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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A HISTORY LESSON ON "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL"





On Sunday night during the Broncos beat down Super Bowl XLVIII, many companies used the game to air creative commercials. Some were good, some bad, and some meh.

Cheerios aired this ad of a family announcing they were going to have another child (and bring a puppy into the mix). It was the same family featured in this ad that prompted me to provide some commentary on the topic back in June 2013.

Coca-Cola aired this ad which featured America The Beautiful sung in different languages and featuring different groups of people.




That didn't stop the crazies from commenting on social media. Deadspin and Public Shaming have collected some of these tweets. You can read them for yourself. I already have.

Let's start with a little history lesson.

America The Beautiful was written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1893 on a trip to Pikes Peak in Colorado. Pikes Peak is located about 90 miles south of Denver just outside of Colorado Springs. Ms. Bates was a graduate of Wellesley College in Massachusetts where she became an English professor and later taught history and political science. What brought Ms. Bates to Colorado was teaching summer courses at Colorado College. Upon reaching the top of Pikes Peak, Bates was amazed by the view of the continent that she wrote in her diary, “Most glorious scenery I ever beheld.” She took our her notebook and began scribbling the opening lines, "O beautiful for..."

The poem was not published until 2 years later. Bates was surprised by the poem's success. She later commented on the reason why it resonated with the people was because of its “hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.”

Clearly the people who made the comments last night do not recognize the humanity in their fellow Americans as Ms. Bates did.

And I doubt they realize there were more verses to the song than one that most people know such as the one sung by musician Queen Latifah during the pre-game festivities leading up to kickoff of Sunday night's game.





Bates' original 1893 America The Beautiful contained four verses (and there is one version with as many as EIGHT verses) and was titled Pikes Peak. The editorial pages of the New York Times in January 2012 commenting on Mitt Romney's campaign published this original third verse:


America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!





Bates was expressing her disdain towards the excesses of the Gilded Age. In some cases those words ring true to this day given that wages among the top 1% wage earners have exploded exponentially while those in the lower 99% have stagnated. We have also witnessed an increase of moneyed influence into our politics where a very few have influence over policies that benefit them and not the rest of us.

Though Bates sought copyright over her work, she never sought any payment for it. She considered the poem a personal gift to the country. The copyrighted four verses are here at the Pikes Peak website.

Bates was a Republican, but broke ranks with her party in the 1924 election to campaign for the Democratic candidate, former US Solicitor General and US  Ambassador to the United Kingdom John W. Davis, because the Republican Party was increasingly becoming more xenophobic. Bates voted for Davis in the 1924 election because he supported the United States joining the League of Nations which she felt was “our one hope of peace on earth.”

The Republican Party becoming more xenophobic? Where have we heard this before? Who remembers during their nomination process where Mitt Romney uttered the phrase self-deportation and then the party adopting it as part of their 2012 platform? Or them adopting the ridiculous Agenda 21 non-sense in that same platform? Or that Speaker of The House John Boehner has said no to the Senate's version of immigration reform?

Bates also published other works and assisted her partner Katherine Coman, who was chair of the economics department and later dean of Wellesley College. Coman sided with workers during the Pullman Strike in 1894 and traveled to Chicago to help striking seamstresses win union rights. Coman authored this piece: Unemployment Insurance a Summary of European Systems.



When I mentioned that Coman and Bates were partners, they were partners... in the sense of the phrase "Boston Marriage."

Yes, they were in a same-sex relationship in the early 20th century.

When Coman passed away due to breast cancer in 1915, Bates mentioned that “So much of me died with Katharine" and “that I’m sometimes not quite sure whether I’m alive or not.” In her spouse's honor, Bates wrote in 1922 Yellow Clover: A Remembrance of Love.

Yes, by today's right-wing standards, Ms. Bates is an east coast subversive elitist unpatriotic person trying to promote her disgusting homosexual lifestyle and trying to convert people into changing America to a socialistic society.

And worst of all... she's a RINO (Republican In Name Only).



The funny thing is that there is an elementary school in Colorado Springs named after Ms. Bates. Yes, the same Colorado Springs that is home to such anti-LGBT organizations such as Focus on The Family.




Ms. Bates and her significant other Ms. Coman certainly today would advocate for the melting pot of America in addressing issues such as immigration reform, the widening economic inequality that hasn't been seen in decades, and given their own personal lives and the ad feature a same-sex couple (believe me I had to watch it again to see it), marriage equality.

I think it is safe to draw this conclusion that Bates would have published her poem America The Beautiful in various languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Navajo, Sioux, Japanese, Hindu, and whatever other languages for other people in order to feel a sense of  belonging to this country and she STILL would not have asked for a single dime in royalties.

For those that posted those messages on social media, it was a reaction. A hateful reaction, but it was one. These people represent an America that is becoming more diverse and accepting of people of different races, faiths, sexual orientations. Maybe these people are shocked to learn the life story of the author.

While it is easy to say these people should be cast aside to history's dustbin, perhaps I take a page from Bates' poem. And maybe these people should heed these words from the last lines of the popular first verse.

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!


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