Sunday, May 24, 2009

America the Beautiful


I visited my parent's ward today, where one of the topics was learning from the past. This seemed an appropriate subject for Memorial Day, made more so by the fact that the speaker was a veteran, who clearly had intense feelings about both our country and those who fight to defend it. He expressed particular concern about what he viewed as a continuing failure of world leaders to learn from the lessons of history, a reality I have also noted with no small measure of trepidation.

This failure by leaders in exercising the humility necessary to learn from the past disturbs me greatly, but my intent this morning is not political in nature. Rather, I would like to pay tribute to generations of brave Americans who have given their all to establish and maintain our nation. Their patriotism, spirit of sacrifice, and devotion to duty have upheld and sustained us through generations of struggle and conflict, much of it engendered by human weakness and demonstrated inability to learn from past mistakes. Given our imperfection as human beings, we can predict with some certainty that global strife will continue to be with us, and I find comfort in the knowledge that men and women exist who are willing to put themselves on the line in serving a cause they hold greater than themselves. And for those citizens who are not career military, I am grateful that, when push comes to shove, Americans have repeatedly shown the courage and fortitude needed to defend the virtues and values we hold dear.

I sincerely thank every one of them: those who have stood for us before, those who are standing for us today, and those who will inevitably stand for us in the years to come.

Fittingly, the closing song for sacrament meeting was America the Beautiful, and the words resonated strongly with my feelings:

Oh, beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,

who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life...

Beautiful, indeed.

One last and rather hopeful thing that occurred to me...So many voices today are raising concerns about the socialization of our country, and to be honest, I am concerned as well. But even stronger than my concern is my unwavering faith in the American people, who I firmly believe are capitalistic at their core, in the most fundamental sense of the word. Just as soldiers and diplomats have found it nearly impossible to change the engrained tribal cultures, behaviors, and predilections of men and women in the Middle East to match our own, so will any group or individual who tries to change the long-held and deeply rooted nature of the American people run into difficulty. I find this incredibly reassuring, and whatever peace I feel during this period of economic and political strife in our country is founded in my incontrovertible belief in two entities:

(1) the essential character of our citizens (after peeling away the layers of entitlement and complacency), and

(2) the Divine Peeler of Layers Himself.

In other words, I still think there is good fruit beneath some of the rot we have seen and are seeing. I have to believe, when the chips are down (and they are falling all around us), that we are and will continue to be patriots. Overly optimistic? Perhaps, but optimism is the life blood of our nation...and too much of it has been spilled to turn back now. These words pretty much say it all:

Oh, beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years

thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears...

And so I remember other patriots, too, on this Memorial Day weekend...not only those who have served our country well in the military, but those mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who have sent them...who have stood by, supported, and feared losing them for the simple and not-so-simple-at-all reason that they feared losing something they held even more dear: their God-given freedoms and privileges as American citizens.

May every one of us resolve here and now to hold these inalienable rights sacred, and may we ever honor those who fight for them, at home and abroad.

6 comments:

KC Mom said...

Oh beautiful...was your post today...thank you for sharing it.
And...I really liked your music too.
Thank you for being so uplifting.

em said...

i'm feeling so patriotic! what a great way to start my day, thanks:-)

karen said...

Your post was very reassuring as I, too, have faith in Americans. I think we've gotten a bit lazy and complacent, as you said, but I firmly believe enough of us will rise to the occasion when push comes to shove. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so!

K2cole said...

Great post! I have the same hope for Americans. Whenever I get discouraged I see someone preform a kind act when I least expect it.

Thanks for the wonderful thoughts on this day!

Natalie said...

Ok, new favorite!! This had me in tears. Thank you for your message of hope (true hope) and strength.
This was beautiful!

"The Divine Peeler of Layers"...love it!

Lisa Loo said...

These were some lovely thoughts--I love the positive way you put things. It made me want to stand up and sing or something!! Thanx for sharing!

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