America, Of Thee I Sing!

Every morning in 1960s public school classrooms across the United States, after students faced the flag and chanted the pledge, teachers would lead them in singing patriotic songs. More times than not we sang My Country ‘Tis of Thee, other times we sang America the Beautiful and This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie. These songs were easy to sing because they had no high notes that caused the boy’s voices to crack and go out of tune. Perhaps Sarah Palin remembers this song, it was the country’s unofficial anthem before the Star Spangled Banner became the national anthem, the first stanza of the first verse ends with Of thee I sing! Sound familiar?

President Obama’s title of his book dedicated to his daughters is both laudable and patriotic, something Sarah Palin and those of her ilk clearly know little about. It is disturbing that critics related the President’s title Of Thee I Sing to some 1930s Gershwin satirical musical (first theme to pop up when Googled) – it is a children’s book after all – and clearly is not politically based.

President Obama’s choice of American figures that played historical roles in our country’s development are also positive choices; people are not perfect but at certain points in their lives they have shining moments that can help influence those around them to perform acts for greatness. I do not believe that we as American citizens need to follow lockstep behind the ‘America, Right or Wrong’ banner – we should be able to discern our inglorious moments from our heroic deeds, hence, I welcome Sitting Bull’s tribute instead of seeing Custer praised for his selfish and immoral act of glory when he ordered women, children and elderly Native Americans slaughtered. I, for one, believe Custer deserved to be forgotten and Sitting Bull exemplified.

Wearing a uniform of the United States does not a hero make, it is the valour in the heart of the soldier; it is acting without regard to personal safety to relieve the suffering of another individual – it is unconditional love, just ask Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, 2010 Medal of Honor recipient. He followed the time honor code of rescuing one’s fallen comrade and not allowing that soldier to be taken prisoner. Guinta said that he did what he was trained to do, what any soldier was trained to do without forethought and assessment of risk to one’s self.

Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings are not erotic unless the viewer wants them to be, the immature critics that point out tawdry eroticism when viewing stamen and petals are guilty of planting misinformation in innocent minds; their criticism reflects their own sick vices. O’Keefe wrote as explanation of her art: “So I said to myself, I’ll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking the time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.” I can’t say what Sarah Palin sees when she views oversized poppies but I see flowers.

Both Billie Holiday and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. battled vices yet used their talents to inspire people to believe in beauty and better tomorrows – what is the harm in this? It seems that in Sarah Palin’s jaundiced view, anything that President Obama writes, says or does is anti-American. Unlike former President Bush’s bully in the playground, President Obama knows that our country’s past misdeeds have repelled the world, to know this and to say this is not Un-American, it is totally American to question, so says President Jefferson, because if we accept the Tea Party norm touting our superior dominance as we bully our allies and taunt our enemies, world peace will be allusive.

I have proudly added Of Thee I Sing! to my children’s book collection. I think that this is the point of President Obama’s real-life Americans – they all overcame difficulty and adversity and in doing so revolutionized America, they took what roads were before them and made the best of it – without profit or want of grandeur. They were commendable individuals that did what they had to do so that others could move past them in our sweet land of liberty, to hear freedom ring!