Poet’s Note: I wrote this poem in the same metrical form as the song “America the Beautiful” (but without the internal rhyme). You can sing it if you want, but I think it is most effective when simply read out loud.

This year our nation’s birthday seems a tad bit more subdued,
As people from the Right and Left intensify their feud.
Progressives and Conservatives refuse to compromise
On anything that matters to us ordinary guys.

I’m skewered from the Left for being White and middle class,
I’m skewered from the Right for criticizing Trump as crass.
Republicans and Democrats each want me on their side.
“We’re right!” “They’re wrong.” “Don’t be a fool!” “They’re bad!” We’re good!” “Decide!”

To tell the truth, I find this demonizing tiresome.
Why can’t we all just get along? The anger leaves me numb.
So, as I sit and watch the late-night fireworks display,
I think of all the things our nation celebrates this day.

Our liberty and freedom, our pursuit of happiness,
Endowed by our Creator, we enjoy much blessedness.
I ponder immigration and the problems that we face
As millions seek to grab a piece of that which we embrace.

I find it hard to blame them, after all, what we have got
Is something my ancestors also hungered for and sought.
But what to do? Just let them in? Or build a border wall?
While pledging liberty and justice just for us? Or all?

A problem? Yes! But one I’m very gratified to see,
For it just goes to prove we’re still the land of liberty.
How sad to be a country where nobody wants to go.
A place like Myanmar, or Syria, or Mexico.

Who stands in line or risks their life to enter North Korea?
Who from North Africa is clamoring for the Crimea?
Let Russia host the World Cup, a grandiose affair.
But note that athletes won’t be seeking safe asylum there.

Consider Cuba, Libya, and other places hateful.
And then look at the U.S.A. and be forever grateful.
Our nation is not perfect, we critique its every flaw,
While striving for equality in justice and in law.

I wish the folks in Washington who wield so much clout
Would just for once stop shouting and declare a brief time-out
To reach across the aisle in unfeigned humility
And sing in perfect unison, “My Country, ‘tis of Thee.”

All problems have solutions, but to find them we must try
To search for them together, “Them” and “Us” and “You” and “I.”
But even as we argue and debate what should be done
There’s something that transcends our bickering and makes us one.

We want our nation to become the best that it can be—
A place of hope for “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
So, on this blessed Fourth let us give thanks for liberty.
America the beautiful, God shed his grace on thee!

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.

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37 Responses

  1. Leo Yankevich

    Tweddie,

    This is doggerel.

    See why so few attend protestant churches? The average raisin-balled pastor is a libtard who believes in leftist ideology, not in DEITY. Grow a pair, man, grow a pair.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Leo,

      As a mother whose kids read the poetry and comments on this site, I ask that you hold the vulgarity. If your commentary must include crude references to anatomy, then it might be better left unsaid. Surely you can keep a civil tongue and still elucidate your point. I have recommended this site to others who enjoy poetry, and we would all do well to remember that those of us who publish and comment here are representing the SCP. Let us not foul it with unnecessary indecency.

      Reply
  2. Leo Yankevich

    Amy Foreman,

    Where is there vulgarity? (Grow a pair? lol) Again, you confuse middle class (bourgeoisie) morality/ethics with the love of God. Surely you can mind your own business, at least for once?

    You have a typical school-marm mentality typical of bible-belt Americans.

    Reply
  3. Amy Foreman

    Hmmm . . . let’s see . . . ,

    If I WERE your Bible-belt school-marm (smile), your “penalty” for using crude language in class would be to write Proverbs 15:4 on the blackboard, 10 times, in your neatest cursive:

    A wholesome tongue is a tree of life:
    but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. 😉

    Reply
  4. Leo Yankevich

    Amy,

    I am a Roman Catholic, not a heretic like you. Again, you confuse prudery with morality.

    I find your attempts at poetry perverse, Amy, with their thumping laughable plaints about morality. There is so much frustration in your work and so little skill. Why so? Whence the bitterness? Perhaps it has its roots in primordial evil?

    Reply
  5. E. V.

    Leo, you may be a brilliant poet, but perhaps your social skills could benefit from a little tweaking. You do realize you’ve crossed lines that shouldn’t be crossed? Don’t miss your cue to apologize to sweet Amy, whose lovely poetry we adore. Now let’s get on with enjoying the 4th!

