I spent some of this afternoon cleaning out unwanted emails from my inbox when I came across E. B. White's obituary. I mailed it to myself back in the winter of 2007, hoping probably to write something about it, but never found the right project. It really deserves to be read. I've often thought Charlotte's Web (or for my money The Letters of E. B. White) constituted art of patriotic significance. There are universal themes and truths at work in White's writings, but the tone and sincerity are uniquely American. These books belong in hotel drawers in lieu of the Bible. When I travel I do not like to be reminded of the Bible.
And while I'm revising patriotic signifiers I always thought the playing of the National Anthem should be discontinued at ball parks. Instead I like Ella Fitzgerald's version of The Gershwins' "Of Thee I Sing". It's a better song for one. And the sense of benevolence and good humor it would foster would make the game roll better. We've already worked beer and National Hebrews into the festivity; what gives with that stiff sobering song?
It is the kind of thing that makes America sound like Margaret Dumont in a Marx Brothers movie: Shrill, dim and willfully unattractive. Needy in a way.
How could we ever be happy to be seen in such a light, let alone how could we celebrate ourselves in it?