Is Beyoncé really American?

I don’t mean to start the New Year like a Fox News presenter, but I am shocked – shocked! – at the news that President Obama has chosen Beyoncé to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at his second inauguration on 21 January.

Surely that role should only go to the most patriotic of Americans, someone whose blood isn’t just red, but white and blue as well; someone whose heart could never be shared with another country?

But what’s that clip above? It couldn’t possibly be Beyoncé singing Nigeria’s national anthem, Arise O Compatriots, could it? God, it’s bad enough that Obama’s Kenyan!

(To any regular readers, I promise I’ll go back to doing serious pieces of anthem-related journalism soon [crosses fingers behind back]!)

Voting for a president based on The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner has finally – finally! – made an appearance in the US presidential race.

Unfortunately, it’s not been raised by either Obama or Romney, but by a pensioner from DeMotte, Indiana, named Berlin Wyman.

Berlin recently wrote into his local paper, The Times of Indiana, with the stunning observation that “if Olympians can sing the anthem, why can’t Obama?”

“Isn’t it a shame that our president can only stand and look bored while the anthem is being played,” he wrote. “If you plan on voting for him in November, I suggest instead you accompany him to Kenya and salute their anthem.”

Berlin hasn’t received the best feedback for his comments. But his letter does raise an important point: how should fans of The Star-Spangled Banner vote in the coming election?

The picture below explains why Berlin would say Romney. Taken in 2007, it shows Obama failing to sing the anthem while it’s being played, and worse, failing to put his hand on his heart. The fact no one else is singing, because they’re listening to a professional off-stage, seems by-the-by. As does the fact the photo’s five years old.

But should Berlin really think better of Romney? Romney may always boom out the anthem, but he doesn’t seem to know much about its history. Here’s a video of him from February claiming that America’s the only country where people put their hand on their heart when singing their anthem, and that President Roosevelt created the gesture “in honour of the blood that was being shed by our sons and daughters in far off places.”

Neither point’s true. The hand-on-heart gesture was apparently adopted in the 1940s to stop Americans making one that looked like a Nazi salute.

Perhaps Berlin should vote for neither candidate. He could always look instead to the many independents running. Although somehow I doubt he’d pick the Peace and Freedom Party’s Roseanne Barr.