Of thee I sing…

I sit in the grandstand with three layers of clothing on: thermal base layer, sweater, rain coat, under cool misting clouds in the center of Scotland. In front of me are massive brutes in kilts throwing large rocks (stone) or attempting to toss a branchless tree trunk (caber) end over end, bag pipe bands squeal unfamiliar tunes and petite girls in multi-colored tartans of purple, turquoise, red, blue or purple, prance and bounce over swords.

Braemar gathering - highland games.
Braemar gathering – highland games.

The mass of humanity around me pretend we are watching these simultaneously occurring events for hours, when in reality we await Her Majesty’s entrance.

The Queen has arrived.
The Queen has arrived.

I instinctively stand when her car enters the arena. I look around and no one else reciprocates my action. Even when she exits her vehicle, I see no one stand. How strange I thought. Shouldn’t we be paying our respect to her royal heritage as we stand in one of her sovereign nations? I felt odd sitting while a person of such influence stands a few hundred yards away.

Her majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom, in  a lovely pale pink ensemble.
Her majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom, in a lovely pale pink ensemble.

Moments go by until finally an announcer beckons everyone to stand to sing the British anthem – God Save our Queen. I’m beside myself with giddyness as the music begins to play and I involuntarily sing the lyrics to My Country tis of Thee. Oops, is it disrespectful to sing the former anthem of a nation that is a former British republic in front of the Queen herself? The significance or awkwardness of this moment, which I’m sure many citizens of the U.S. have found themselves, did not escape me. It offered me the opportunity to think about the difference in the lyrics being sung to the same melody. One song asks “God Save the Queen,” while the other asks “Let Freedom Ring.”  For a lovely version sung at Obama’s second inauguration, check out this YouTube video.

What does it mean to you?

It’s meaning is summed up by the comment of the host of the guest house I stayed in while attending the gathering. He said “I love talking to Americans!” Why? I asked.  “Because you have such a positive outlook on things and such broad perspectives on life.”

We do?

I was taken by his comment, thinking to myself, YES of course we have freedom of speech, we have the freedom to aspire to build from what our parents gave us, the freedom to be whomever we want to be, the freedom to tell our government what changes our country needs. BUT, of course there is bad that comes with the good…

Let’s focus on the good.

As a child I loved to sing My Country Tis of Thee – the tune was catchy and the lyrics easy to remember. My Country Tis of Thee – you are my country of birth – Sweet Land of Liberty – YES, I love my liberty – Of Thee I Sing – because I love my liberty – Land where our Fathers died – wait a minute, my fathers haven’t died here… they died at Normandy, in Germany, Spain and Cuba – Land of the Pilgrims Pride – what is that? Are my parents pilgrims? – From Every Mountainside – Those mountains I saw during our summer car camping trips were awe-inspiring to this city girl – Let Freedom Ring – Yes let it ring, let it ring, let it ring!

The U.S.A is a destination for those fleeing oppression. Some flee voluntarily, like my father who fled economic oppression in a Germany still suffering the after effects of WWII, while others are forced, like my mother’s family who fled the political oppression of Castro’s revolution and potential death. To them the U.S.A provided a freedom they didn’t have in their country of birth.

Too many of us have taken this freedom for granted. Found in the growing apathy towards the vision of our founding fathers.

Too many of us have looked upon other immigrants as enemies instead of fellow freedom lovers.

All of us too easily forget why our ancestors came to this land and helped create the country we now live and call home.

All of us too easily forget that the civil rights and human rights of all of our fellow Americans should be respected regardless of how they arrived here – over the Bering Straits or on slave ships.

We too easily forget that we all strive for the same thing – freedom.

Maybe we should start focusing our consciousness on those things that unite us, rather than focus on those things that reflect our differences.

Until then, we will not have the freedom we so desire.