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Feeling Christina’s Pain

Feeling Christina’s Pain

Ever hear the old joke about the Jewish mother who watches her son marching out of formation in a parade, and asks the person next to her "Why are all those other boys going the wrong way?"

We should adopt some of that spirit after Christina Aguilera’s, er, creative rendition of our national anthem at the Super Bowl. Maybe we’ve been singing it wrong all these years. I mean, the song is hundreds of years old. And what about creative interpretation?

The bigger message is don’t judge a person unless you’ve walked in his or her shoes. Singing the national anthem at your local community council breakfast isn’t singing it live in front of 111 million people. Yes, she’s a seasoned performer who has been singing since she was 13, but this is the Super Bowl, with more people watching than three state of the Union addresses or four American Idols. One indignant Facebook poster posited that it was "unacceptable" because she wouldn’t have messed up the lyrics to one of her own songs.

Really? As if studio tracks aren’t edited and mixed until they’re perfect? And concert stages don’t have teleprompters? This was not the same as the notorious Ashlee Simpson flub on Saturday Night Live, when she was caught dishonestly trying to pass off a flawless recording of her voice as a live performance.

"I got so caught I got so caught up in the moment of the song that I lost my place," Aguilera told CNN. "I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through."

I can easily feel her pain. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in print. Not the same? How about messing up in front of a few hundred people at a debate?

It happened two years ago at a forum with representatives of the Republican presidential contenders. I was trying to take notes for an article and participate as a panelist at the same time. When the panelist before me launched into a long preamble leading up to his question I glanced at my notes and completely tuned out until it was my turn — then repeated essentially the same question to the same person. Both the debate participant and the moderator handled it gracefully and promptly moved on as my face reddened and I looked for and asked another question. My record was still pretty solid: dozens of public appearances in programs and speeches over 20 years — nervous at every one of them — and only one major flub. If I’m due for another in 2028, so be it.

Christina Aguilera’s record is still pretty impressive, too, as is that of Chief Justice John Roberts, who famously messed up the presidential Oath of Office at President Obama’s inauguration. We can’t all be as cool under pressure as Bill Clinton, who once continued seamlessly through a speech for 15 minutes while his teleprompter malfunctioned. To err is human. To move on would be divine.

Hopefully Christina will take inspiration from her own lyrics as the uproar begins to fade:

Now and then, I get insecure
From all the pain, I’m so ashamed
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring me down
So don’t you bring me down today

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