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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22 Responses

  1. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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

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