This is my country – The Post-Searchlight

Lately have been difficult days for our country. If you can even bear to watch the news, there’s plenty to worry about every night. Gas prices and inflation are at the top of everyone’s mind. We have an ongoing war in Ukraine that will impact the world in ways yet unknown. We have protests in the streets over abortion and gun rights, while we experience mass shootings at a level never seen in our lifetime.

On Sunday morning, I told my wife, Mary Lou, that this might be a tough year to write about the 4th of July. There seems to be more division than ever. Can we still find a way to celebrate the founding of our nation? Do we still think our country is more important than winning every political battle that comes our way?

It didn’t take me long to find my answer. Sunday afternoon, I attended the 20th performance of the Star Spangled Spectacular. This is an amazing performance that takes place every year at the Auburn United Methodist Church. There were over 40 musicians in the orchestra playing 15 different instruments.

There were 75 talented singers in the Star Spangled Festival Chorus. Seven members, past and present, of the military participated along with a host of backstage support personnel. I was a bit tired and for a brief moment I considered not attending. What a mistake that would have been.

The music was full of patriotic classics, ranging from “America the Beautiful” to “Star Spangled Banner”. A beautiful rendition of “Taps” touched the hearts of hundreds of people in attendance. There were songs from America’s long and enduring faith, as well as patriotic pops and inspirational favorites.

By the end of the two-hour program, however, it was the music and lyrics of a song that captured my heart and reinforced everything I believe about our divided nation.

“It’s my country” hit me with a force I didn’t expect. After all, I myself had played this well-known tune hundreds of times and had sung it since I was in elementary school. “This is my country/Land of my birth/This is my country/The greatest on earth/I pledge my allegiance to you/America the bold/For this is my country to have and hold”

There is not a word in this stanza that I question. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent. It doesn’t concern me if we are the same color, worship the same religion or watch the same news channel. We may disagree on the issues raging at present, and I will not question your allegiance to our country, though I may question your intelligence.

I am worried about our country. Not so much about our differing opinions, but more about our desire to win, at all costs. Our founding fathers disagreed on many things, but resolved their differences in a spirit of cooperation that too often seems to be lacking today.

I saw families divided and friends separated because of the problems we face. Our beliefs, far right and far left, are being shouted from mountain tops with technologies that didn’t even exist a generation ago. We seem to belittle and belittle anyone who disagrees with our own opinion, using social media more like a hatchet than a feather.

Take a moment and go back to your own roots, when you learned the lyrics to “This is My Country”. Read them again, or better yet, listen to them sing. It’s the simplest verse of all our patriotic songs, yet it conveys the fundamental truths that should be part of every citizen’s love for this country.

This 4th of July holiday, I will celebrate it once again with four generations of my family in the same place where our family has gathered since after the First World War; Compass Lake, Florida. While we will be celebrating many things, it will be first and foremost that America is my country. Our country. The land we love.

Toya J. Bell