Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues


            I was once part of a populist movement to change the national anthem to America the Beautiful.  

          The Star Spangled Banner is eminently unsing-able, and is even trumped on July 4 when we set off fireworks to strains of the 1812 Overture— composed by a Russian and nothing to do with us. It celebrated an anniversary of Russia’s defeat of Napoleon, and Tchaikovsky himself cared not a fig for the piece, calling it “loud and noisy.”

          But in 1974, Arthur Fiedler and a Boston businessman needed something to bring crowds back to the Pops concerts and chose the 1812 Overture. With booming cannon, church bells ringing, fireworks and a sing-a-long, it was its first performance for our 4th of July celebrations, but is now an annual event all over the country.

          Another song has also taken on new life: God Bless America, by Irving Berlin, who put it aside for 20 years before it became Kate Smith’s “signature song” beginning with Armistice Day 1938 (as war clouds gathered once more). We hugged it again with a vengeance after 9/11, especially at athletic events, while launchimg “pre-emptive strikes” and wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

          It’s actually a form of prayer, though Berlin feared that his phrase, “…to the right…” might be confused with the political right, and changed the words to “through the night.”

          Our real national anthem is a war song of sorts, and I’m hardly alone in a wish to change it: more than a quarter of Americans want Bruce Springsteen to write a new one–while others prefer Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder, or rapper Jay Z to do so.

          America the Beautiful is a kinder and gentler— and more sing-able—hymn. It’s also more realistic, calling us not only to pride in nation but to self-responsibility:

                                                 America, America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

                                                            confirm thy soul in self-control,

                                                                      thy liberty in law.

          And there’s a patriotism I can live with. “Mend (our) every flaw,” before telling everyone else on the planet how to live, amid excessive claims to so-called American “exceptionalism.”

          Patriotism is love of one’s country and typically a nod to each nation’s natural beauty. But along came “nationalism” and its head-butt with the simple love of country that is patriotism.

          Extremes of nationalism are not “patriotism,” but distortions of it that flatter themselves with words like “super-patriotism.” Think British and French colonialism, which looked on Asia and Africa as inferior peoples; think European dictatorships that led to World War II; and use of Loyalty Oaths in America that led to new words, like chauvinism and jingoism.

          Our so-called “pre-emptive” strike on Iraq in the Bush era was clearly flawed, for which we should dearly seek its mend. I say so because I believe sincere dissent is the true patriotism; the real American Way.

          An increasing number of American states and cities simply don’t work anymore. My first good glimpse of Boston made me wonder how the middle class lives here. What this will mean to our society, not only in terms of money, is that we’ll always need scapegoats. And who are they and who will they be? Well, we can always count on the usual ones being prime targets.

          The renewal and transformation of white hate bodes ill for African Americans, and is now a more forceful war where much police culture is no friend to black lives.

          “God mend thine every flaw…”? It’s a worthwhile prayer.

          And if we will have preemptive strikes, let’s make some for equality and morality. After the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks endured Jim Crow and share- cropping, and another 100 years for Voting Rights. And still the racism is entrenched, even among the young: a fairly recent Globe article out-ed the fact that our night clubs remain de facto segregated, except in Cambridge, of course.

          But there are more flaws that that: anti-Semitism, homophobia and gay-bashing, pedophilia by religious leaders amid their hypocritical disgust for gay lifestyles, domestic violence towards women and children, and hatred for immigrants, are current and recurrent as deep sicknesses of the human soul. The latter should prompt us to ship the Statue of Liberty back to France till we earn its permanent ownership.

          God mend thine every flaw! Or, we could do it ourselves, if we wanted to. But there is nothing wrong with being humble about our love and pride for country—and mending where mending is due.


One Response to ““MEND THINE EVERY FLAW”!”

  1. Beautiful words my friend, but as long as corporations are people, this country will remain a company town bought and paid for at every election.

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