“O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…” I would sing this years ago, on the way to the Russian River, in the back of our ’65 Ford station wagon, much to the chagrin of my parents. I love this song. This song by Ray Charles and Whitney’s Star Spangled Banner reduces me to tears in a well of nationalistic emotion. Growing up in Santa Rosa, CA, we’d have block parties every 4th of July on our little street. The two ends of the street would be blocked off and out came the ping pong tables, volley ball nets, the bikes decorated for the bike contest, the watermelon eating contest, the egg toss and kids were everywhere. Those were the good old days.
For a time, the events of the world were blocked from our young lives. But our parents knew that the Vietnam war was raging, the new generation was questioning the decisions of the old one, and the birth pangs of the civil rights movement entered transition. All this turmoil swirled in another dimension. In another world. To me, America was beautiful.
But, America has not always done beautiful things, and we must remember when we talk about making America great again, let me know what time you’re talking about. When was America great? After World War II? Do we want to go back to the ’40’s when women and minorities had no rights? When marriage, for some, was a new form of indentured servitude because the economic choices for women were so limited. No, we may have done great things in World War II, but we, as a people, were still immature. We had a lot of growing up to do. When was America great? There will always be some horrible hidden blemish whether you go back to slavery, to imprisoning a Queen, to slaughtering indigenous people groups; America has a dark past.
We don’t need to go back, we are great right now. We must go forward. America has a sturdy foundation, we’ve been through tough times before. But we must grow, we don’t want to go back to the good old days because the good old days were not very good for a lot of people.
And, America is still beautiful, beautiful in her diversity, beautiful in her ability to appreciate people from all walks of life, beautiful in her ability to continue to grow. She’s still young though, still stumbling to get it right. Just like the constituency she represents. Still at odds with herself. The Bible says the Church is the Body of Christ, and Paul chastised the Corinthians when they compared themselves with each other, “The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I don’t need you.'” So are we also. We are one country, many members. We disrespect ourselves when we hate, blame, criticize and judge our fellow countrymen. Our country faces an election this November and she’s as divisive as ever. But we survived the ’60’s, we’ll survive this election, and to whomever wins, they will be our President. I hope we always remember “God shed His grace on thee, and crown[ed] thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”
Hang in there, girl.