America the Beautiful

I originally published this on Washington Hotlist. On this Fourth of July, I republish it here. Happy Birthday, America.

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain. America, America God shed His grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

In 1893, a young teacher by the name of Katharine Lee Bates, scribbled these words into a notebook after ascending Pike’s Peak and witnessing the vast expanse of America in front of her. She never knew that the words she wrote would eventually be sang in churches, public forums and eventually during the 7th inning of many baseball games in the United States.

She had no clue that the words, “America the Beautiful” would resonate with so many people. She knew that they resonated with herself.

According to the story (reprinted here with no known attribution to the original article), after tweaking and rewriting some sections, the song would be reprinted in the Boston Evening Transcript where it was mostly well received, yet she was criticized for using the word “Beautiful”.

Oh, beautiful.

There’s a lot of talk these days about patriotism. George Bush made the point famous by using rhetoric like, “You’re either with us, or you’re for our enemies” and calling patriotism into question. Congress went along with the war rhetoric under the guise of patriotism.

It became an unofficial requirement for members of the media to display American flag lapel pins. An exotic dance of expectations, intentions, and cooperations ensued where patriotism was challenged.

They don’t understand patriotism.

Patriotism is a love of country. Patriotism is not an act demonstrating a love of country. Patriotism is respect and honor. Patriotism is not a shallow public display of affection. Patriotism is the ability to stand back and say, “Wow, I’m blessed to be an American”. Patriotism is not “America and no one else.” Patriotism is recognizing that, at the end of the day, despite disagreement we can all stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of the freedom to disagree.

America, the Beautiful.

Much has been talked about Barack Obama’s speech on patriotism the other day. I confess, I haven’t seen it yet.The old view of patriotism likes to hammer him because he doesn’t wear a lapel pin. He’s not Muslim, but if he was that’s okay. He’s got a middle name that brings back some memories, yet… he is patriotic as far as I can tell.

He loves his country. He will defend the right to disagreement. His core is baked into a tremendous love for this country, his country, OUR country.

The fact that a black man, today, can run for President is a beautiful thing.

America the Beautiful.

I like what my friend, Erin, has to say about this.

I have never considered myself a patriot.

I have never served in the armed forces. I have never served as a lawmaker, or heck, even a volunteer.

I thought patriots died for America, they lost their homes or sacrificed their sons. I thought they did what was asked when the United States was in need and always stood by her side.

Those people are why I never once considered myself even close to a “œpatriot.” Sure I have a loyalty to my country, but I also question her. While it may be one of the things that makes this country great, it was always one of the things I thought disqualified me to really be patriotic.

Guess I was buying the spin too.

The most noble and patriotic thing that an American can do is to question authority. That is what makes America beautiful, and that is patriotism.

Photo Credit: Jcolman

In Memoriam

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Photo credit enidance.

Photo by tomfs.

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Photo Credit by kimberly98.

Photo by panzerwaffen43.

Let’s bring them home.

Eight Things

I’ve been tagged for this meme by Doug Haslam and Geoff Livingston (what’s with all you PR people?). I don’t typically participate in memes as I think it generally dilutes the quality of the body of content, but I’m making an exception this time. If for no other reason, I’ll stop getting tagged by PR people. :-)

So the deal is I need to tell you eight things you probably don’t know about me. But you already know everything, right? I mean, I’m pretty transparent and fairly public. I bet you didn’t know, though that:

  • I used to live in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (I lived there when it was Zaïre, before civil war destroyed the country and the name change occurred). I was a missionary kid from ages 8-12. What fascinates me is looking at the Google satellite imagery and seeing how built up it has become, though if you zoom in you can certainly see third world written all over it:

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  • My very first baseball game was on June 15, 1990. The Boston Red Sox were visiting the Baltimore Orioles at the old Memorial Stadium. Pete Harnisch pitched for the O’s and Wes Gardner pitched for the Sox. The Orioles lost 4-3 long before I was a Red Sox fan.
  • I’ve at very minimum been in airports and in many cases spent significant time in 16 countries: The United States, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, England, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Cameroon, DRC (Zaire), Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya. Likewise, I’ve been in 27 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada, California, and Washington.
  • I had tickets to the New Years Eve Dave Letterman show in 1996 and gave them up because I was going to be out of town.
  • As a kid, I planned to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and go on to fly F-14s off aircraft carriers. Then my eyesight went bad.
  • I once bought a girl a $99 gold sapphire ring on the first date.
  • My favorite coffee is Peets followed by Green Mountain Coffee. My favorite beer is Resurrection, from the Brewers Art in Baltimore, followed by San Francisco beer, Anchor Steam.
  • I’ve owned a 1987 Suzuki Samurai, a 1987 Chevy S-10, a 1992 Toyota Tercel, a 1996 Chevy Cavalier and a 2001 Ford Taurus (current).

Now my time to tag: Chris Brogan, Dave Zatz, Jim Kukral, Marina Martin, Shana Glickfield, Alex de Carvalho, Alex Hillman and Jim Long.