Iconography

I write a good deal about history, as you all know, both American and church, especially lately as I learn more. But there is something that runs strongly through both: the iconography. Today, I’m writing about American iconography. Why? Because I was discussing my post Rattlesnake Rising, Again with a friend yesterday and an insight struck me.

The iconography is all about rebellion and freedom and the winning of it. The Gadsden flag states it explicitly as does the Gonzales flag

Gonzales Flag

This one is from Texas but, they both say very loudly to the government Leave me alone.  They are also all about defending what is yours. The bald eagle is not a bird that flocks, it’s also all about being an individual, and the personal responsibility for self and family.

What are the most famous phrases in our history: “I have not yet begun to fight”, “Our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor” ; Don’t give up the ship, fight her till she sinks”; “Duty, Honor, Country”; “Remember the Alamo”. and of course: “We the People” and “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. There’s nothing in the American iconography to appeal to a big government bureaucrat.

Not in the shrines either: Valley Forge where Congress let naked starving regular soldiers freeze, Fort McHenry with its defiant flag, the Alamo, the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Bastogne where the reply to a surrender demand was “Nuts”. America is where the Rebels are honored as much as the Federals. America has always paid the price for freedom, win or lose, but the losses were never final. And the adversaries were honored as worthy of our steel, and most are now our best friends.

I keep hearing about our empire, sorry I don’t buy it. Our empire consists of the cemeteries holding many of our young men, in America, in England, and especially in France. “Lafayette, we are here!” the man said in 1917, we don’t forget our friends either.

Then there is the music, Yankee Doodle which became ours when the Brits thought to ridicule us in the French and Indian War, The Battle of Trenton, Chester, Shenandoah, John Brown’s Body, the Bonnie Blue Flag, even Dixie, and the Star Spangled Banner with its question “does that Star-Spangled Banner still fly, o’er the home of the brave and the free?” Of course the answer is that it does as long as the land of the free is the home of the brave.

Then there is the one that sparked this article The Battle Hymn of the Republic, the lyrics are here:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.
To me this song epitomizes America better than anything else, The rollicking loose gated cadence in which you can hear movement, the dearly held quest for freedom, even the serious Christianity.
And yet 11 years ago it seemed entirely fit and proper in this setting:
When I put a post like this together it makes me very confident that the America I grew up in is still here, and the progressives will be driven from the gates again. Let’s have one more version of the Battle Hymn shall we.
Seems completely appropriate, doesn’t it?
But now think about this, we’ve just seen this most iconic of American Hymns, written during the greatest of American Wars, explicitly about freedom, sung in the presence of the Queen of England, and at the funeral of an American President.

But can you imagine it at the funeral of Barack Obama?

I don’t think I need  add anything else.

 

 

But, when the church and state come together for an appropriate purpose, it can be literally awe inspiring, as it should be.

 

About NEO
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16 Responses to Iconography

  1. mstrmac711 says:

    The only song playing at the state funeral referenced would have to be something from a bad 70′s blax-ploitation movie. The theme from Shaft comes to mind. Can you dig it?

    • You bet. and I agree.

  2. The Battle Hymn of the Republic was also sung at the funeral of W.S.C. at his request. I remember it well.

    “Duty, Honor, Country” is epitomized by the slim volume of, “A Message to Garcia,” by Elbert Hubbard which was required reading by the officer corps of many countries. It was translated into 37 languages and sold 40 million copies. Hubbard was the founder of the “Roycrofters,” a major part of the Arts and Craft Movement in America. He was America’s first “Hippie,” a tilter at the windmills of authority and government as shown by his pamphlets called, “The Philistine,” in which “A Message to Garcia” was originally printed.

    • Thanks, David, I didn’t know any of that.

    • And as I thought about it, I do remember it at WSC’s Funeral, just didn’t register. I also recall him asking the Marine band to play another favorite of his-The Marine Hymn to which he sang all three verses. A great American (honorary and half by blood) WSC was.

  3. When I was married to my first wife, I lived in East Aurora NY, Hubbard’s home town.

  4. JessicaHof says:

    That brought tears to my eyes. I remember the first occasion so well. In fact I am not sure that I don’t make a ‘guest’ appearance in the first vdeo – C was invited and took me with him. If you look at about 3.24/5 there is a very gawky tall girl with puppy fat – which I am sure is me *blush*

    • I shall, very neat. By the time of the memorial services I was pretty well dried out, although that clip still gets me. The guards at the Palace on 911, well, I broke my toe (or at least bruised it badly) trying to get to the sink to find a towel, cause my handkerchief was drenched. Sometimes, especially in private, I’m not so stoic.

      • JessicaHof says:

        Yes, it was so moving that day. I can remember being amazed at the number of people outside too. There were tears in all our eyes that day my dear friend.

        • Ours as well, dear friend, watching the reaction over there, and realizing that you lost many in it as well, we fell in love with Britain all over again.

        • JessicaHof says:

          Yes, C knew some of the victims, which was one of the reasons he got invited. I know that we were all Americans that day. When we started singing that hymn it was the most incredible feeling. :)

        • It came through on the telecast, my niece at Citi knew quite a few, in truth she was about 5 blocks away herself, it was late afternoon before we knew she was alright.

        • JessicaHof says:

          That must have been very worrying – glad she was OK.

        • It was, she ended up walking across the Brooklyn bridge to get home, of course the problem was the comm links.

          Combined, of course, with the very fact of an attack on the homeland.

        • JessicaHof says:

          God bless her – what a thing to have lived through.

        • She’s a tough one, I think my BIL gave up on a son, and she nearly managed to be one. She’s talked about it very little, to me at least, maybe to her sisters, the one thing she mentioned to me was the horror of watching people jump.

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