    Reply
    • Leo Yankevich

      E.V.–

      What have social skills to do with truth? Amy is not a very good poet and neither are you. In fact, you are both very bad. You can applaud one another, but that changes nothing.

      Amy ought to apologize to me. I don’t apologize to poetastresses who stick their noses where they don’t belong and who accuse me of vulgarity, which of course is a mere projection of their own sullied souls.

      Reply
      • E. V.

        What do social skills and truth have in common? Neither was present in your above comments. Amy is already an accomplished poet. As for your assessment that my poetry is “very bad”, one day I’ll quote you on it. Thanks for the laugh.

  6. E. V.

    James, your poem has nice rhymes and a good flow. A lot of people, myself included, agree with the message that we are forgetting how to bridge our differences and come together as Americans. Your poem has an important message.

    Reply
  7. James A. Tweedie

    Leo, The word “doggerel” is a big vague. If you are referring to the meter, it isn’t doggerel. If you are referring to the rhyming scheme. It isn’t doggerel. If you are referring to lightweight comedic content, it isn’t doggerel. If you referring to subject content (i.e. philosophical concepts of liberty, freedom, unalienable rights endowed by a Creator, flash-point issues of immigration and border security, national identity, civility and incivility in public and political discourse, and the like) then I would submit that the subject matter is non-trivial and therefore does not fall into the category of doggerel. If, however, you are critiquing the poem on its approach to these matters and you do not agree with them, that is an entirely different matter, but to dismiss my thoughts with the intentionally demeaning label, “doggerel,” falls to the level of either crass bullying or the admission that you are incapable of engaging in a reasoned conversation with the author. Leo, I know you to be an intelligent man and an ardent, talented, and inspired poet and translator. I respect you for all of this. I do not, however, find your comments to be either helpful, articulate, or particularly erudite. Your comments regarding my faith (of which you know nothing), my character (of which you know nothing), and my vocation as a Protestant Christian pastor (which you derisively mock) border on bigotry. I am also confused as to why you are so passionate about testicles? If this site is devoted to poetry, then I suggest that we discuss poetry and forswear making specious personal attacks against one another.

    Reply
    • Leo Yankevich

      Tweedie,

      I am referring to the inferior quality of your verses, not to their metre. (Doggerel has more than one meaning.) I am not here to help you, as you will never get any better as a poet than you are now (pretty lousy). Poetry is a jungle, a boxing match, not a bingo game, or group therapy.

      Amy, Tweedie mentioned “testicles”; I never did. Moralize to him! He’s even one of “your” preachers.

      I know exactly what your faith is, Tweedie, libtardism.

      Reply
      • Dave Whippman

        Isn’t there room for all types of poetry? Of course, which kind you prefer is up to you. But Ogden Nash, for example, wrote plenty of stuff that was neither “a jungle or a boxing match” and he is pretty highly regarded.

  8. J. Simon Harris

    Mr. Tweedie, thank you for this patriotic poem on Independence Day. The basic sentiment of the poem is much needed in America today: the divisiveness is more damning than any of the issues our country is so divided over. Meanwhile the politicians and other powerful people profit from the schism, at our expense.

    It is possible to love your neighbor whose political beliefs, religious beliefs, even moral beliefs, are different from your own. It is possible to hear people out even though you vehemently disagree with them. It is possible to see a perspective that’s not your own, and understand it without endorsing it. We don’t have to be dragged along by the vitriol of the loudest voices, the most violent voices. We don’t have to let the politicians and the media polarize us.

    We are Americans. Our bond of common freedom is stronger than the issues of our time. Let us speak to one another, listen to one another, love one another despite our different views. Let fear not overpower compassion. Let us celebrate our nation today as brothers and sisters. Thank you for this poem, and God bless America.

    Reply
  9. Dave Whippman

    I thought it was a cleverly-written poem that made some good points. ironically, the comments debate with Mr Yankevich seems an example of how debate is becoming more personal and less courteous.

    Reply
    • Leo Yankevich

      Dave, the opinions of a sock puppet don’t matter!

      Honesty is not a personal attack; it’s just plain honesty.

      That said, I think I’m going to write an honest review of David Anthony’s latest book and post it at The Pennsylvania Review.

      Reply
  10. Charles Southerland

    You guys don’t get it, do you?

