Posts Tagged ‘America the Beautiful’

Adverse Verse

Posted in General on November 13th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

Our local Veterans Day commemoration was to conclude with the audience singing “America the Beautiful”.  The lyrics–for all four verses–were distributed among us.  Of course, we knew the first verse by heart and our singing was loud, clear and enthusiastic, an affirmation of our patriotism and superior dentistry.

Then we began the second verse, which for most of us was an introduction.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet

Whose stern impassioned stress

You could hear in the audience’s tone and subsiding volume a sense of bewilderment.  Stern, impassioned feet?  Our singing now reflected a certain caution, as if dreading further dismay.

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness.

America!  America!

Nothing really weird or incomprendible in that.  The audience felt reassured, and the singing resumed some gusto.

God mend thine ev’ry flaw

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.

Anyone who was still singing had a question in his voice.  Self-control?  That is often a punchline alluding to a certain adolescent expression of wishful thinking that might cause carpal tunnel syndrome if not blindness.  The definition of self-control is not completely irrelevant to Veterans Day.  To maintain some purity among the enlisted men, the army and navy were said to add saltpeter to the rations.  However effective that ingredient was for the libido, it certainly suppressed our urge to sing.  There was no effort to lead us into the third verse, and amid the smirks and “huhs” the ceremony awkwardly ended.

But now I was confronted with this onanistic interpretation of American history.  Was our Western expansion merely therapy for teenagers?  Grab Mexican and Indian land instead of yourself!  Furthermore, I now considered the name of the song’s lyricist:  Katherine Lee Bates.  Was she confronting her own shameful suspicions that she was related to the very Master Bates who inspired wrist yoga?

Perhaps I should add saltpeter to my diet.

Let’s not forget the historic significance of this week.

November 13:  If you hate Ikea

November 16:  A Lawyer’s Special

November 18:  When in Rome (allegedly)

November 19:  Mediacracy