Translate

Thursday, July 9, 2015

pulchrae

So, in case you somehow didn't notice, the 4th of July happened last week.  For my fellow Americans, Happy Independence Day!  For any international readers, this is still important.  Don't stop reading!

There have been a lot of changes going on in the world lately as well as in the United States: changes in government, in policy, in economy, in society... the world is a thoroughly dynamic place, and we've already discussed this to some extent here.  Some of the changes have happened overnight, others have come in subtle shifts that can only be seen over decades or even centuries.  I sometimes wonder if the Founding Fathers had any idea what this country would look like today.  It was, after all, an "experiment in democracy."

In anticipation of the 4th of July, I read the words of a patriotic hymn, America the Beautiful, and they really touched me.  I will include them here for your reference:


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!


O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry 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 ev’ry gain divine!


O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,

Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!


Please stop to appreciate those lyrics.  Take the time to look up any of the words you don't know, so you can fully appreciate their meaning.  We'll wait.

Ready?

Oh, I could probably write tomes here; I have so many thoughts about this song.  
My initial reaction was one of disappointment and remorse; the greatness that was in America--as a beacon of freedom, a place where struggle leads to success, where brotherhood abounds-- is no longer there.  The boundless potential of this land seemed to be cut off because of how things have changed.  From riots and poverty running rampant through streets once "paved with gold", to conspiracies and lies and a general distrust of the government, to pollution and carelessness littering the alabaster cities and destroying the fruited planes...There is a lot to be wanted here.

Luckily I got pulled out of my bitterness after a few days, once the Fourth actually rolled around.  Despite all of the problems and plagues in this country, I saw that people are generally doing their best to live the American Dream--to work and establish their own position in life, to serve their neighbors and wipe others' tears away.  I drove through the majestic mountains, paid respect to the sacrifices of soldiers, veterans, those defending our freedoms by deeds and by words.  We're certainly not where Katharine Lee Bates envisioned when she wrote the lyrics to America the Beautiful, but that doesn't mean that we're not on our way.

For all I know, America never has reached that Beautified state described in the poem.  Maybe it's just me, that I tend to idealize the founding fathers and their generation.  I forget that the Union struggled so hard to even envision unity in its infancy.  I revere Abraham Lincoln, and think "if only we still had the values of that day..." while looking over the immense crises that the country faced at that time.  I think of the "greatest generation" and wonder why, in only a few short generations, things seem to have fallen apart in society.  But I must remember that the greatest generation only earned that title after being proven by a childhood during the Great Depression, only to grow up and fight in the Second World War.  Certainly these ideals were hard to see at those times, too.

I've come to realize just how much of a vision America the Beautiful is--a vision of what is to come in the future.  Generations of Americans, after coming from other parts of the world and so many different circumstances, have fought for that dream.  Millions of people have given their lives in exchange for getting one step closer.  The dream isn't lost if we're still working towards it.

I believe that this nation and this land have certain promises and rights associated with them.  Be it through divine providence, the grace of freedom, or the plain and simple opportunity and legacy of hard work, this is an incredible place.  But with those rights comes responsibility.  In order for this to continue being the Land of Promise that it is, it requires the best out of each of us.  In order to uphold the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we must treat life responsibly, cherish freedom, and work hard to magnify the happiness we have and share it with others.

I honestly think that this nation is still in its infancy, and that it has yet to grow and achieve its full potential--even taking into account all the many advances that have been made so far.  But reaching that potential is a dream that belongs solely to us, the American citizens. And it is our responsibility to make it happen.