    Every time a holiday comes around you toss off a poorly made poem full of emotion and lack of good tropes and craft. You string together predictable rhymes a blind man could guess. For God sakes, you’ve had an entire year since the last July 4th to craft, to actually craft a poem that really gets down to it. But do you do that? Nope. And then you expect serious writers to engage you with flowery platitudes and meaningless sentiments of what you wrought. It’s embarrassing. If you can’t plan to write a poem any better than that, why write and waste the reader’s time in the first place.

    You see Leo’s comment as vulgar on inappropriate. It is not that. If he had said this to me, I would gulp and do my best to write better, much better work instead of settling for less. Yes, settling for less is what this is all about. Are you really pleased with the level of craft in your work? If the answer is yes, you might want to rethink this. I rethink mine all the time. If you can’t write better than this, the net if full of help that is entirely free. Avail yourselves of this opportunity. I have, and do.

    Some of you have been writing for years and don’t want to be lectured. I understand. If you can’t take harsh criticism, you should just hang up your cleats and get off the field. Everyone can do better according to their talent. Use what God gave you. He gave a lot. I don’t want to be embarrassed anymore than anyone else. I don’t want to be ridiculed either. But it sure beats meaningless platitudes.

    Reply
    • E. V.

      Charles, no one is asking for platitudes. While I agree with a lot of what you said regarding a writer’s willingness to accept (constructive) criticism, very little of your wise words apply to the comments made above. They are personal attacks against PEOPLE, not POEMS.

      Reply
  11. Charlie Southerland

    No, E.V., but people expect those platitudes when they release their work to the public. They hope someone will like their work. Why hope? Why not leave no doubt that what they write is excellent? Criticism will most assuredly become personal over time simply because the writer who is putting poorly crafted work out there incites those critics who do take the time and effort to carefully craft a good poem. That’s it. There are very few beginning writers here, right? Most bio’s are rife with: so and so has a lot of poems, been writing for X number of years. Fill in the blanks. Writers of skill and critics expect more. Should they not? You guys treat this site as if it is a day care center. It’s part of the reason I don’t post my work.

    The “personal” attacks are thus, justified. It is about the “poet’s” poetry and “that” writer’s lack of preparation. If your batting average is below the Mendoza Line, it not only will be personal, you will be sent to the minor leagues. Writing is a serious business to be taken seriously, but a well crafted poem inspires joy in its success. That’s when it is fun. I’m all about the fun…

    Reply
    • E. V.

      Well, of course we hope someone will appreciate our work! However, I’d rather receive honest CONSTRUCTIVE criticism than empty platitudes. Maybe what’s needed is a definition of the term “constructive criticism”. How’s this: 1). It’s a review of the POEM; not the POET. 2). It employs tact. One can be honest without being unnecessarily cruel and brutal. 3). Explanations with examples are provided. They should guide the author and readers towards understanding the POEM’s deficiencies (according to the critic). 4). For exemplary constructive criticism, offer one or two possible edits. No, it doesn’t have to be a complete or extensive re-write, but just enough to support the critic’s position. Lastly, even imperfect poems can be charming and delightful. If there’s something positive that can truthfully be said about a poem, do it!

      Reply
  12. Leo Yankevich

    Well, I admit I made some strong counter punches (regarding evil), but I am like Trump in that way. For that I apologize, but I stand by my opinion of this poem and its message, as well my opinion of both Amy and E.V. as aspiring poets. Amy is, of course, much better than E.V., but both will find serious publication difficult, and this is not my fault. Bad boxers are called “tomato cans,” bad baseball players “bums,” and bad poets. . . “poetasters.”

    Perhaps a gradual evolution of these two poetesses is possible, but I have my doubts.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Leo,

      You talk about bad boxers and bad baseball players, as though bad poets can fit into some quantifiable mold with them. But how do we determine who are the “tomato cans” and the “bums” of the boxing and baseball worlds? They lose. They don’t win or help their team win. The absence of success lets us know that they are “bad” at what they are trying to do.

      Can “bad” poets be measured the same way? By the success, or lack thereof, of their work? You and I both know this would be deceptive and inaccurate. We would never quantify or measure the “goodness” or “badness” of art purely on its objective success within its field, as we would a boxer or baseball player. With such an evidence-based standard, the virtuoso jazz improvisationalist, who plays thousands of chords for his audience of three would be considered “bad,” while the country musician who plays three chords for an audience of thousands would, based on his success alone, be deemed “good.”

      Obviously, we don’t judge poets by the same parameters we use to judge athletes. Poetry is art, and the legitimacy and worth of art is subjective, whether based on our own personal standards of beauty and truth or rooted in the arbitrary and fluctuating benchmarks of the academe. Merit and significance in art are measured by each of us, individually, personally.

