Friday, July 3, 2009

The second amendment states that I have the right to free speech and you can't make me feel bad for my opinion. Right?

I'm one of those people. I admit it without shame. The national anthem plays and that's it: I cry. Doesn't matter if it's the beginning of an Angels game or the gold medal ceremony for curling at the Olympics or a montage of soldiers with the anthem in the background. Actually, that makes me especially cry.

I love the 4th of July, too. I love the food and the fireworks and the cheesy patriotic TV specials (another guaranteed cry fest) and the parades and the red, white and blue clothes, and flag-lined neighborhood streets. I like Dixie cups shoved into chain link fences in flag shapes and I love "Support our Troops" bumper stickers.

That's right. Even a card-carrying Democrat can express her open patriotic fervor.

After 9/11, I stuck flags on my car and blared Lee Greenwood's Proud to Be an American at every opportunity. Some people say the song is jingoistic. I don't care.

Did you know that there's been a small movement to make that our new national anthem? I can't get behind an anthem that uses the word "ain't" (now matter how well it reflects our current cultural language habits). And well before that there were rumblings about making our anthem "America the Beautiful" or even "My Country Tis of Thee."

It's been said IN THE PAST that I don't adjust to change well. And in that PAST, the idea of changing our anthem seemed down right heretical. Make my eyeballs twitch-curl my toes in a bad way-set my teeth on edge HERETICAL.

But.

But.

Let's consider it. Really consider it. NO knee-jerking.

To be fair, we only ever sing the first verse of our anthem so let's compare apples to apples. Or being as this is a patriotic pursuit, let's compare apple pies to apple pies.

We'll start with "The Star Spangled Banner." (Just a note, the title alone is pretty fantastic imagery when you stop to think about it.)

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Does it capture the spirit of America? This war torn past, this dawn of hope breaking after a night of brave soldiers digging in and defending liberty? That last line about the land of the free and the home of the brave is pretty good stuff. And yet...

Is an ode to our flag. . . is that what we're all about? Does our flag tell the whole story? Does the song really circumscribe all we are into its lyrics?

Then we've got America the Beautiful.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Yes, we have pretty countryside. But to say it sums us up? That's sort of like having a story with only a setting and no conflict or characters. It's not a story at all. So I vote. . .no. Conditionally. We'll come back to this one in a minute. The best stuff isn't in the first verse.

And then there's this final choice:

My country,' tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!

I know some of you will completely ignore my right to speak freely without being contradicted (I learned that right in civics class) and pitch rocks at me in the comment box, but although it lacks the majesty of our current anthem both in imagery and musical composition, the CONTENT of the lyrics. . .

I think hits a little closer to what we're about. It's a simpler song, little more than a ditty, maybe. I don't know. I'm kind of on the cretin side of musical education. But the words, though simple, are right. They are about our country as a whole, not just our flag. It's about our love of freedom.

But.

I don't think I can vote for it.

You know what I think would make the best anthem of all? Let's go back to "America the Beautiful" but move to the second and third verses. These are the words that I think tell who we, as a nation are, the words that best memorialize all of our greatest bits:

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness! America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!


I have never made it through the third verse. I just can't. I love it.

Happy Independence Day, everyone. Be safe and happy.

19 comments:

Luisa Perkins said...

Second Amendment: chuckle.

My favorite verse from any song usually played on the Fourth of July is this:

In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.
As he died to make men holy,let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on.

DeNae said...

Want to hear something that could make you steam a little? When the debate over our national anthem was first taking place, i.e. "what should it be?", "America the Beautiful" was the clear frontrunner. And you're absolutely right, it's got the most going for it.

Then suddenly, it was disqualified from consideration. Know why?

Word got to the committee chair that the song was written by a woman, Kathlerine Lee Bates, a school teacher who wrote the words after an inspiring trip to Pike's Peak, where in one direction were "purple mountain majesties" towering over "amber waves of grain", and in the other direction the "enamled plain" under "halcyon skies." (When the poem was set to music, she changed a few of the words.)

