I think one of the most profound patriotic songs in the repertoire is "America the Beautiful." It's not as flashy as some of the other ones but there is some really good stuff in the lyrics.
First of all, I love the line, "And crown they good with brotherhood." It's an important reminder that all that is good about America can be enhanced and augmented by love, understanding and civility--brotherhood. That is a wonderful thought.
I also love the last few verses.
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
I love these lines for a few reasons. First of all, it recognizes that God has an interest in America, that He cares about it. I know that's an archaic idea for some, but I really believe it.
That leads me to the next point: America isn't perfect. I firmly believe that one can love this country without being naive about it's problems. I love my children deeply. I am also aware of their weaknesses. This love and awareness can be simultaneous and not mutually exclusive.
This lyric acknowledges that America can be good, and still have some flaws to be refined. The lyric also represents one of the key paradoxes of the Founding: that self-control and law actually lead to freedom. This is one of the reasons that the American revolution ended so differently than the Russian or French revolutions. It's a profound thought, not necessarily easy or what people always want to hear, but it's so true in every context I can think of.
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
These verses capture the aspirational, striving nature of America. Historically, we want to be good. We may not always achieve it, but I think we try. We really try, and that makes us a bit unique, I think. I'm not sure any other country worries so much and devotes so much energy to trying to be good. We ask not only for gold, but that God will refine that gold, that we will be successful and strong--but that it will be noble and righteous success. And that is a wonderful aspiration.
I had a hard time finding a good video of this song to post. I am posting this one with some qualms. The visuals (facial expressions, etc. are over the top). But there are some pretty good harmonies here.
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