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To Sing or Not to Sing

A German singer's failure to recite the national anthem properly sparked a debate about patriotism in Germany. DW-WORLD readers share their views about their own countries' "first songs."

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German leaders tend to join in

In fact, I like many Americans, do not know the words to our national anthem, despite constant attempts to bring it before us. This may be because the tune is essentially "unsingable" by any but the most operatically trained voice, so the most anyone can do is mumble along. I regard this as a virtue in a national anthem, however, keeping the citizen at a proper distance from patriotic displays. -- Margaret Atherton

I used to have a firm grasp of "O Canada," but then they changed it. Now it has bi-lingual portions. I speak Quebecois-French and they put the new part in Parisienne-French (which only three people in Canada speak). Last year someone sang it to the tune of "O Christmas Tree," which was really nice, but it was all in English so it must not have been official. Anyway, the only time that they tell us anything is when they raise the taxes. -- Yuri

I know the words to my country's anthem as well as the US ( But the tune is difficult for even a professional singer to sing well), Great Britain, and Japan. For a German minister to brag about not knowing the anthem and not planning to ever sing it is disgusting. -- Bret Reavie , Canada

Do I know the words of my national anthem? No! The song is "God Defend New Zealand" (because no one else will) and goes: "God of nations at thy feet," and probably originally meant grovel to high and mighty Great Britain. -- Bruce Miller

I am from the US. Our anthem -- "The Star Spangled Banner" -- is really a five stanza poem written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. We only recite the first stanza. It's really long; it is a poem about war. I do not like to sing it during sports events. In fact we're told to place our right hand over our heart, face the flag and sing it. Often a recording is played when there's no one to "sing" (recite) it. To my German friends, I do not like to hear our anthem. I wished we could choose another song (poem, in this case). "And the rockets red glare, whose bombs bursting in air" -- see in Iraq, many people have died from American bombs. I would like to select a song that does not endorse violence. So I think of all the places we've dropped bombs and the number of people killed from this. -- Ty

I absolutely know the words to my Canadian National Anthem. I sing them with pride each and every time, with my hand held over my heart. I love my country, and have known the lyrics since I was six years old. We even at one point changed a paragraph, and even though it took awhile, everyone knew the new version fairly quickly. I think it is very important for Germany to instil this in their young people. Germany has many things to be proud of, because your past is just that -- your past. Never forget, but move on. The German people overcame what many countries probably could not. You've become stronger because of the past, so celebrate your future. -- Barb Gardey

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