But, yes, the only reason "America the Beautiful" is NOT our national anthem is because of early 20th century mysogyny. Nice, huh?

Kimberly said...

I'm getting all sniffly and I'm not even American.

Terresa said...

America the Beautiful...2nd & 3rd verses. I often forget those. Yes, they need to be sung more often!

Thanks for the reminder. I'm going to go sing & wave my American flag now with my 4 young children. Huzzah!

Kristina P. said...

My favorite patriotic song is that one that says something about putting a boot up their BLEEP! Such a moving tribute to America.

Lara said...

You made me cry.

And then DeNae's comment just made me mad.

But I love all the songs, and we sing them all anyway, so I guess it's okay.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I can't sing these songs and think about them at the same time or I cry.

My beef with My Country Tis of Thee is that it's the exact same music as "God Save the King", so I don't like it being a knock-off anthem.

Love the lyrics you shared though. I like these too:

"While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. "

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Kazzy said...

I am with you on the cheese-fest. Bring on the sappy songs, bad-looking t-shirts, etc. I love it!

Eowyn said...

You're awesome. That's all.

earlfam said...

Wait, that was a trick question, right?

Debbie said...

I am the same way. I can cry at those songs over and over. And although the Lee Greenwood song makes me cry to (I'm a wuss), I wouldn't want it to be my national anthem.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

I love it. Have you ever seen that original flag in the Smithsonian that inspired that National Anthem? It is AMAZING. And ginormous. It is so big the woman who made it couldn't even fit it into her house. She had to move it out to sew it in a warehouse.

You probly knew all that already, huh!

Happy 4th.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm just grateful that in America we can sing as many songs as we like in tribute because we're a land that's free. Whether it be a country music song, an instrumental piece, a timeless ballad, or the simple sound of a heartbeat against my right hand.

God Bless America--land that I love.

April said...

Scratch My Country Tis of Thee....because when we sing it in church I sing God Save the Queen...sorry(said with a Canadian accent) old habits die hard.

But I think think we should have a National Anthem and a Default Anthem. So they both win! But then I like Luisa's song she quoted....so now I can't decide! Darn it!

Migillicutty said...

Btw, apple pies were not invented in America, but whatever.

I personally like Star Spangled Banner the best, but the others are good too.

myimaginaryblog said...

I'm glad Stephanie mentioned God Bless America because I love that one too, as well as the other one she quoted. My sister and I used to love to sing all of these songs while we cleaned our room--good memories.

I love all those verses of America the Beautiful, too, as well as the 4th one that you missed:

Oh beautiful, for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears

And, actually, the Star Spangled Banner has a 2nd verse that goes (to the best of my memory) like this:

And thus be it ever
When free men shall stand
Between their loved homes
And the war's desolation
Blessed with vict'ry and peace
May the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the pow'r that hath made
And confirmed it a nation
Then conquer we must
For our cause it is just
And thus be our motto:
In God is Our Trust
And the Star-Spangled Banner
In triumph will wave
O'er the land of the free,
And the home of the brave.

myimaginaryblog said...

Okay, so make that four verses (link.)

charrette said...

I remember the feeling after 9/11. There were lines going all the way around the block of people waiting to buy flags. People who took off work, mothers with babies, immigrants from other countries...all waiting in line to show their solidarity. And it seemed the best way to show it, THEN, was to buy and display a flag. It was essential. It meant something indescribably huge.

Yeah, I'll stick with the Star Bangled Banner.

BUT I love Luisa's verse, and I love what you said about the other verses to America the Beautiful.

And Denae? Oh my...don't even get me started. I had no idea.

wonder woman said...

I got to sing all these songs on Sunday. Even the Battle Hymn. Our choir sang a short medley for prelude. I had to force myself not to think about the words I was singing, especially the third verse.

Unlike you, I'd be in favor of "Proud to be an American" as our anthem, though the "aint" gets to me, as well. But I have special reasons for liking this song. (I wrote about it for the 4th.)