Colin Kaepernick’s standing for his anthem again :(

This is Colin Kaepernick after being tackled, but it sums up how I’m feeling about his decision! Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

American footballer Colin Kaepernick has announced he will stand for the US national anthem next season, ending his months-long protest against the treatment of minorities in the country.

I know it’s because he needs a job – the San Francisco 49ers have decided not to keep him on – but it’s a shame. You could easily argue things have got worse in the US since his protest started and it’s needed more than ever.

Expect fewer protests all round soon: the US soccer association has announced a new policy saying all players have to “stand respectfully” for anthems at international matches. Last year, Megan Rapinoe kneeled for the Star-Spangled Banner before two games – aping Kaepernick. Guess she won’t any more.

The Republic of California? The nation of Pacifica? Whatever comes, get Katy Perry to write the anthem

You've got to admit, the proposed flag's really cool! Stolen from Yes, California's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/YesCalifornia/

You’ve got to admit the proposed flag’s really cool. Stolen from the Yes, California campaign

Since Trump’s election, there’s been a lot of talk of the US splitting up: liberals creating their own countries; the Red States left behind.

California could join with its neighbouring states to form Pacifica. Or go it alone – an independence referendum might insanely happen in 2019, although the fact it’s been pushing by a man who lives in Russia seems to be confusing a lot of people.

There are other independence movements too, everywhere from Hawaii to Texas, even New Hampshire (only 1,691 Facebook likes for that one, so I’m assuming it’s a minor interest). But what all these campaigns seem to be lacking is one thing: a decent anthem to get behind.

Take California’s official state song, I Love You California, which was written by a clothes repairer in 1913:

I love you, California, you’re the greatest state of all
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore

I know California is a home of positive thinking, but even a spiritual guru would find it hard to be positive about such sweetness.

So what are the options for the coming Californian republic? I imagine some would want California Dreamin’ – “I’d be safe and warm, if I was in L.A” – but you can’t have an anthem written from the perspective of a depressed exile in New York.

Hotel California would be a front-runner too, until people realised it could be misinterpreted as a call for mass immigration (“Plenty of room at the Hotel California…”).

So my vote goes for the a-maz-ing Katy Perry’s a-maz-ing California Gurls.

Ok, not the chorus when she says those girls will “melt your Popsicle”. And not Snoop Dogg’s bit. But it does have a verse that’s got a message any Californian would be proud of:

You could travel the world
But nothing comes close
To the golden coast
Once you party with us
You’ll be falling in love
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

I especially like the last line.

Why the Kapernick anthem saga’s become the world’s stupidest protest

It’s not because of what Kaepernick’s doing (kneeling during the US anthem, see above).

Or what any of the other protesters are doing either.

It’s because of the reactions the protestors are receiving. These range from firms ending sponsorship deals with players to schools threatening to discipline any students who dares copy Kaepernick’s example.

One soccer team even played the anthem early – before players took the field – to stop any potential protests. While there is, of course, at least one Congressman giving interviews calling Kaepernick “sympathetic to ISIS“.

You could argue those actions are no more inflammatory than the protests, but surely a real patriot is confident enough in their society to allow room for protest, especially when they’re continually trumpeting the “freedom” that society has?

The only good thing to say about the saga is that politicians haven’t passed any laws forcing people to stand yet, because that has happened before: in Japan, of all places. Japan is home to the world’s longest running anthem protest and if you want to learn about it, read my book, although I’ve just written an article for Foreign Policy magazine about the main protester – a lovely woman called Kimiko Nezu – that updates things and includes her views on Kaepernick. It also includes some quotes from a man who got beaten up for protesting India’s anthem.

