“My Country ‘Tis of Thee”

stamp

My generation was born at the end of World War 2. There was no question about patriotism for the children of the soldiers who had fought across the world and were victorious. No nuanced understanding of history entered our schoolrooms or our textbooks. The United States and God’s will were synonymous. When I was in third grade, in fact, the Pledge of Allegiance, which we recited every morning, was changed to include the phrase “one Nation, under God.”

The songs we sang in chorus repeated the theme of freedom and God. The two songs we belted out every year were “America the Beautiful” and “America.” What I most remember about singing those songs was total joy as we all agreed that America was the best place on earth and God was for us. In “America the Beautiful” the lyrics state, “America, America, God shed his grace on Thee.” And that same idea shone from our postage stamps, shown above.

We never could have imagined that some of the kids across the country, growing up singing the same songs, would some day chant,”Hell no, we won’t go.” Nor that some would go to Cuba to harvest sugar cane in solidarity with “the masses.” Our more complex understanding of U.S. history lay years ahead. For now, we joined with our dads in celebrating the war they had won and the peace they believed they had secured for us, their beloved children.

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