      Given that lack of neutral parameters for judging art, it is most helpful that the SCP has provided its own specific standards for contributors. At the top of each of the SCP’s pages, we find the overarching criterion for the site in the motto: “rhyming, rhythmic, and rapturous.”

      We read further, on the “About Us” page, that “ “Such good, new poetry carries a message infused with the profound insights and lofty character of the poet.” The poetry of the SCP, according to this page, should further “humanity’s quintessential quest for virtue over vice, epic over ephemeral, and beauty over baseness.”

      Shazaam! The objective standard of what constitutes “good” poetry on the SCP is clearly laid out. Poetry on the SCP must have a message imbued with insight from a lofty character. It must be rhyming, rhythmic, rapturous. It should lead its readers toward what is good, lasting, and beautiful. If it does those things, then, according to the parameters laid out by the SCP, it passes the “good” poetry test.

      If the standards of the SCP differ from yours, Leo, then you are free to put forth your own, as long as you acknowledge that those parameters are your own, not the SCP’s, and not some cosmic poetic guideline handed down from Mr. Sinai. Calling poets who attempt to adhere to the standards of the SCP “sock puppets,” “bull-sh*tters,” “evil,” “heretics”, “poetasters,” “bad poets,” or “libtards” is middle school nonsense, and hardly infused with “lofty character.”

      I am saddened to hear of your advanced diabetes and cancer. I know, first-hand, what it is to live with life-threatening illness. These must be difficult days for you. I pray that you will soon be restored to health and peace. Blessings– Amy

      Reply
      • E. V.

        Thumbs up, Amy. You said it beautifully. Thank you.

      • Charlie Southerland

        Amy–

        surely your argument is a Straw Man argument based upon the rhyming, rhythmic, rapturous standards of SCP. How silly of you. Not to be demeaning, but I can assure you that SCP turns away more poems than it publishes. By your “3 people standard/method” poems that are of questionable or downright poor quality are great successes. Hogwash! SCP’s standards are subjective, not objective, don’t you think? Otherwise, there would be much more doggerel and downright awful verse that permeates this site, the internet and poetry societies across the world. Just because people are inspired by “God on Mt. Sinai” doesn’t mean that their work is worthy or even readable. After all, Moses broke the tablets God Himself inscribed in stone, sending poor Moses back up to the top to re-write God’s precepts. What a bitter pill for him to swallow. Subjective, I think not.

        One must be objective regarding craft and metaphor and the level of other poetic devices in his toolkit. There is room for subjective reasoning only after that. The level of craft in some work here is sorely lacking, and is is sadly apparent.

        If you wish to make a froth about the critique of a day care center’s level of critique, knock yourself out. I can assure you that Leo doesn’t care. This is not elitism regarding the desire of quality masters of verse. All of them worked their arses off to get where they are. Some of it is self-evident in the journals in which they are published. Keep that in mind when chawing on Leo’s legbone in the future, please.

      • Amy Foreman

        Mt. Sinai, not Mr. Sinai, obviously. 😉

  13. Usa W. Celebride

    1. This strand leaves so much to be desired, that it is hardly worth contributing to—still.

    2. I do like the reminder that we need higher standards @ SCP; and I have no doubt whatsoever that Ms. Foreman is one of those contributors of higher standards.

    3. Mr. Tweedie’s poem has some very nice qualities; I’m not going to list them all, as I often do; I will leave that as a puzzle for tyros in their pursuit of literary criticism. I did find the flow from Myanmar to Crimea a bit awkward.

    4. The same could be said of certain poems, perhaps less seriously, of Rilke, and hundreds of the other fairly decent poets of his ilk in the 19th and 20th centuries. But, as an aside, lest I be mistaken in my purport, considering all the qualms I have toward Rilke’s poetry, I do admire his solitude, which, to a certain degree, Hermann Hesse likewise possessed, if in a rather more expansive way.

    5. The most promising, recent literary observation @ SCP was that of Mr. Stone’s on Mr. Anderson’s strand. One certainly doesn’t have to agree with his points particularly, or for that matter with those of Ms. Foreman or Mr. Salemi either, and yet he very carefully presents his thoughts, like Rilke in his poems, but really only a relative rarity.

