By ETHAN SIBBETT
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
This is a seminal song of the United States. “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” brings a patriotic beat to every heart with its majestic rhythm. But how true are its promises today?
Reading just the first verse, we see that it promises liberty, individual safety, protection of pilgrims, and the beauty of nature. We retain individual safety today; though we frequently see shootings, police violence, and homicides on the news, these tragedies are unlikely to come to one of us—they are mostly isolated events that impact a very low percentage of people directly. However, the rest of these promises are in some form restricted or outright destroyed in today’s society.
Pilgrims are people who travel, people who look for a better life in a different place. In another word, they are immigrants—and our current president’s biggest campaign promise was a hate-based initiative against them. The focus by President Trump on immigrants—the promise to build a wall, the revocation of old rights granted to dreamers, and the negative press—has weakened the political status of immigrants. The undue shame that being an immigrant now brings people is unfounded as many are upstanding members of society and supplement the base of our economy. More so, often they are fleeing dangerous conditions or searching for economic stability. They see the United States as their home and consequently support it the best they can. If we deny immigrants entrance due to the fear of change, our culture will become based on prejudice and stigma.
Liberty is limited by political correctness. Before one can share his or her opinions, they must be careful their words are not misconstrued as offensive or ignorant—even if the “offensive content” is merely an oversight. Political correctness silences actual discussion of ideas and strengthens people’s abilities to be dogmatic and illogical. Thus political correctness enables hypocrisy by granting impunity to certain people and detracting from the freedom of speech of others.
Despite being almost entirely ignored, the beauty of nature has thankfully not been directly destroyed. However, the wonder of the untamed American wilderness is mostly inaccessible to the ordinary American outside of documentaries and camping excursions. Most continue through their regimented lives without taking the time to even listen to the birds or look up at the clouds. Although the government does protect national parks and endangered species, further development always threatens our wild places while consuming corporations remain.
This leaves us at a crossroads: we could change our society—welcoming immigrants, promoting wild places, and advocating open discussion of ideas—to become one more like the America in the anthem; or we could continue business as usual and let the disparity grow. For the sake of the future, America must choose the former. We must strive to embetter our society and return it to the ideal a wise generation of founders had envisioned. However, due to the difficulty in doing so, it is unfortunately far more likely that “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” will fade into obscurity.