04 July 2007

Independence Day bits & bobs

A smattering of my postings du jour from around the interwebnet :

  • We were actually herded off of the National Mall from 5pm until 7+pm because of thunderstorms. They chased us all into the surrounding museums (we chose the Sackler b/c it has an exhibit my mom had wanted to see), which should have been closing at 5:30 but stayed open (though the lights went out --on the automatic timers!--around 6pm on several floors of the Sackler, and it took them at least 20 min to get them back up) until the point when they got the all-clear and could close up the museum and chase us all back out again...
It's easy to forget how uncertain the future of this new nation seemed, and how very much stood in our way. Even the optimists among the founders might have thought it would be too much to hope, to think that their creation, with its "new birth of liberty," would be here to celebrate its 231st birthday.

I've had a thing or two to say on SunDog's other 4th of July thread and no1's To All the Vets thread --

but I'll go ahead and say some of it again smile.gif --

Happy 4th to all!

I am thinking right now of all that America meant to the poet and writer Stephen Vincent Benét -- he was no politician, but to me he understood what our country is, has been, and can be better than any other thinker I know (though yes, de Tocqueville, Crevecoeur, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and more had some pretty darn good ideas & words for us too!).

My father loves Benét's work, and gave me a middle name (Melora) after a character in his epic poem John Brown's Body...but he also gave me this shared dream of our country, and a shared sense of pride in its successes and responsibility for its failings -- with the power and the obligation to work to sustain the former and redress the latter.

I've posted an excerpt from his Independence Day 1941 radio drama "Listen to the People" over in the thread To All the Vets, and I'll just share part of it here with you now (with emphasis on some of my favorite lines):

We made this thing, this dream,
This land unsatisfied by little ways,
This peaceless vision, groping for the stars,

Not as a huge devouring machine
Rolling and clanking with remorseless force
Over submitted bodies and the dead
But as live earth where anything could grow,
Your crankiness, my notions and his dream,
Grow and be looked at, grow and live or die.
But get their chance of growing and the sun.
We made it and we make it and it's ours.
We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained.

Happy Independence Day to everyone, all around the world --

today we Americans celebrate the creation of this nation,
but it is also the creation of a certain kind of dream that has inspired many across the globe:

a dream of free women and men, bound by a common hope rather than a common bloodline or territory,
free to dream their own dreams and to put their hands to making them a reality
for themselves and for their children, for those they know and those they have never met,
for those who share their language and culture and for those who seek refuge here as strangers in a strange land--
until they find their home here, create their home here, both joining and transforming our common dream.

We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained.

  • (edited from here)

I love the national ideals that our flag embodies--

but I fear and deplore what some have done in its name or under its cover, and I will fight to maintain that it belongs to me and to others as much as to them.
I love the flag because it is a symbol of our nation -- the "land of the free and the home of the brave," yes, but I actually prefer the words of "America the Beautiful," because to me they speak more powerfully and fully to what our nation is and is about (particularly the sections I italicize here):

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.

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

A Little Bit of History....
The lyrics to this beautiful song were written by Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929) an instructor at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, after an inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak, Colorado, in 1893. Her poem, America the Beautiful first appeared in print in The Congregationalist, a weekly journal, on July 4, 1895. Ms. Bates revised the lyrics in 1904 and again in 1913. In addition to those changes in the words, it is notable that the poem was not always sung to the tune presented on this website ("Materna," composed by Samuel A. Ward in 1882, nearly a decade before the poem was written). In fact, for two years after it was written it was sung to just about any popular or folk tune that would fit with the lyrics, with "Auld Lang Syne" being the most notable of those. The words were not published together with "Materna" until 1910, and even after that time, the tune to be used was challenged to some degree. For example, in 1926 the National Federation of Music Clubs held a contest to put the poem to new, reportedly "less somber," music, but no other entry was determined to be more acceptable. Before her death in 1929, Ms. Bates never indicated publicly which music she liked best, but it now appears likely that America the Beautiful will forever be associated with "Materna."

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