Thursday, July 03, 2008

Narcissism In Another Color

When Denver Colorado's Mayor John Hickenlooper decided to give a `state-of- the city' speech as an official function, the city hired local singer Rene Marie to perform our national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner". Instead, Ms. Marie, without informing anyone else sang what she referred to as 'the Black national anthem', which involved putting the words of a song call "Raise Ev'ry Voice And Sing" to the tune of our national anthem and performing that because 'it expressed how I feel as a Black woman living in America.'

Most Americans are justifiably outraged, perhaps not really understanding why,but a substantial minority have no problem with what Rene Marie did. After all, she was a just expressing her feelings and wasn't that brave of her? And isn't dissent the highest form of patriotism?

That's what passes for critical thinking in some quarters these days.

There are a few things that strike me immediately about this sordid little episode.

First of all, from an ethical standpoint. Ms. Marie LIED. She was asked to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" and she agreed to do so..and then decided, out of her own narcissism and need for attention to sing what she damn well pleased, regardless of what she had agreed to do. If she felt she couldn't comply with her agreement, is there any reason she couldn't have informed the Mayor's office well in advance and pulled out? Or are we now to believe that one should only honor agreements when one feels like it, and you get a pass if you can claim victim status, or are just starved for attention? Is this yet another facet of affirmative action?

Second, she showed absolutely no consideration for the feelings of anyone else but herself, which is unfortunately typical of a certain political ideology. What Ms. Marie wanted to do was make a political statement, and one that deliberately excludes people based on race in a way the National Anthem does not. This wasn't courage, but rank cowardice, since she was well aware that due to political correctness, no one was going to call her on it. It was the exact opposite of patriotic. Frankly, she had no right to inflict her poisonous ideology on the rest of us in these circumstances.

America is not supposed to be about Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or any other permutations. It is about all of us, and so is our National Anthem. I doubt she realizes it, but Rene Marie is cluing us in to exactly how racist and exclusionary she is in that deepest inner part of her. So are a great many of those cheering her on.

Imagine the outcry if a Caucasian singer in a similar situation had gotten up and announced he or she was going to sing 'the White national anthem'? Americans of all colors would be outraged, and it would dominate the news cycle for days. And you know what? The people leading the charge would be white. It wasn't Al Sharpton who got Don Imus tossed off the air.

Does the standard on malignant narcissism somehow change when a Black person is the perpetrator? And isn't that racism in it's most classic form?

Even worse, from my personal perspective is her use of 'Raise Ev'ry Voice And Sing' as the so-called 'Black national anthem.' It's an absolutely beautiful song(which she butchered), one I first heard sung one Sunday at a function at the First AME Church in Los Angeles. But like "The Star Spangled Banner" that song belongs to ALL of us, since it's about the freeing of the slaves and the ascent to freedom, something all Americans should be proud of. The last time I checked, some white folks wearing the uniform of their country and carrying that star spangled banner had a little bit to do with that, and over 300,000 of them never came home. For someone to claim it as the so-called Black national anthem tarnishes and demeans the sacrifice of every American who put their life and principles on the line through the years to make Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of an America where people would be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin a reality.

In this context, I think we also have to examine the `60's cliche about dissent being the highest form of patriotism. I don't think it is. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, what passes for 'dissent' too often nowadays is exactly the sort of co-opting of other people's rights that Renee Marie was happy to practice here.

It's one thing to hire a hall and give a speech, or to put together a ballot initiative, or to debate something. It's another thing entirely to take advantage of someone else's space to act out, simply because you feel the need to express yourself or vent your emotions.

As far as I'm concerned, the highest form of patriotism comes when brave men and women sacrifice themselves and risk their lives so that the rest of us can enjoy the sweet bliss of living free in our Beloved Republic. I doubt that's something Renee Marie has the slightest clue about.

She ought to be ashamed, but I doubt she has the capacity, being as involved in playing a victim as she is.

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that she's a slave to it.

Have a great Fourth.

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