I just did an informal survey with my three kids, the oldest of which is 20 and the youngest of which is 13. I asked them if they knew the lyrics to some of the classic Americana songs being played in the background while fireworks danced on the TV screen. I’m sure two of them were instantly upset at the third, who was sick and thus was responsible for everyone hanging out at the house for fireworks on TV, where Dad had the opportunity and the captive audience to assail with seemingly inane questions.
They were stumped beyond the first line of any of them. And they were all three products of a patriotic, conservative family (and homeschooled, I might add). “Purple mountain’s what?” “My country tis’ of Thee? What’s that mean?” I had clearly failed them somewhere along the line, probably because between my stint as a public school teacher and the remainder of my time as a teacher of adult males in a state prison, I had been trained to be sensitive to what I could not promote.
Somewhere along the line, the ACLU has managed to ingrain in the brains of those responsible for education, especially public education, that we are to not inculcate our students with any required patriotic stuff, especially any that might mention God. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I remember being picked up by the scruff of my neck, lifted right out of my seat, by a teacher when I was caught whispering during the prayer moment at lunch. I never once thought that it was because I was failing to communicate effectively with God- I thought it was because I was being noisy when I was supposed to be quiet. Somehow, my fragile ego survived the event. And, somehow, I managed to survive saying the Pledge at school, and because we faced the flag, I developed a respect for that symbol, figuring that if it was important enough for the teachers to say it and to make me say it, it must be important for me too. It was later that I learned that there were indeed reasons to revere the flag of the United States, to the point that I learned to resent those that would promote the flag of other countries over ours even while in our country, often illegally.
I remember getting righteously indignant when I first heard “God Save the Queen”, because I thought the tune had been co-opted by those dirty Brits, who were still trying to get back at us for our poking them in the eye all those years ago. And though it’s been years since I’ve sung “My Country Tis’ of Thee”, I bet I could still remember most of the lyrics if I tried really hard. Don’t ask me about “Columbia the Gem of the Ocean”, though; I still get confused with having a third name to represent our country! In any case, I was barely mollified to learn that the English originated the tune for “God Save the Queen”. The Beatles and Eric Clapton must have helped my appreciation of British musicality. But if I were to sing a line from “America the Beautiful” and think about the words, I’d probably still get misty-eyed.
That’s why I can’t figure out what’s wrong with inculcating kids with patriotism. It doesn’t make them see under the varnish any less; it just gives them a foundational appreciation for, at least, what the country could be, even if at the moment we aren’t measuring up to someone’s subjective standards. And while we’re at it, just why did those freakin’ hippies not learn about the aphorism to “not throw the baby out with the bath water”? It wasn’t enough to claim we were wrong about the Vietnam War (yes, I was around then and I think they were wrong, but isn’t that the point?), but their anti-disestablishmentarianism led them to throw everything out and supplant it with- what? Dr. Spock and socialism and Charles Manson? Stupid is indeed an unforgivable sin!
So, now the law says we will teach our children to appreciate the advantages of homosexual parents, but we cannot teach them to love their country? Why not? Even the hobo-sage Progessivist Guthrie told us that “This land is your land”, and to appreciate what we have. And it’s often those in other countries and other “governments” that speak up to tell us how good we have it here. So what’s wrong with a paean to America once in awhile? And since it was those like William Penn that promoted freedom of conscience and belief specifically because they were a Christian sect, even if we don’t believe in their particular God, we ought to be appreciative of what that belief did for everyone, and not feel bad about singing about it. And during the 7th inning stretch at your local ballgame, don’t worry about the high note- it’s the words that count!