But, then, America too seems to be missing the true spirit and meaning of the Fourth of July. Our high ideals have deteriorated to the point that they are nearly unrecognizable. America now condones torturing human beings, including some Americans, in the name of its elusive War on Terror -- as if one could ever declare war on a behavior.
It should be truly shocking that some one hundred people have died in our torture chambers all over the world (called rendition when it happens outside of the United States) and thousands of others have managed to survive inhuman and inhumane practices. That should be shocking, but Americans have become inured to such abuses of power.
It should truly be shocking that while America bemoans the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, right before that disaster our President had advocated a large expansion of unchecked offshore drilling -- this from a man who billed himself as an environmentalist, and still does.
It should truly be shocking that we subsidize the rape of our continent in the endless search for minerals by many billions of dollars of tax breaks, while paying mostly lip service to the search for clean energy.
It should truly be shocking that the Audacity of Hope, and Change We Can Believe In, have turned into Business As Usual in Washington.
I have always thought that America picked the wrong national anthem, as The Star Spangled Banner glorifies war and battle. Far better to have chosen America the Beautiful which pleads for tempering liberty with law while we mend our every flaw, and stresses the importance of mercy to our nation. But how can we credibly sing From Sea to Shining Sea when our seas are becoming more and more polluted daily, as are our rivers, lakes, land, and air? How can we credibly be the nation which once took in millions of hard-working immigrants -- but now, in some states, uses ethnic profiling to identify and deport anyone who came to this country without the necessary documents?
Immediately after the terrorist tragedy of September 11, 2001, I wrote three new verses for America the Beautiful which were read into the Congressional Record by my friend, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. The last of these verses expresses my fervent hope:
Oh Beautiful, for all that s good, your best is yet to be;
Lets live our lives, in brotherhood, from sea to shining sea;
America, America, sometimes your path is hard --
But we ll not fail, right will prevail, with faith in Thee, and God!