Mitt Romney regularly incorporates lyrics from “America the Beautiful” into his stump speeches. Little does he probably realize that the hymn was written by a progressive feminist lesbian who composed it to critique country’s greed, excess, and growing economic inequality. The original third-verse lyrics Katharine Lee Bates wrote in 1894 were as follows:
America! America!God shed his grace on theeTill selfish gain no longer stainThe banner of the free!
She later rewrote the stanza, toning down the rhetoric but maintaining that wealth was not what made America great:
America! America!May God thy gold refineTill all success be noblenessAnd every gain divine!
Given Romney’s vast personal wealth and his ongoing defense of the one percent, plus his opposition to same-sex marriage and other LGBT rights, he might wish to rethink which American poets he chooses to highlight in his speeches.
Both Rick Santorum and Rick Perry fell into a similar trap last year when they highlighted Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America,” despite Hughes’ record as pro-gay, pro-union, and pro-immigration. (HT: Mombian.)