    Reply
    • Leo Yankevich

      Bruce Wise,

      There are reasons why I don’t give long detailed critiques of poems posted here:

      1) Why should I? What do poetasters have to offer me?
      2) I’d rather write my own poems than critique the work of others.
      3) I have no interest in the advancement of other poets. No one has ever helped or taught me.
      4) I ghost-edit an important literary publication that consumes most of my time.
      5) I restore antique and vintage furniture; this is more important to me than E.V’s evolution as a poetess.
      6) I have advanced diabetes and can barely see the screen and keyboard.
      7) I don’t have the energy.

      So I keep it short and to the point.

      Reply
  14. James Sale

    Hi James, I really enjoyed this poem and for me the most important thing is the spirit of it which in the UK is almost inconceivable: that is to say, overt patriotism and pride in one’s country is seen as little-Britain, anti-European, almost racist’ by the left-wing intelligentsia who dominate our discourse. I really love England but to write a poem like this would be impossible for me, since the whole way we frame things is so different. So well done: I like this national call-to-arms and reversion to the founding principles which undoubtedly made America great. Stirring stuff.

    Reply
  15. James A. Tweedie

    James, Our immigration debate (and the circumstances surrounding it) is quite different than the one you are having in Europe and the UK, and in any case, where or why would you build a wall? . . . unless, of course, you felt the need to defend yourselves from us pesky Scots, a la Hadrian! My poem is very contextualized in both time and place and would be difficult to translate into any other international setting. I suppose Leo could probably pull it off but I suspect the end result would not look very much like the original.

    By the way, Leo, if you are reading this please know that I wish you well.

    Reply
    • Leo Yankevich

      Tweedie,

      You must really live in a bubble, as you are totally disconnected from reality. The situation in Europe is much worse than in the States, as literally thousands of faux-refugees cross the Mediterranean daily, attempting to make their way to Germany or Sweden for the ultimate “free lunch.” The vast majority of these “Orcs” are male and have no intention of working, only of collecting welfare, raping European women and pillaging: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lesYkgGbfmU

      Walls have been built, most famously in Hungary. Italy now refuses to take “refugees”, thank God. One of the reasons that Great Britain left the EU is because of the influx of illegals through the EU. Indeed, there is a wall dividing great Britain from the EU.
      Look who’s trying to get across: https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/840119/migrant-calais-drivers-battle-refugees-desperate-to-reach-uk

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        We all live in bubbles, Leo. Even so, in one important way your comment confirms my own, that “our (American) immigration debate (and the circumstances surrounding it) is quite different than the one you are having in Europe and the UK.” As an observer of such things, and as a long-term blogger with a once national web presence (now retired) I have been analyzing and expressing my concern for European immigration policy (or the lack of a coherent one) for over fourteen years–even before the murder of Theo van Gogh and the publication of the Danish cartoons the following year. I have lived and completed post-graduate studies in Scotland and have traveled extensively throughout Western Europe, the USSR (under Brezhnev), Turkey, Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. I believe in controlled immigration and secure national borders, something that neither the United States nor Western Europe currently enjoy. I have studied Islam and am familiar with the Qu’ran in several different translations. My understanding of Islam has been vetted and affirmed by several respected Muslim leaders and I am fully aware of the theological, cultural and sociological issues that make Muslim assimilation into Western culture difficult for most and impossible for many. I have also been following the EU meltdown over national political movements (including Poland) that clash with the elitist political fantasies of those who live in the bubble (a real bubble) of EU economic and political power. While I do not wish for the collapse of the EU I do entertain a somewhat naive hope that there will a major overhaul of the self-destructive policies that have already done so much damage to the social and national stability of Europe. I support the UK vote for Brexit and hope that the nation’s political leaders will be steadfast in seeing it through. I do not ordinarily air my personal political/theological beliefs in public forums, especially in venues such as SCP which is, or ought to be, an non-political forum for people who love poetry. Accordingly, I do not wish to continue with this conversational thread. I am weary of being judged, condemned, mocked, vilified, and criticized by those who do not know me and who have made no effort to learn what my personal theological or political beliefs actually are. As far as the SCP community is concerned, other than what I have shared with these words, I shall do my best to refrain from speaking of such matters again–except, of course, as they may find expression through my poetry. I do not ask or desire anyone to express support for me or defend me for anything I have written in this thread. If anyone chooses to challenge or debate me on any subject other than poetry, feel free to do so, but do not expect me to offer a response.

        Having said this, I shall now return to join in our collective pursuit and celebration of good poetry.

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