Al Gustin

One vivid and fond memory I have from my years in the broadcast business is a Fourth of July parade in Mandan some years ago. I drove KBMR Radio’s entry, which was the station’s Ford Explorer. It had the station’s call letters on it and a large, semi-permanent U.S. flag decal. We added a few more flags for the parade and we played patriotic country songs – Toby Keith’s “American Soldier,” Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” – as we drove down Mandan’s main street, lined with thousands of people, many of them wearing red, white and blue.

Many of those along the parade route stood, and some saluted. It all seemed so fitting for the Fourth of July. I was proud to be part of it.

Independence Day is unlike other holidays. For many, it brings together God and country. At the start of the rodeo, we stand proudly and proclaim our allegiance to the flag, singing, “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Then, we bow our heads as the announcer reads Clem McSpadden’s “The Cowboy’s Prayer,” “Help us, Lord, to live our lives in such a manner that when we make that last inevitable ride to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear and deep, that you, as our last judge, will tell us that our entry fees are paid.”

We proclaim to be “one nation under God,” founded, many argue, on Judeo-Christian principles. Our laws reflect the Ten Commandments, such as thou shalt not lie, steal, kill or commit adultery.

The people standing at attention as the national anthem is sung before the rodeo consider patriotism to be allegiance to that Christian ideal. But that view is not universally shared. And many would argue that some of those who are referred to as patriots today are not Christian in their attitude or their behavior.

On the Fourth of July, we sing songs that blend God and country, like “America the Beautiful,” asking God to “crown thy good with brotherhood.” Indeed.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.