Monday, December 4, 2017

Back Home Again In Indiana

To my national and international audience, I apologize for writing yet another post on a topic that 1) concerns only the State of Indiana and 2) does not relate to the United States Constitution in any conceivable way.  I promise that I will soon get back on topic, or, to put it more accurately, that I will soon devote myself and this site to a better-developed and more perfect version of this site's original focus -- to a focus that more directly attends to all that ails America right now, with a special emphasis on the aspects that most people have overlooked or misunderstood.  However, tonight, my topic is Indiana's official state song.

For over a century, "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away", by Paul Dresser, has been the state song of Indiana.  I see no need to change the state song, but for years it has bothered me that the song "Back Home Again In Indiana" does not have any similar type of official recognition by the State of Indiana.  This is not an urgent or serious problem, but it would be easy to solve, so we should solve it.

I used to tell people that the Indiana General Assembly should give formal recognition to "Back Home Again In Indiana" because in addition to being a good song, it is well-known.  It is the de facto state song of Indiana.  It is one of the most familiar symbols of our state, largely because it is famously performed each year immediately before the Indianapolis 500 begins.  Most Hoosiers probably believe that it already is our state song.

However, the death of Jim Nabors last week provides an additional reason to give formal recognition to this song.  Almost every year for over four decades, it was Nabors who performed "Back Home Again In Indiana" at the beginning of the Indy 500.  Granting the song an official status would be a fitting tribute to a man known so well to the people of Indiana for singing that song for so many years.

Some people may wonder how Indiana can formally recognize "Back Home Again In Indiana" without stripping "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" of the recognition that it currently enjoys.  It is easier to do this than they think.  States can designate almost* anything they wish as their "official state _______" (fill in the blank with the category of your choosing).  A state is free to establish nearly* any category (and any number of categories) that it wishes.  If it desires to do so, a state may set up different categories that are completely synonymous (or, if they choose, that are nearly synonymous) and name a different "official state ________" for each of those categories.  They may even name several different "official state" things for a single category.  There are (almost*) no rules.

I can illustrate this with specific examples of how some of our fellow states have adopted multiple songs as songs representing those respective states.  Arkansas law (Arkansas Code of 1987, 1-4-116) identifies two state songs, one state anthem, and an "official historical song", for a total of four songs.  Florida (Florida Statutes 2017, Title IV, 15.0326 and 15.0327) has both an official state anthem and an official state song.  Georgia (Georgia Code 50-3-60 and 50-3-61) has a single official song, but there is a second song which it identifies as its "official waltz".  Finally, Tennessee has a grand total of seven state songs (Tennessee Code 4-1-302).  I want to make certain that no one overlooks that last point, so I repeat: Tennessee has seven state songs.

That kind of practice is not limited in its application to the designation of state songs, either.  Alabama deemed it worthwhile to have both a state freshwater fish and a state saltwater fish (The Code of Alabama 1975, Sections 1-2-8 and 1-2-9), a state flower and a state wildflower (Section 1-2-11), and two state butterflies (though only the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is actually given that title, at Section 1-2-23; the Monarch Butterfly is instead dubbed the state's official insect, at Section 1-2-24).  I found plenty of additional examples of this in other states, but I have made my point.

In conclusion, I assure members of the Indiana General Assembly that they can easily grant some kind of official recognition to "Back Home Again In Indiana".  It could be declared the state anthem of Indiana (leaving "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" as our state song), possibly, or it could simply be added to "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" as a second state song.  I think any legislator who makes the attempt to do this would find it very difficult to mess it up.  Almost* any way of doing this would be perfectly acceptable.

* I wrote that a state is free to declare almost anything its "official state _______", and I repeatedly emphasized words indicating the existence of an exception to the general rule.  That exception, of course, is religion.  A state may not declare an official state religion.  Legislators, be sure to avoid accidentally establishing an official state religion.

No comments:

Post a Comment