Sunday, July 4, 2010

Musical Musings and other thoughts on the 4th

It was really strange celebrating the 4th of July today knowing that I am moving out of the country in less than a month. Ever since the first time we went to Hungary, I've never been particularly patriotic because I wanted to be there rather than in the US. This year was different. After this month, there is no telling when I will actually live in the country again. It's highly unlikely that it will be in less than two years and quite possibly much longer than that. I had to stop and reflect today on what it means to me to be an American.

Yes, I have plenty of issues with this country (the dawning of socialized medicine for one... EEEEKKKK), but when I stop to think about it, I have to admit that I would not be where I am and who I am if I had been born anywhere else. The opportunities I have had, simply because my family is from the US are endless. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to say that other countries are inferior. Had I lived somewhere else, I would have had different opportunities, maybe even better ones. But I wouldn't be who I am.


At Mass this morning, we closed with "My Country 'tis of Thee." Flipping through the hymnal and seeing which patriotic songs were included made me stop and think about various ones and my views and feelings about them.

"My Country, 'Tis of Thee"
Better now that they aren't calling it America (although that is still the name of the hymntune). My biggest issue with this is its origin. Even on the "benefiting" side of the equation, I think it's offensive that we stole the national anthem of the country from which we had broken free and turned it into a patriotic song for our country. (On further research, I see that it's used by some other countries so I don't feel quite so bad) That being said, there really isn't anything particularly American about the song and I rather like it.

"The Star-Spangled Banner"
Also know as.. "The song I hated to sing in high school and would make up excuses to miss football games at which the choir had to sing it." It's a good national anthem as long as you overlook (or don't mind) the violence. I wish the other verses were used more often.

"God Bless the USA"
This song makes me laugh. Yes, my nerdy self is showing, but the linguistic structure of the refrain makes a statement completely opposed to the theme of the song. In English, double negatives produce a positive. So.. the line "Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land" is actually saying "There is doubt that I love this land." This made the song one of my favorites during high school when all I wanted to do was move back to Hungary.

"God Bless America"
I actually really like this one. Short, sweet, and to the point, written by a popular American composer, and at its heart it is a prayer asking for what every country needs - God's blessing.

"America the Beautiful"
This is my favorite patriotic hymn. The text is so beautiful (haha) in how it captures the history of the country. It does not gloss over failings, but asks for help to overcome them. The second and third verses are particularly poignant.

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.


As this Independence Day draws to a close, I feel more patriotic than I have in years. Somehow, knowing I am leaving my home has made me appreciate it all the more. I may not always agree with the direction the country is headed or our administration, but I am still proud to be an American. In the end, I think the most important thing is to remember that while it is so important to pray "God Bless America" it is just as important to pray "America Bless God."

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