Tuesday, July 01, 2008

America the Beautiful

As we near our Independence Day celebration I have a confession to make. I have never much cared for our national anthem. In fact, I dislike it intensely. The Star Spangled Banner is musically difficult to sing. It references a single battle in a single war. It's set to an English tune. At the risk of being called unpatriotic and setting off a storm in my comment section, I will even say I dislike how its use of the flag as a symbol has permeated the national psyche to the point at which the symbol has nearly become more important that what it represents. That said, I still stand when it is played or sung and sing along. I make sure my kids do the same respectfully and I become annoyed with people who jabber through it or men who fail to remove their caps. I observe Memorial Day and Veteran's Day and make sure to thank the men and women in uniform. I also think whether I agree with the war in Iraq or not I should be supportive of the troops who are serving there. I believe if I fail to vote in an election I also forfeit my right to complain about whoever winds up in office (yes, I am ever the cynic). So don't get your shorts in a wad over my dislike of the national anthem. It doesn't mean I hate my country.

You may ask what I propose instead of the Star Spangled Banner. I'm glad you did. For nearly all of my adulthood I have thought America the Beautiful would be a more fitting national anthem. It is set to a simpler melody. It speaks of the beauty of our nation's natural wonders. It recalls our history in a broader sense and lauds the character qualities exhibited by our people in both building and protecting our nation. It exhorts us to a sense of unity. There are those who would take issue with the mention of God in the chorus and I suppose there is some merit to that argument in that it is not altogether inclusive of those who may reject faith of any sort. So perhaps my suggestion has its own shortcomings. Nonetheless, I think it's a more fitting example of what we should value in our history and what we should aspire to in our present and future (not to mention easier to sing, always a plus). And nobody sang it quite like Ray Charles.

(lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates;
music composed by Samuel A. Ward)

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 prov'd
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.


barman said...

Do I get to be first... NO WAY!

I could agree with you on that. I have always liked America the Beautiful much more.

As to the flag being more important of a symbol than it should be, yes people put a bit much stock in it.

So are you Canadian? This sounds much more like something I would expect to hear from a Canadian friend.

Now time to go listen to Ray...

EmBee said...

I LOVE me some Ray!
I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly... However, a tear will come to my eye whenever the National Anthem is played, be it a ballgame, an Olympic medal ceremony, a graduation... etc. etc. Then again, my eyes fill with tears over 'This land is my land' if it's played in the right setting... I'm just a big ol' softy!
And Sshhhhh! don't tell anybody but I cried watching the movie WALL-E.
I'm not only a softy, I'm a dork as well.

Momma said...

I so agree with you on this. I love America the Beautiful, and I love the way Ray sang it. As for it being all inclusive or not, I'm not willing to rewrite our history, our constitution, our pledge, or our national songs to please people who don't believe the way our forefathers (or most of us) believe. Call me stodgy.

As for the national anthem? I always stand and face the flag, hand on heart. If other people don't do it or like it, that's their problem.

Thanks for the lovely post!

Peace - D

TLP said...

Rabbit rabbit!

I love America the Beautiful, but I also love the Star Spangled Banner. I can't carry a tune in a bucket, so I murder them both.

Kathryn said...

I LOVE America the Beautiful. One of my favs. I also love God Bless America, but I know that would send off a firestorm.

NYD said...

I believe you are going to take a little flak on this. Good! I like it when someone says something that is both valid and unpopular. It's bgood to have the cage rattled and the boat rocked.

I believe that only a person who loves their country is brave enough to see what might be wrong with it and willing to voice their opinion.

Hooray for you! True American

Logophile said...

At least we don't have anything in there about the streets flowing red with the blood of our enemies, or however that goes :p
Yah, I could go with this one too, either way, Im flexible.
MWah! enjoy the trip to MD

tsduff said...

I love how you are so well-spoken. Your words flow onward, and allow the reader to easily grasp your point(s).

America the Beautiful is a great song, bringing forth mental images of amber grain and spacious skies... my kind of song.

Rabbit Rabbit and good luck in July.

furiousBall said...

I do like Lauren Hart's version before a Flyers' game too

lecram said...

Ya know... I agree.

S said...

Ever since seeing Naked Gun, I cannot sit through the Star Spangled Banner without laughing. I cannot no matter how hard I try. If Gary is with me it is even worse. We start elbow jabbing each other and mouthing the alternate words...

.."Jose', can you see...."

"..bunch a bombs in the air.."

"..gave..proof through the night...uhhh, that we still....had our flag...."

Imagine it, two adults trying their best not to think about that movie during the SSB, forever, forever, forever I will have this problem! LOL

Ray Charles rocks!

Mona said...

Arey! I know there is deep symbolism in the Flag of America...

Its all about taxes... The colors there represent the mood of American people...When they see their dues ( in taxes) each year, first they turn White ( with shock) then they turn red ( with anger) & finally, its time to turn ..er Feel Blue...

Hey Limey.. its Bryan's Birthday today, & although I have stopped doing birthday posts, I wished him in his comment box. You can too :)

Anonymous said...

There's something about the tradition of the National Anthem that gets me... it would be weird to nit hear it... but your suggetion as an alternative is awesome! :)

Anonymous said...

