Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Katharine Lee Bates + Ray Charles

The Scooter Libby thing early last week (Bush’s announcement that he was commuting Libby’s jail term) angered and depressed me—it didn’t really surprise me, but nonetheless it gnawed at me, like a lot of political news stories in the past four years. Part of what was galling was the timing of it: the week of Independence Day, the week when I make an effort to reacquaint myself with patriotism. On Tuesday the Third I was indulging in some snide remarks: "Nation of laws, blessings of liberty, yeah right." Not even clever snide remarks, as you can see.

Despite that, the family and I had a nice Fourth. We were in Swansboro, NC, a quaint little coastal town on the White Oak River, which serves good seafood and puts on a nice fireworks show. Also, kicking back by the swimming pool on the Fifth, we watched Harrier jets making low, slow turns as they approached the Marine Corps’s Auxiliary Landing Field in Cape Carteret. A guy at the pool told us that the USS Iwo Jima had just put into port, returning from the Persian Gulf. Those fighter jets are loud, I wouldn’t enjoy experiencing them every day, but they are impressive, and on this occasion it was good to see and hear them.

Here is something else that improved my mood: I’m not a huge sucker for patriotic songs, but I make an exception for Ray Charles’s rendition of "America The Beautiful," which we heard on the radio. Good stuff. Then in church on Sunday we got to sing ATB. I reflected on this verse, which isn’t one I tend to remember (and which Ray Charles skips in his version):

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Katharine Lee Bates wrote the words in 1893, with later revisions. She was initially inspired by a trip to the summit of Pike’s Peak. I draw hope from thinking that the sentiment of her words will prove more enduring than the small-mindedness of the incumbent White House gang.

No comments: