Patriotic Songs - Monday Musing, July 6, 2020
Patriotic Songs. It is hard not to think about patriotic songs following the fourth of July holiday weekend. Although our celebrations may have been a little bit different this year, fireworks and patriotic pride are the hallmarks of the holiday.
There are many inspirational songs that make us stand a bit taller and warm our hearts with patriotic pride. Such as The Star-Spangled Banner, This Land Is Your Land, America the Beautiful, God Bless America, and God Bless the U.S.A. to name a few. Did you hear (or sing) your favorite patriotic song this weekend?
Our hearts may swell when we hear a favorite tune, but have we considered the impact others feel when they hear lyrics that: glorifies war, boasts a land that has been taken from indigenous people, praises success when financial opportunities are not available to everyone, and elevates a way of life that is not obtainable because of institutional racism? Is it patriotic to overlook how others are oppressed in our country? Shouldn’t the best patriotic song do more than be inspirational, shouldn’t it be aspirational as well?
An inspirational and aspirational song that comes to my mind is Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, which is not so much a song as a hymn – a call to action that honors African Americans’ long, painful struggle for freedom and affirms their rightful place in our national identity. The song was written in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson, who had been tasked with delivering an address to celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday the following year. He began prepping for it, but as he writes in his autobiography, “I wanted something else also.” He took his words to his younger brother, a classically trained composer named J. Rosamond Johnson, and Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing was born.
Out of the pain of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and others, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is an inspirational and aspirational call to patriotism, calling on us all to disrupt a system that is killing people, smothering communities, and disregarding basic needs in a global pandemic. Through our tears, no more should we be silent, demanding that generations of injustice cease NOW.
Lift ev’ry voice and sing
’Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
’Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast
God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land
Songwriters: J. Rosamond Johnson / James Johnson
Lift Every Voice and Sing lyrics © Carlin America Inc
May you be inspired this week.