America is at a crossroads. Our society has reached a boiling point. A point where a change must be made, where what divides us has become too great. In the chaos of our current political climate, many have offered what they call solutions. More often than not, twisting current events and the people’s emotions in order to further whatever agenda they carry. But the true answer to our problems doesn’t lie in what the legislature would have you believe. Whether we ban one thing, or legalize another, or we start regulating this and that to varying degrees. The problem with our society dwells within our culture itself. A culture that celebrates violence, hatred, selfishness, and greed. Ideas that are present in everything we know, from the media we consume to the people we idolize. The very song of our nation is that of war and revolution, violence and turmoil. Is that the kind of message we want our children standing for in school? Wouldn’t something about friendship and unity shape them into kinder, more mentally and emotionally stable adults? Something like “Escape from the City”, the opening level theme from the hit action game Sonic Adventure 2?
Is blind chauvinism and the toxic masculinity of war camaraderie really what we should be having our children chant religiously, every morning as we force them to stand for the flag before they even learn their letters and numbers? Is it any wonder these youths are growing into volatile powder kegs of emotional distress, having images of “the rocket’s red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” embedded into their minds before they can read and write? Much research has been done to correlate violent television or video games to violent behavior in children. As psychologist Albert Bandura has shown in his work, young children being exposed to violent people, imagery, or ideas early on are considerably more likely to exhibit violent behavior themselves; on the flipside, learning nonviolent solutions to dealing with problems is also a learned behavior in the same way that violent characteristics are. Should children really be learning that our country is built on the deaths and murders of millions which continue to justify to this day? That the defining point of our country, one of the highest points of our civilization that we all take great pride in, is an act of violent defiance that is perfectly okay because we’re the good guys? Sonic the Hedgehog, on the other hand, has never killed a soul. Sonic the Hedgehog is nonviolent by nature, content with celebrating friendship and freedom. In City Escape, the opening level of Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic does not murder those pursuing him. As the stage’s title suggests, Sonic spends his time escaping from those whom would do him harm, track down the source of said issue, and correct it in a peaceful and civilized manner.
Sonic’s peaceful and nonviolent nature takes form in the lyrics to City Escape’s theme song, aptly titled “Escape from the City”. The upbeat rock composition, composed by Jun Senoue and originally performed by Ted Poley and Tony Harnell, paints a laidback image of America’s greatest hero. Carefree, forgiving, a nearly Messiah-like figure. The first line of the chorus is “Follow me, set me free, trust me, and we will escape from the city”, giving the listener a sense of reassurance. The “City”, not needing to be taken on a literal level, can be seen to represent a myriad of threats. The city could be anything from a looming nationwide crisis to something as simple as a playground bully, terrorizing our kids during recess. And yet Sonic’s advice is to trust in him, trust in his mantra, and follow his example. As he says in the last line of the first verse, “Take my lead; I’ll set you free”. Much like Jesus said to do as he does and turn the other cheek, Sonic preaches to follow his way. The way of peace, freedom, love, and mutual respect and brotherhood. Sonic does not condone hate, violence, or any form of selfishness. Should our children grow up, learning to do as Sonic would do, surely there would be a dramatic drop in gun violence, school shootings, and other acts of gross violence. The Star Spangled Banner may advocate taking lives for any cause one may mistake as “just” or “well-intentioned”, training our youths to be deranged young sociopaths eager to right the perceived wrongs of our nation with lead and steel. But Sonic would never encourage such behavior.
