“My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.” (Samuel Francis Smith)
January 28, 2013
I love this song, America, better than the Star Spangled Banner. It’s easier to sing and tells a better story about the United States of America. For the life of me I can’t fathom why Congress decided to change the national anthem after America had served us so well for 100 years. That’s right, it was 1931 before we switched to a song few of us can actually sing well. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?
It makes me wonder about a lot of things that have happened to this country since 1776. Maybe another history lesson is in order for my faithful readers. Let’s begin with a basic premise. Why are we here? In my mind at least, we’re here to show others the way, because before the United States of America was formed in 1789 the world had only known tyranny, injustice and oppression. Despotism is the most common form of government ever known to mankind and it still thrives today because it’s simple. One man makes all the decisions and the people have no other choice but to do what he says. The American colonists labored under a tyrant for 100 years before the revolution and King George III was just like all the other tyrants who claimed the English throne before him; ruthless, arbitrary and self-serving. His British Empire stretched farther than any other empire that had come before and he controlled it all with brutal efficiency. His army and navy had conquered every land with a show of force that was unrivaled.
I’m quite sure he gave no heed to the colonist’s grievances whatsoever. He was not the least bit afraid of the cast-offs who had chosen to try their hand in the New World. His army of professional soldiers would undoubtedly destroy any group of rabble the colonists could throw together and therefore the threat of force would be more than enough to secure his holdings in America. Why listen to Ben Franklin when cannon fire drowns out every voice? This is how tyrants rule, not with logic and compromise but with death and destruction. I can’t even imagine what it was like for the Founding Fathers who drafted the Declaration of Independence. They had to meet in secret in Philadelphia or face the immediate wrath of King George. The punishment for treason was always swift and certain. They had to know they would be publicly executed if their plans were discovered but they did it anyway. The possibility of freedom was too much to pass up and no threat would deter them from their mission, to bring liberty to the world.
Freedom isn’t something we possess, it’s something we are, it’s part and parcel of our very existence but it took us nearly two millenia to overcome tyranny and live as free men once and for all. And a lot of good men had to die for the right to call themselves Americans. They chose death over oppression. The chose hardship over safety. They chose privation over comfort and they chose well. George Washington gets a lot of credit for being a superior military leader but I believe it was his ability to lead men that was the difference, not his tactics. The men who fought beside him were fighting for themselves and their families, not for a King. That distinction is critically important and it has been ever since. The power of liberty to change men’s lives is unlimited and no tyrant will ever be able to get his slaves to fight as well as free men. King George sent thousands of his men to their deaths in the colonies for no good reason except his own greed. He didn’t lead them into battle the way Washington did and tyrants never do lead.
So now you’re wondering why this matters today. It matters because tyranny didn’t die out after our Independence Day and the Founding Fathers were very concerned about how future generations would deal with despotism. This is how George Washington explained the root cause of tyranny, “There is a natural and necessary progression from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of tyranny;…arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of Liberty abused to licentiousness.” (Just to be clear, I looked up the definition of licentiousness: without legal or moral restraint.) It seems to me that Washington was worried about future generations and their ability to resist temptation because liberty without restraint is anarchy and anarchy always breeds tyranny. The rise of arbitrary power always follows the ruin of liberty caused by a lack of morality. Freedom and individual rights are difficult rights to bear because they require a higher degree of self-control than most people possess. When I think of the Constitution, I see it differently than most. The Bill of Rights is not so much a list of privileges, as it is a debt we owe to our forefathers and the inheritance we give to our children.
What would the world look like today if we had lost the Revolutionary War? Does anyone believe the royal family would have willingly given up their authority in favor of democracy? Wherever free men live in this century, they all owe their freedom to our ancestors who died on their behalf. Tyranny must be defeated absolutely and liberty must be defended infinitely. It’s never going to be good enough to hold up the Constitution as proof of our rights. The Bill of Rights is in fact a bill, an invoice for all the benefits that come with liberty. I would even argue that the bill gets more expensive every day because without moral restraint liberty can lead to ruin. Now it’s our turn to keep the torch of liberty burning by practicing restraint, by expecting more from ourselves as individuals and less from our government, by taking care of each other and by teaching our children what it means to be an American. Let’s start by teaching them this wonderful song.
My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside Let freedom ring!
My native country, thee, Land of the noble free, Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills, Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills, Like that above.
Let music swell the breeze, And ring from all the trees Sweet freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break, The sound prolong.
Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.