Praise The Lord & Pass The Ammunition

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Dec 15 03:53:19 UTC 2005

>  James A. Landau  asks:
>A couple of ADS-L members have said they don't like "God Bless America"
>that much.  I am curious whether they dislike the music, the words, the
>sentiments, or the contexts in which it is encountered.
>In my case, I find it hard to disentangle these elements, but I can
>remember  when GBA was introduced by Kate Smith whose program we liked well
>enough to listen to pretty regularly.  Even though, as a kid I was
>well-imbued with patriotic war fervor, I still felt there was something
>rather embarassing about the tripey verse.  Like Larry, I preferred
>"America the Beautiful" to most of the other marches, songs & hymns of that
>ilk that we sang in school. GBA seemed a pale imitation of that.  It left
>out the people & any sense of community. The punch line (?),  " my home
>sweet home"   rang about as falsely as, say, "thank you for shopping at
>Kmart." "This land is your land, this land is my land" strikes me as miles
>better and more stirring.

My favorite verse was the one that goes

As I went walking
I saw a sign there
And on the sign it
Said "No Trespassing"
But on the other side
It didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me.

Not a bad sentiment for a proposed national anthem, even (or
especially) if this verse tends to be omitted.

>As for the tune, the bridge has a little pizzazz,
>but on the whole I find it boring & obvious.

I should add for full disclosure that I always had a soft spot for
"My country 'tis of thee", which we sang every morning in grade
school (or maybe just in assembly, I can't rightly remember), and of
course by the time I heard the "God save the queen/king" words, I
thought the Brits stole their version from ours.  But while I never
minded MCToT, I did prefer AtB.  And eventually I discovered that the
words of my college alma mater exactly fit the melody of AtB, which
made an impression on me--sort of like the observation that all of
Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to the tune of The Yellow Rose of
Texas.  Deep patterns in the universe...


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