The Star Spangled Banner may have been a fitting anthem for our rising nation at its birth, a world built on the back of a bloody revolution, reveling in its victory in the war. We’ve always been proud of our troops. And since World War II, when America became a superpower, our military might has been one of the defining factors of our home country. But what now, in a time of relative peace, where we find America as the aggressor more often than not? How do we justify our bombings of civilians in the Middle East, or involvement in foreign politics? How can we assist Israel in their genocide of the Palestinian people and theft of their homeland, or robbing third-world countries of their oil and resources, all while flying the banner of the underdog? How can America be the just revolution for peace and freedom, when we have become the nation policing the world, more often than not with our own interests at heart? To continue boasting such arrogant self-righteousness is no doubt part of America’s social issues. Our people are raised with such an air of entitlement, proud of being “the good guys”, those that “fight for peace and freedom”; a nation where all are given their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s no wonder our youths turn to acts of violent, self-destructive revolution as they become disillusioned with the lies of our nation. No wonder any one little thing, a bully at school, a girl rejecting romantic advances, any perceived violation of our right to our God-given happiness, could be the trigger necessary to make one snap under the weight of the oppression we endure under our free and just tyranny, united under greed and corruption, ruled by the wealthy elite and built on the backs of the poor and exploited. This is not the world Sonic would have wanted, not what he would have wanted for us or our great country.
As a nation of unity and diversity, our anthem should not be written by those whom would seek to exploit and oppress us; the wealthy elite, controlling us like little pawns, using whatever controversial political points in the media to divide and unite us to their whim, whenever it may be convenient to their agenda. Francis Scott Key, the man whom originally wrote the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner, was one of these men. He was not one of us. As detailed in the short biological piece “Francis Scott Key: Patriotic Poet”, Francis was born into a wealthy, slave-owning family, on a Maryland plantation. His father was a captain in the army, his friends other wealthy children of early America. One of his closest friends, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Brooke Taney, would go on the issue the infamous Dred Scott decision. Francis and his friends were not upstanding advocates for freedom and justice. They had no qualms keeping other human beings as their slaves, blatantly stating that they held no rights. And yet we allow this man to represent us, to write the very anthem we hold in such high regard, instead of the upstanding hero Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic has never owned a slave. Sonic, whom exists in a vastly more diverse world than ours, with an exponentially greater variety of races and ethnicities, does not hold any of his vulpine, rodent, or avian friends in any lesser regard. He doesn’t treat any of the humans he walks among any differently than his anthropomorphoid brethren. Wouldn’t his opening level theme music, composed by a Japanese-American rock artist, fit in better with America’s themes of diversity and acceptance? Sonic the Hedgehog, an ethnically and culturally neutral figure, does not favor any one demographic. Any white child, black child, Asian child, Christian child, Jewish child, or Muslim child could be Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s no One Nation, Under God with Sonic. In fact, the closest Sonic gets to uniting church and state is in the pre-chorus of Escape from the City; “Trusting in what you can’t see”, a verse ambiguous enough to be all-encompassing of any belief. Sonic simply asks to have faith, not just in God, but in whatever your faith may include. Perhaps Sonic simply wants you to trust in the bonds of love and friendship, another unseeable force binding us all together.
A nation united, under Sonic’s guidance, cannot fall. Together, we would stand stronger than any other time in United States history. Together, we can show the world what we can do. With the glorified culture of corruption and violence buried, perhaps our children would have other goals to attain besides the pursuit of money and power. Compassion, art, empathy, and living in harmony with one another; these are the lessons we should be teaching them. That Sonic would be teaching them. The streets would be cleaner, there would be no pervasive drive for violence or greed. There would be no need to ban guns anymore, because there would no longer be a need for them in the first place. And all it would take is acknowledging one little hedgehog as our national hero, and upgrading our primitive nationalist anthem to one of peace and unity. Make America fast again.
Bandura, A. (1965). Influence of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 1, pp. 589-595.
“Crush 40 (Ft. Ted Poley & Tony Harnell) – Escape From the City.” Genius, 19 June 2001, genius.com/Crush-40-escape-from-the-city-lyrics.
Gregson, Susan R. Francis Scott Key: Patriotic Poet. Capstone, 2003.
“The U.S. National Anthem.” The U.S. National Anthem – The Star Spangled Banner, www.music.army.mil/music/nationalanthem/.