Recently, a petition on Petitions.whitehouse.gov is pleading with President Obama to change the United States' national anthem from Francis Scott Key's masterpiece to the smooth beats of R. Kelly's 2003 hit Ignition (Remix). The authors call on Obama to "recognize the need for a national anthem," one that best suits "the evolution of this beautiful country" to acknowledge the glory of America since 1812. Key's composition was good for industrial America, but for modern America, there is a "need for a national anthem, one that … is still hot and fresh out the kitchen."
The White House's petition program allows any citizen the ability to organize calls for a cause or issue, and garrison electronic votes in an effort to communicate with the President. It is famous for several petitions, including one entreating the US for a Death Star by 2016. The first amendment "protects the right to petition the government for redress of grievances," and this includes both serious environmental and human rights petitions as well as the more light-hearted. If the Westboro Baptist cult is allowed to vomit their satanic hatred, then a couple of citizens are allowed to suggest a change to the national anthem.
The petition needs approximately 88,000 additional votes to meet its goal of 100,00 votes by April 2; at that point, Obama will have to provide an official answer. The President will have to acknowledge that "after the show, it's the afterparty," and that "after the party, it's the hotel lobby," but clear out "round about four" at which point it is strongly recommended one "take it to the room."
What is interesting about this request, however, is that it is not an isolated case. Massachusetts is undergoing a similar situation with their official song being awarded to a modern band.
The battle is between state Representative Marty Walsh (D-Dorchester) and a coalition consisting of representatives Josh Cutler (Duxbury) and James Cantwell (Marshfield). On February 12, Walsh submitted his proposal suggesting "Roadrunner" by Jonathan Richman to be the state's new official rock song, and the Richman-Cantwell duo submitted an opposing bill naming "Aerosmith's 1973 hit the Bay State's official song," according to TIME. The state congress will vote on whether or not to "sing for the year, sing for the left, and sing for the tear."
"Here we've got a great South Shore band," Culter told the Quincy, Massachusetts Patriot-Ledger, "that is one of the most iconic bands in the nation." However, Dream On makes no reference to the Bay State, while Roadrunner makes repeated offenses, proclaiming a love for Massachusetts and naming local landmarks. In reality, Cutler and Cantwell admit, the bill was filed "as a tongue-in-cheek jab at state representative Marty Walsh."
These instances, for me represent a microcosm of our republic at proper work. Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy, a compilation of which our founders were definitely familiar, implores future leaders of the imperative to having official channels for citizens to address grievances. It is easy to see this tradition in place and exercised, especially with the temperance demonstrations influencing congressional prohibition legislation, Suffragette movements catalyzing the Executive Branch to push through women's rights laws, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington that changed the Civil Rights Movement and America for the better.
Ultimately, these 'channels' are not simply restricted to the domain of the judiciary. I am glad to see that we the public can communicate with both the Legislative and Executive Branches, more specifically personal communication and not through our envoys. I do not think Americans or Bostonians need to worry or fret about these proposed compositional changes. Scott's masterpiece will still fly as the bombs bursting in air, and when deciding a state song, one selects the chanson that most reflects the state.