Inside the Capitol

Monday, July 06, 2009

7-10 Reflecting on July 4, 2009 Tributes

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- I always enjoy all the July 4th tributes in the newspapers at this time every year. My favorite this year was one by Colin Powell, whom I wish would have been on the ballot the last three presidential elections.
He said the older he gets, the more he appreciates the Declaration of Independence. He said his favorite sentence is "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
This wasn't the reality of 1776. It was merely a dream, an experiment. No other nation in the world had ever achieved such a thing. Powell says he finds new meaning in the sentence every time he reads it.
Marc Simmons had an interesting column on New Mexico's first July 4th celebrations. Just as we and El Pasoans claim the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1598, well before Jamestown and Plymouth, we also can claim July 4th celebrations before New Mexico became a territory of the United States.
Simmons says in 1825, American traders in Taos put on a showy parade around town. The claim was made that Taosenos were delighted and shouted "Viva la Republica." Simmons wonders if maybe they were cheering the Republic of Mexico instead.
It sounds logical to me. The Americans didn't have a flag so they made one with our eagle on it. Since the Mexican symbol also is an eagle, Taosenos may have been glad to see the Americans adapting to local ways so quickly.
It would be over 20 years before the Norteamericanos would come marching in to take over. And when they did, Taosenos were the first to rebel, killing and scalping our first governor.
Every so often, someone comes up with the suggestion that the nation should change its national anthem. The current one spans nearly two octaves while most people are good for only one. The words are about bombs, war and bloodshed, not American values. And the melody is an old English drinking song.
Columnist Michael Kinsley took the occasion of the Fourth to suggest some alternate anthems. His first suggestion was "America," which he suggested should be called "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" because America doesn't appear anywhere in the words.
If using the tune to an old English drinking song is bad, how much worse is using the melody to "God Save the King/Queen" -- as in King George, from whom we were trying to wrest our freedom?
Most of us now are proud of our country's English heritage but one would hope we could be more original. Besides, the lyrics are a little weak for a national anthem. I'm not sure about words like 'tis and sweet.
Irving Berlin came up with some nice words and music for "God Bless America." Kate Smith practically made it a national anthem, belting it out before hockey games. Major League Baseball often uses it during the seventh inning stretch. Some would object to God being in there. But every president uses the phrase to say, "My speech is over."
Two Americans collaborated on the words and music to "America the Beautiful." The tune is lovely and the words to the many verses are exceedingly appropriate.
My favorite of the alternatives is "Battle Hymn of the Republic." It's a bit martial and religious but particularly inspiring. It appears in church hymnals I have seen but since "one nation, under God" passes muster, this should too.
The problem is that it was a Union marching song during the Civil War and might not be too popular in some parts of the South as soon as the word got around.
"Proud to Be an American," also called "God Bless the USA," would be extremely popular with those shunning the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." But it would upset many others.
My preference is to keep what we have. As an instrumental or sung by a trained voice, I think it's great. During medal ceremonies at the Olympics, it is the most stirring anthem of any country.
FRI, 7-10-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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