The Star Spangled Banner is not representative of the totality of the American nation and should not be its national anthem.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great patriotic song, and it poeticizes a great feat in American military history. It would make for a great military anthem.
National anthems, however, should reflect the nation’s identity — its natural beauty, culture, history, traditions, and hopes — not just its military exploits.
Take these lines from the Canadian national anthem, for instance:
O Canada! Where pines and maples grow,
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow,
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western sea!
Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!
Or the New Zealander national anthem.
God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.
Or this from the Australian national anthem:
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair.
Each of these — like many other anthems — touches on the geographic features of the nation. Mountains. Soil. Oceans. Geolocation. They often mention attributes or values of the people.
National anthems often mention past military sacrifice but stay grounded in the present — or at least the ideal of a harmonious present in an idyllic landscape. In other words, the battle and ensuing sacrifice for victory is not the end in itself. That would suggest a nation at perpetual war. Is that really the image people want to project of their country?
Besides the singular focus on wartime and the visual image of battle, The Star Spangled Banner is difficult to sing. The raucous applause artists receive after performing it at ballgames owes as much to their hitting the high notes as a display of patriotism.