October 29th, 2006

Glad to have gone, glad to be back

I’m back, after having gotten an eyeful and an earful of Paris. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

That’s just hyperbole, for the sake of a literary reference; but the truth is that it was both exhilarating and sobering. I plan quite a few more ruminations on topics stirred up by my visit, but right now I’m just glad to be back.

Glad to be back, indeed.

I’ve written before about how, when I was a schoolkid, our teachers made us memorize tons of poetry, much of it with about as much literary merit as a Hallmark greeting card. Due to the idiosyncrasies of my brain, much of this stuff is still with me and pops into my head at the oddest times, unbidden.

When I was in Europe, this was the verse (memorized in fifth grade, as I recall) that acted as a rather mild earworm:

AMERICA FOR ME by Henry Van Dyke

‘Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings, –
But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.
So it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.

It ain’t great poetry, that’s for sure. It was exactly the sort of thing teachers were fond of force-feeding their students back in the 50s. It was a pre-ironic age; patriotism was sincere, and it was considered part of the job of the educational system to inspire it in our young–with second-rate verse, if need be.

We’re all so jaded and cynical now that a poem like this seems hopelessly outdated. But the sentiment is a classic; America really is one of the freest countries on earth, despite Bushhitler and the evil Rove. One feels it even more strongly after only a brief exposure to French justice.

[NOTE: Henry van Dyke, author of "America for Me," was--suprisingly--a professor of English literature at Princeton, a Presbyterian clergyman, a lecturer at the University of Paris, and Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. I guess he knew whereof he spoke.

Can you imagine these sorts of sentiments emerging--in populist verse, or otherwise--from the pen of an academic similarly situated today?]

10 Responses to “Glad to have gone, glad to be back”

  1. askmom Says:

    Corny, schmaltzy, and square it may be, but America and patriotism for me too, Neo.

    It’s good to go “away” for a bit, but it’s better still to come home. Welcome back.

  2. TmjUtah Says:

    I can’t see a contemporary U.S. diplomat penning anything like that at all, especially as a capper to a public service career.

    He/she would be too absorbed in flogging lobbiest credentials to the foreign governments he worked with while “employed” by Foggy Bottom.

    I think that our last great SecState worked for Teddy Roosevelt; the decline in both quality and fidelity since has been precipitous, with no bottom in sight yet.

  3. jgr Says:

    (…Can you imagine these sorts of sentiments emerging–in populist verse, or otherwise–from the pen of an academic similarly situated today?].

    Apt question.

    Were we to ‘storm the Bastille’ (sort of) and close the most offensive US ‘academic’ institutions, what indeed would occur?

    We established such to serve the good of the people; we should reserve the right to review and take appropriate action. How does one close a state school; by choking off its money.

    Let no one cry politics or business; both control almost all of education.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    So the “blood libel” can be firmly laid square on the French government, apparently.

    Nevermind the “blood libel” of killing over 1000 Lebanese civilians over the summer, rendering 200 000 homeless, and leveling Lebanon(and Gaza), the real problem is the media who continually skew reality by reporting Israeli atrocities with no concern about the ‘effect’ of truthful reporting.

    But at least we see where the real problem is thanks to Neo’s insightful analysis of France and U.S politics.

    With all this talk of ‘patriotism’ I’m surprised there was no tangible reference to the shreding of the U.S constitution and the complete dismantling of U.S democracy(a slow but consistant process pre-Bush but certainly the one clear victory for the American facism over the last 6 years).

    With all this talk about ‘democratization’ of the middle east I’m shocked(I tell you) that Neoconservatives haven’t had more to say about the dearth of it at home.

    But then, you’d have to assume ‘home’ is the U.S and not Israel.

    A far fetched assumption indeed…

  5. harry Says:

    “With all this talk of ‘patriotism’ I’m surprised there was no tangible reference to the shreding of the U.S constitution and the complete dismantling of U.S democracy(a slow but consistant process pre-Bush but certainly the one clear victory for the American facism over the last 6 years).”

    Probably because there is no tangible evidence of constituion shredding and democracy dismantling.

    You gotta admit its a very meek form of facism. Kinda pleasant actually.

  6. jgr Says:

    Anon says:
    “But then, you’d have to assume ‘home’ is the U.S and not Israel.”

    Insolubly linked, Anon. Hope you like that.

    By “American facism” you are referring to those sick supporters of Islamic fascism, who, like you, are not afraid to appear publicly. Yes, we do have fascists; the Left seeks blood, like you do with your perverted statistics.

    A religion of death and defilement. Islam kills its own as much as it does the infidel.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Stevie. The usual. Comment deleted.

  8. WEVS1 Says:

    “With all this talk of ‘patriotism’ I’m surprised there was no tangible reference to the shreding of the U.S constitution and the complete dismantling of U.S democracy(a slow but consistant process pre-Bush but certainly the one clear victory for the American facism over the last 6 years).”

    Yet more evidence of how marginalized the far left is in this country. “American fascism”? Give me a break. We have more freedom of speech, more multicultarism and more religious freedom (Muslims included) than any European country.

  9. WEVS1 Says:

    Typo:

    “multicultarism”

    should be

    multiculturalism

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    I prefer multi-militarism rather than multculturalism.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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