As Robert Klein said about the National Anthem.
"When have you ever sung that song without shifting gears like a ten ton mack truck. It's a five octave range - even Metropolitan Opera stars can't cut it...the song was written for a goose.."

Jeni said...

I see nothing whatsoever in this post that could or would possibly label you as unpatriotic! If anything, I think your words put forth a tremendous argument for doing what you suggested -to change our national anthem to one that shows so many parts of what comprise America -and yes, it is truly "the beautiful" too, isn't it? If anything ever comes of your suggestion and you want people to stand beside your idea, put my name on that list, please. I'd back this plan to the nth degree.

snowelf said...

Lime, I have to lean your way on this topic too. I never enjoyed the star spangled banner either. I remember in school I always liked My Country Tis a Thee (or whatever it was called) so much better. I got to sing it every day in the first grade and I loved it. :) Of course, nothing wrong with America the Beautiful, it's also a very lovely song and Ray rocks it.


Craver Vii said...

Somebody sang all the verses (of the Star-Spangled Banner) at a ballgame once... was that Jamie Kennedy?

AndyT13 said...

Awesome Ray Charles clip! Glad you are feeling better. Sorry I've been a shitty blog friend.
So Busy!!! Anyway love you and hope you are well.

Anonymous said...

hhhmmm, i much prefer him singing 'What I Say' or 'Money' (hey now, THAT would be a great American anthem surely...???)...hee hee...

erm, S.S.B....an English tune...??? really...??? well now, you learn something new each day, huh...!!!

as for 'our' National Anthem, it's possibly THE most turgid piece of crap ever written...there is a growing lobby of people on this fair isle that want Blake's 'Jerusalem' as the new anthem of the Republic of England...however...i much prefer the little-known alternative version of 'Rule Britannia'...

clears throat...

'Rule Brittania,
marmalade and jam,
5 fire crackers up yer arsehole

i thank you...(^_^)

Breazy said...

I think America The Beautiful would be a great anthem but I also like Star Spangled Banner, maybe because I am use to hearing it.

Obama is wanting to change the anthem if he becomes our president, he wants to change it to "I Would Like to Teach The World to Sing", I will take America the Beautiful over that anytime!

Great post Lime,you always make a person think.

Fred said...

Great rendition by Ray Charles. I've never thought about which would be a better national anthem, actually.

As a history teacher, it might be an interesting topic of discussion.

Then again, I'm not too sure I want dozens of angry phone calls accusing me of treason just for having an intelligent debate.

BTExpress said...

I see your points, bit like it or not, the Star Spangled Banner is our national anthem and IMO, should stay so.

Have a great holiday and enjoy your 6 weeks with two people less stress.

G-Man said...

Happy Holiday Michelle....
Have lots and lots of FUN!!!!!!!

barman said...

Have a wonderful time at the lake and thanks for stopping by. It does mean a lot to me. Also thanks for the song, I never heard that version and I so enjoyed it.

Sudiegirl said...

I'm torn...I like both but maybe you're right about America the Beautiful.

I remember singing it every year when I was in All-State, and it still gives me chills.

RennyBA said...

Happy 4th of July in advance anyway :-)

Trooper Thorn said...

The way James Taylor sang the SSB before the Celtics/Lakers game would make even the hardest heart weep.

The U.S. is such a great country (in my humble Canadian opinion) it deserves 2 national anthems. Hell, make it three - there's no law.

"O Canada" gets me all verklept too, but I admit it sounds like a doorbell chime.

Suldog said...

Personally, Lime, I like The Star-Spangled Banner. The words? Not so much. Nothing against them, but America The Beautiful is much better in that regard. The music, though... I actually like it. I know that's probably a minority opinion, but I do. It was one of the first things I learned to play on the bass guitar (yes, the bass guitar and The Star Spangled Banner - there's a thrilling combination, eh? Well, to me it is.)

rose_michelle said...

Hello My Dear Lime! I am proud as always to see you eloquently using your freedom of speech to invoke a moment of reflection. As a child I thought America the Beautiful was our national anthem. It made sense to my childish mind, I mean it even had "America" in the title. Even "God Bless America" seemed a valid anthem. But I can say that now, after nearly 8 years with as a military spouse, I have a new appreciation for our national anthem. There is something so powerful about hearing the melody fight in the background of the murmur of voices as hundreds of family members gather to welcome home their Soldiers. But then again, as an infantry wife who has spend more of her marraige waiting for her Soldier to come home than having him home, "The Boys are Back in Town" has become my anthem!

John-Michael said...

Never have been able to engage our National Anthem (whether standing in my living room as it is performed on TV at a sporting venue or other function, or whilst standing at attention with a squared away salute in the uniform of the USMC) without tears of appreciation and pride. I can't imagine any substitute, though I do have to deal with the same emotions when joining Daddy Ray in this beautiful presentation.

The Zombieslayer said...

You want to hear something funny? I've said the same thing for over a decade now. America The Beautiful is so much more beautiful than our National Anthem, and should be our National Anthem. Our current one isn't that good of a song. It's not that melodic.

Bunny said...

You are absolutely right - nobody did it better than Ray Charles. Simply wonderful.

Ameratis said...

I second your America the Beautiful thought!