That's America to me
I listened to a Frank Sinatra tune this week — “The House I Live In” — and enjoyed a renewed desire to fight on.
Sinatra performed the patriotic song in an 11-minute movie short that was made in 1945, shortly after the conclusion of the war.
In the short, Sinatra steps out of a recording studio into an alley, where he confronts a group of kids chasing a smaller boy. He learns that the smaller boy was being picked on by the others because of his religion.
Sinatra explains to the kids that it is un-American to dwell on what makes us different. Rather, we must celebrate the many unique characteristics we have in common — the characteristics that make us very strong as a nation.
To illustrate his point, Sinatra sings “The House I Live In”:
What is America to me?
A name, a map, or a flag I see.
A certain word, democracy.
What is America to me?
More than just a democracy, America is a representative republic. It was designed to put the power in the people's hands — people like Sinatra's Italian-born father, who understood how lucky he was to be American when, for many years, his birth country had been run by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
The howdy and the handshake,
The air and feeling free.
And the right to speak my mind out,
That's America to me.
The howdy and the handshake speak of a civility and friendliness that we are losing in modern America. Our government has expanded considerably and the sense of feeling free is not so great as it once was. Though people are still able to “speak their minds,” they run the risk of coming under assault for the ideas they speak.
Take Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon who had been director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 36 years. His commonsense thoughts on the highly charged issues of the day so agitate some on the left that he was recently forced out as commencement speaker at the university his work made famous.
The things I see about me,
The big things and the small.
The little corner newsstand,
And the house a mile tall.
It's hard to imagine now, but envy had never been a big part of the American spirit. America was a place people came to rise on their own merits. Most of our early immigrants were too proud to take handouts — all they wanted was the opportunity to work and prosper and make a better life for their children.
Sinatra's father couldn't read or write. He became a fireman and eventually a pub owner and lived a good life. But look at the remarkable life his son went on to live — a life and career that could be possible only in America.
The words of old Abe Lincoln,
Of Jefferson and Paine.
Of Washington and Jackson,
And the tasks that still remain.
The American Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 — 156 years before Sinatra recorded “The House I Live In.” Most Americans were still very much aware of the unique ideals upon which the country was founded — most realized that, despite America's many imperfections that still needed to be worked out, it was a blessing to be an American citizen.
It was a blessing to have God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In 2013, I dare say, most Americans have little understanding of the ideas and principles that make our country exceptional, and far too many are eager to give up our freedoms in exchange for the promise of free government stuff.
A house that we call freedom,
A home of liberty.
And it belongs to fighting people,
That's America to me.
That's America to me, too. And we better fight harder if we hope to maintain the principles and blessings that have made our country great.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Flashback Friday for Pitt
- Body found in Allegheny River in Harrison
- Run game needed for balance vs. Seahawks
- Pitt falls flat in finale loss to Miami
- Pitt notebook: Boyd undecided about leaving early for NFL
- Police: 4 officers injured in Colorado Springs shooting
- Man dies in ATV crash in Beaver County
- In Uganda, Pope Francis pays tribute to nation’s martyrs
- Suicide bomber targets crowd of Shiites in Nigeria
- Absenteeism high on first day back after Peters Township teacher strike
- Civilian officers slain by gunmen in southern Mexico