This is My Country

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, June 29, 2022

These have been some trying days lately for our country. If you can even bear to watch the news, there is something to worry about every night. Gas prices and inflation are at the top of everyone’s mind. We have a war going on in Ukraine that will have an impact on the world in ways not yet known. We have demonstrations in the streets about abortion and gun rights, while we experience mass shootings on a level never experienced in our lifetimes.

On Sunday morning I told my wife, Mary Lou, that this might be a challenging year to write an article about the Fourth of July. It seems there is more division than ever. Can we still find a way to celebrate the founding of our nation? Do we still think our country is more important than winning every political battle that comes along?

It did not take me long to find my answer. On Sunday afternoon, I attended the 20th performance of the Star Spangled Spectacular. This is an incredible performance held each year at the Auburn United Methodist Church. There were over 40 musicians in the orchestra playing 15 different instruments.

There were 75 talented singers in the Star Spangled Festival Chorus. Seven members, past and present, of the military took part along with a host of behind-the-scenes support staff. I was a bit tired and for the briefest of moments considered not attending. What a mistake that would have been.

The music was full of patriotic classics, ranging from “America the Beautiful” to the “Star Spangled Banner”. A beautiful rendition of “Taps” tugged at the heartstrings of the hundreds in attendance. There were songs of America’s long and enduring faith, as well as patriotic pops and inspirational favorites.

At the end of the two-hour program, however, it was the music and words of one song that captured my heart and reinforced all that I believe about our divided nation.

“This is My Country” hit me with a force I had not expected. After all, I had played this well-known tune hundreds of times myself and sung it since I was in elementary school. “This is my country/land of my birth/this is my country/grandest on earth/I pledge thee my allegiance/America the bold/for this is my country to have and to hold”

There is not a word in that stanza that I question. It does not matter to me if you are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent. It does not concern me if we are the same color, worship in the same religion, or watch the same news channel. We can disagree about the raging issues of the day, and I will not question your allegiance to our country, though I might wonder about your intelligence.

I am concerned about our country. Not so much about our differing opinions, but rather about our desire to win, at any and all costs. Our Founding Fathers disagreed about much, but worked out their differences in a spirit of cooperation that too often seems lacking today.

I have seen families divided and friends separated over the issues we face. Our beliefs, far-right and far-left, are shouted from the mountain tops with technologies that did not even exist a generation ago. We seem to diminish and demean anyone who disagrees with our own opinion, using social media more as a hatchet than a quill.

Take a moment and go back to your own roots, when you learned the lyrics of “This is My Country”. Read them again, or even better, listen to them being sung. It is the simplest verse of all our patriotic songs, yet it conveys the basic truths that should be a part of every citizen’s love of this country.

This Fourth of July holiday I will once again celebrate with four generations of my family at the same place our family has gathered since after the first world war; Compass Lake, Florida. While we will be celebrating many things, it will be first and foremost that America is my country. Our country. The land that we love.