Kimiko Nezy (on the right) celebrating in May after Japan's Supreme Court ruled she should not have been suspended from her teaching job for six-months without pay for refusing to stand for the anthem. It only covers a punishment in 2007. She's fighting to have other punishments overturned

Kimiko Nezy (on the right) celebrating in May after Japan’s Supreme Court ruled she shouldn’t have been suspended from her teaching job for six months for refusing to stand for the anthem. The ruling only covers a punishment in 2007, bizarrely, so she has many more cases to fight

Perhaps the only truly good thing to have happened in response to the Kaepernick saga so far is that South Park has satirised it. See below for a clip that includes a stadium announcer saying, “We now ask you all in solidarity to please rise, or sit, or take a knee, to honour America.” Very droll.

Make America’s anthem great again!

The New York Times carried an article this weekend complaining that the Star-Spangled Banner being played at Rio 2016 sounds sad.

The article’s four years late, since it’s actually the anthem from London 2012, but if you want to read a more thoughtful, musicological comment about why the argument’s bunkum, head to New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross’s site.

The Times’ article also revealed a journalist is writing yet another history of the US anthem. Don’t wait for it; buy my book instead. It does the whole history in one chapter and with the occasional funny travelogue, which is clearly all you actually need!

In related news, American Twitter users have being going insane whenever one of their athletes has failed to put their hand on their heart during the anthem – gymnast Gabby Douglas even had to apologise for not doing so.

The outrage is incomprehensible for so many reasons, but just be thankful an American athlete has not yet stuck their tongue out during the Star-Spangled Banner, like Bradley Wiggins did for God Save the Queen.

Olympic anthem of the day #4 USA! USA!

Ryan Held crying

Yes, it’s an obvious choice.

And yes, there’s nothing worse than stoking American patriotism.

But the clips of Ryan Held crying as the Star-Spangled Banner plays after he’s just won gold in the 4 x 100m freestyle are too good. If anything shows the positive power that anthems can have, it’s the photo above.

“I didn’t think I was going to cry,” he told reporters afterwards. “I was too tired. I didn’t think I could.

“I’ve heard the national anthem hundreds of times, but as soon as that played it was just something different.”

If you want to know the story of that anthem – the bizarre, 100-plus year journey it took to becoming America’s anthem – read my book. There’s a whole chapter on it.

I am, genuinely, expecting a Black Lives Matter protest to occur during one of the US medal ceremonies this Games. Not for someone to start singing the “black national anthem” – Lift Every Voice and Sing – over the top of it, but maybe for someone to hold up a placard. If that occurs, the Star-Spangled Banner will appear here again. Apologies in advance.

O say can you shut the hell up: Sir Twittwaddle on The Gist!

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended I listen to Slate’s daily podcast, The Gist – one of the most American podcasts you could come across, but funny and opinionated and topical in a similar way to The Daily Show.

I did as told, but about two episodes in had the shock of hearing myself being introduced as Sir Twittwaddle, and then being torn apart for some comments I made about the Star-Spangled Banner to the BBC.

All credit to Mike Pesca, the man in charge, though. I tweeted him and he decided to get me on to explain myself and talk about the US anthem. You can listen below (or here) from the incredibly specific time of 6:47! It’s a fun interview and somehow I come out in one piece!

Listen before for some bizarre talk about Starbucks sandwiches, and afterwards for some very interesting chat about US gun laws!

Forget Kanye’s Yeezus, the big release of the year’s this!

Or maybe not, but it is without doubt the MOST AMAZING YOUTUBE CLIP EVER (to feature 40 Americans singing the Star-Spangled Banner)!

I filmed this on a recent trip to the US where I was doing research into America’s national anthem. Whenever I got chatting to someone, I’d ask them to sing a line of the song. It was surprising how many said yes.

The clip features people in Washington, New York, Nashville and Baltimore, including an 11-year-old saxophone player in a judo kit, the man who wrote the song Day-O and the up-and-coming country singer Mary Sarah. Yes, literally amazing. Thanks to them all.

To anyone who was hoping to see me sing, I’ll leave posting that footage until I’ve lost all my dignity (give it about three days!).

To double the fun, here’s a similar film I made in France last year. All together now, ‘Allons enfants de la Patrie…”