries in the world.
Israel and Palestine
Take these translated lyrics of Israel’s national anthem:
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
The lyrics define a particular place that is sacred to Israelis and then exclaim that, for two thousand years, it has been their destiny to live there. (Use our rich collection of resources to better understand the spiritual geography of that particular place—Jerusalem.
Of course, this claim of land ownership based on sacred grounds has some folks up in arms—literally. If you have watched the news at all for, oh … the last 40-odd years, you probably have heard about the Arab/Israeli conflict that has manifested itself in border disputes between Israel, its Palestinian population, and its surrounding Arab neighbors.
Perhaps it is no surprise then, that Palestine’s national anthem is one of struggle against adversity:
By my strong will and my inflaming rage, my volcanic revenge
By my yearning blood for my land and home
I have climbed the mountains and combated struggles
I have subdued in the impossible and smashed the shackles
The violent-yet-heroic lyrics suggest a national culture of pride and a longing for a day when Palestinians can reclaim what many interpret as their lands.
The two anthems, of course, represent the cultural identities of these countries in much the same way our Star-Spangled Banner represents ours—as a general barometer of national identity but in no way a consensus.
Some countries, like Australia, choose not to extol military victories, but instead proclaim the geography of their territories. This verse is primarily concerned with the physical geography of the country:
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts,
Of beauty rich and rare
In another verse, lyrics proclaiming Australia’s location in the Southern Hemisphere are combined with descriptions of its governmental system and continuing legacy as a nation of immigrants.
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with heart and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours,
Renowned through all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas,
We’ve boundless plains to share
Do your students think “nations of immigrants” such as Australia and the U.S. have “boundless plains to share”, or are these lyrics another reference to conflict?
The Canadian national anthem recently underwent a lyrical change, substituting a gender-neutral pronoun in its opening verse:
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
And sing songs of freedom with joy;
For justice, liberty and prosperity
Shall forever more reign.
the resounding shout of a heroic folk
And the sun of Liberty in shining beams
shone in the homeland’s sky at that instant
Finally, consider where anthems are most likely to be heard. Why do your students think national anthems are associated with sports, and not other spectator events such as theatre, dance, or gaming?