“O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!”
This is my favorite verse of the song “America, the Beautiful.” The poem was written by Katharine Lee Bates and published on July 4, 1895. It was later put to the music of Samuel Ward and became an anthem for America. The poem was inspired by Bates’ trip from the East Coast through Chicago, across the “amber waves of grain” in Kansas, and ending at Pike’s Peak and the “purple mountains majesties” in Colorado.
This was an era when America was the optimistic land of opportunity that in the decades following the poem would attract millions of immigrants seeking a better life. It was a time when those immigrants and most citizens already here had to work hard for everything they earned. Excuses would get them nowhere.
It was a time of creativity, innovation, and invention. A time of Thomas Edison and other entrepreneurs pushing the envelope and creating the modern country. Bates was inspired by the growing city of Chicago and the Columbia Exhibition to project the alabaster cities. Louis Sullivan of that very city invented the modern skyscraper!
So put this verse all together. Patriots, who love this country, see into a future of gleaming cities, in which there is no need for human tears.
We have been living in those cities of the future because they have been the achievements of millions of our ancestors over the generations. In those days, cities were extravagant places with thriving businesses and industries that provided endless opportunities for prosperity.
Humans, however, will always have reasons to shed some tears. Because our culture and ethos have turned away from the optimism and sentiment of Bates’ poem, we see cities in flames. In Chicago, there were almost 500 murders in 2019. Mostly, tragically, minority blacks victimized by other blacks. And even though we have opportunities for a future with more prosperous, longer, and healthier lives than at any time in human history, we are blinded by the shroud of pessimism placed over our eyes by nihilistic, cynical, and immoral elites.
It’s time to rip off the shroud and to recover the vision Bates gave to us. We must see all that those alabaster cities represent, and to see that the good lives we could create can be dimmed by far fewer human tears!
Ed Hudgins ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and president of the Human Achievement Alliance.