Posted by: jevcat | July 4, 2010

Fourth of July

I am and have always been passionate about this nation.  Watching the flag gives me gooseflesh and, before a ball game, I’ll be the one surreptitiously wiping her eye during the singing of the national anthem. 

Like most Americans, though, I only have the first verse memorized (unlike some, I at least know there are more).  My favorite verse may be the last, despite the fact that I’ve never completely memorized it.  Here it is:

O! thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

Those first two lines practically make my hair stand on end, and thinking of those who have so stood for this nation can reduce me to tears.  But the lines that originally endeared this verse to me, way back in the Vietnam era when I first learned them, and have never left me, are:  “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just.” 

It is a conditional statement:  without justice, we cannot succeed.  It reminds me of another patriotic quote that is often shortened to remove the sting:  “My country right or wrong; if right, to be kept right, and if wrong, to be set right.”  (Sen. Carl Schurz, 1872)

What is called for is not blind advocacy, but thoughtful, active citizenship.

This morning’s Epistle fed into my Fourth of July thoughts, with its admonishment to restore someone who has gone astray “in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1)  It seems to me that spirit is sorely lacking in the U.S. today and, it sometimes seems to me, especially so among those who identify themselves as Christians.  I hear such mean-spiritedness from both sides, but especially from the conservative Right.  That spirit of gentleness, and Christ’s concern that we love and care for one another seemed to be nowhere in the debates on health care, immigration – everything – with everyone concerned about “me, my” and no one concerned about “us” – everyone who makes up the totality of “We, the people of the United States.”  That involves compromise and sacrifice rather than winner-take-all.

My prayer for us on this Independence Day is that we learn again the pointed wisdom of Ben Franklin:  “We must all hang together or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

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Responses

  1. Like you, I love this country and get very emotional in response to the national anthem, but I agree that we still need a lot of work when it comes to democracy.

  2. The last four lines of this verse of the Banner are very familiar to me. But I don’t know why! For me the Star Spangled Banner always raises my spirit.
    I am so glad the move to try and make “God Bless America” our national anthem failed! Can you imagine that being sung in foreign lands at various occasions, say the Olympics? I hope you read my July 4th post!


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