"America the Beautiful (maybe some day)"

Today in church for the closing hymn we sang “America the Beautiful,” and I seriously had a hard time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with patriotism, but it was difficult for me to feel patriotic singing words like “O beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife,” when we continue to invade countries that didn’t attack us first.

“Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears!” This line bothered me quite a bit too. Are we talking about America or Heaven?

Maybe the song is how America should be. It’s just hard for me to feel patriotic when there are so many problems, and I’m so much better off than Mexicans, or Africans or whoever. I think the only way we can truly be grateful to live in this prosperous country and not be arrogant is by doing our best to help others, whether they live next door or in Darfur, whether they are legal or illegal, whether they watch Fox News or the “liberal” mainstream media. We’re all immigrants.


About shenpa warrior

"Patience is not learned in safety." View all posts by shenpa warrior

9 responses to “"America the Beautiful (maybe some day)"

  • Emily

    Hmm…I was considering this very subject recently. A couple different tangentially related subjects actually. [This is going to be a long comment.]

    One topic is “Patriotic” songs. On July 14 (Bastille Day) I was beltin’ out the French national anthem, which I think sounds great because it’s in French, but it makes the U.S. anthem sound like a nice picnic to watch fireworks. We’re lacking all that ‘soldiers hacked to bits– throat-cutting–fields running red with blood’ imagery. And while La Marseillaise is quite vivid, and while I’m not the biggest fan of our anthem either, I suddenly appreciated that we don’t have to listen to a song about a bloodbath before every football game. Here in the USA we’d rather live violently than just sing about it.

    But as for America the Beautiful. I completely agree with you. Wondering though if there is some spirit or idea of “America” that still exists despite being horribly betrayed by her people, [the people in charge and everyone who allowed / helped them get there]; or if “America” is the sum of the people; or if we as a country really need to get past all the mythology we have about ourselves and just become a decent citizen of the freakin’ world already. Gosh.

    I wish we could adopt “Finlandia” as our national anthem:
    “This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
    A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
    This is my home, the country where my heart is;
    Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
    But other hearts in other lands are beating,
    With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

    My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
    And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
    But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
    And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
    Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
    A song of peace for their land and for mine.”

    I think I’m done singing songs about war and waving war banners of any stripe. Surely there are other ways to show gratitude for all that is good in our land.

  • Adam

    Maybe there is some spirit or idea of America, and to that I could sing I guess. Maybe we’ve lost that spirit, maybe we never had it, I don’t know. America has done a lot of good, but it has also done probably just as much evil. So it that regard, I think I like “Finlandia”. Maybe I can feel patriotic as long as I’m also respecting other lands. Maybe I’ll hang three flags. One of the earth, the second one representing other countries, and the U.S. flag. I certainly feel like those in Sweden or Egypt are my family more than I do an “American,” but America can come second to that.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, Sheena’s blog wouldn’t allow me to post anonymously and was being a pain with login.

    ADAM: Shin splints? If you’re a member of a gym, there’s a couple of weight-lifting things you can do. 1. Use the calf machines where you squat and stand up again with the weight resting on your shoulders. Concentrate on using the front part of your foot and, thus, the shins. 2. There’s a specific lift for the front muscle around the shin. You sit down, put your knees under a pad, and lift up with just the the front partof your foot (keep the heels in the air). Sadly, I do not know the name of this machine.

  • Adam

    Thanks! I’ll try incorporating those into my workouts.

  • wordsfromhome

    I also contemplated as we sang what the song really meant to me. I guess I am a bit more optimistic, or at least I still appreciate what this song meant when it was written. We do have a beautiful country, which we have not yet completly screwed up. If we would just treat it with the respect it needs to keep the land and water and air from becoming too fouled. If we would just treat our neighbors, here and abroad, in a way that reflects our gratitude for our own blessings instead of playing power and might games with the lives of so many people.
    The anthem makes me want to do better, to be a better citizen of the world so that our forefathers will not have written such praise of this land in vain.

  • WP

    I refused to have the BSA troop in Centerville plant the US flag for dollars in my yard on the high and holy days for America. I gave them a donation, 2X what they asked on condition they would not post any flags on my property. Our history is a bloodthirsty one. We took, stole and murdered our way across North America, bringing death and destruction wherever we went. Our history is a metaphor of the American Bison and those (the indians) who lived from them. Ours wars, other than WW I and II, have been wars of exploitation and imperialism. We stole Florida, Texas and the Southwest including CA from the Mexicans. The Spanish American War was faked up over the explosion of a battleship in Havana Bay. Viet Nam was a trumped up war by LBJ and had the navy fake reports of NVA attacks on the destroyers Maddox and Turner Joy. In Iraq W led us all down the path because of WMD and the Al Qa’ida connection that never existed. What we really were after is the oil in Iraq, just an extension of the land grabs of previous conflicts and imperialistic notions. Shame on us for what we have allowed America to become.

  • Allie

    My thing with being patriotic, is that I’m not being patriotic to one man or group of people. And, I’m not pledging to a flag that represents one man or one group of people. I’m patriotic to the things that our country should be and to the things that the flag stand for (liberty and justice for all, namely).

    I don’t think any of us can afford to sit back indifferent to what is being made of our country. We have to do what we can to make it what it is supposed to be.

  • Derek

    A couple of weeks ago we sang the national anthem during Sacrament meeting. The entire congregation stood, excepting myself and a couple conscientious immigrants. Why should we stand and give greater respect to the nation during religious services than we do to the Savior, whom we are worshiping in those services?! Isn’t that almost fascist (literally; fascism depended on a heightened reverence for–even worship of–the state)? We don’t stand while singing about Him and His atonement. I’ve heard from a number of sources that LDS congregations in other nations don’t sing their country’s anthems or patriotic songs in services. I fear we U.S. Mormons have been swayed a little too far by the siren song of American exceptionalism. We can recognize and respect that the Lord had a hand in establishing our nation without getting carried away like the Zoramites or intertwining St. Augustine’s City of God with the City of Man.

  • Adam

    “Why should we stand and give greater respect to the nation during religious services than we do to the Savior, whom we are worshiping in those services?”

    I agree. It’s probably tradition that tells us to stand (although I think we should stand on at least one hymn per meeting to get a little more energized) for the anthem, but it makes no sense to pay such respect to the anthem and not, for example, to the Savior when we sing “I stand all amazed.” Sorry about the pun. : )

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