When Bill Maher is right, he’s right, and he was oh so right last week on Real Time.
The host of the HBO series, now in its 19th season, ended his “New Rules” closing segment with a plea for sanity among major sports leagues: pick one national anthem to play before each game and stick with it. “The only time there should be two national anthems,” he said, “is when the other team is from Canada.”
Maher was railing against the NFL-approved performance of the so-called Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as well as the traditional “Star Spangled Banner” before every football game. Maher has no problem with replacing the old anthem, but sees having two as the first step on a slippery slope toward segregation.
See the full segment in the clip above.
“I don’t feel we should enforce patriotism by singing anything,” said Maher. “But I am what you might call an old-school liberal who was brought up with the crazy idea that segregating by race is bad.”
Invoking Martin Luther King and others who marched against this approach, Maher said: “Purposefully fragmenting things by race reinforces a terrible message — that we are two nations, hopelessly drifting apart from each other.”
To hammer home his point, Maher played a clip from former US president Barack Obama (looking astonishingly young just 12 years ago at the start of his presidency). “There is not a Black America, and a White America, and a Latino America, and an Asian America — there’s the United States of America.”
“Believing in separate but equal? That’s out of step,” Maher continued, “by 67 yars.”
His reference to the landmark 1954 “Brown v. Board of Education” Superme Court ruling was an apt history lesson. It is a pillar of America at its progressive, mid-century best. In today’s divided states of America, however, it seems like another democratic domino dangerously close to being toppled.
Maher’s eight-minute rant was interrupted several times by prolonged applause from the studio audience.
More and more this year and through COVID times, the comedian has taken issue with the Left and the Right, with Liberals and Conservatives. He has lashed out just as hard against the over-woke cancel culture as he has against Trump’s “Make America Great Again” assault on democracy. Last Friday, his was a voice that sounded fed up but assured, like a Boomer not ashamed to sound like an idealist.
With Maher though, it comes with an edge. “Congratulations liberal parents,” he said after posting shocking survey statistics that showed, among other things, that 72 per cent of US colleges held segregated graduation ceremonies. “You just paid a hundred grand for your kid to move to Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1948.“
“You can’t have a melting pot with two pots,” Maher continued. Then, showing photos of Yugoslavia before and after the breakup, he warned that “countries do disintegrate into madness when they indulge their separatist tendancies.”
Maher has been peeved about a lot lately but Friday’s “New Rules” set the bar high for how to take one simple issue — two anthems — and weave a stinging warning about the dangers of ignoring a slippery slope.
This Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher features a one-on-one, opening interview with musician/actor Stevie Van Zandt. The Springsteen guitarist is promoting his memoir, “Unrequited Infatuations.” Reason Editor-in-chief Katherine Mangu-Ward and “Useful Idiots” podcast host Matt Taibbi are this week’s desk combatants.