‘Amazing Grace’: A Rant From A Wretch Like Me


As summer has begun, the lazy cable television news cycle of endless chatter about things mostly non-newsworthy has abruptly shifted. A series of events with equal measure of significance and sadness has come at us almost one day after another, as if the dam has burst. Mass murder in America. A story of a prison escape with a soap opera-like plot line of sex and betrayal. A doubleheader grand slam from the Supreme Court that said people are entitled to get affordable healthcare and if you want to get married to the person you love, you can. And in the carnival sideshow also known as your average day in Republican presidential primary politics, there has been hate, anger, racism, bigotry, intolerance, and threats spilling out into the conservative media slipstream.

If you’re a news junkie scanning the internet, reading the tweets, and sticking to your favorite tube channel, you most likely are in a bubble. People are not standing huddled on corners across the country debating gun control, but they privately ponder how many more will die before something is done. Most of the country had thought that the Confederate flag was already in a museum. The prison break was good drama for a couple of days, but it got boring when they couldn’t find the guys. And when I last visited my doctor’s office, there was no government panel overseeing my prostate exam. And my copay was only fifteen bucks. Affordable health care is a great concept that works.

Question: If the Supreme Court justices had decided that marriage equality should not be the law of the land, how many Republicans would have called for their impeachment? Answer: None. They would have been praised.

We have fuzzy logic. Instead of talking about how to keep a kid from getting his hands on a gun so he can’t kill nine people at a Bible study class, we put our energy and efforts in pulling down a flag. Of course it has become a symbol of hate and racism, but so is a Donald Trump press conference. Let’s not get distracted: there’s real work to be done here. Put the flag away, eliminate assault weapons, and pass laws that require background checks that work. That’s a start.

I know … I’m sort of running off the reservation (a completely non-PC phrase if ever there was) this week, but I’ll give you a little “fair and balanced” thought if I’ve ruffled a feather or two: I don’t like the Clintons either. I want to, but neither seem to be capable of being truthful. Oral sex isn’t really sex; all emails were turned over to the State Department except the ones that weren’t. Right now, I would love to see Bernie Sanders make it to the finals. I don’t know too much about him, but whenever I hear him talk about something, it makes a whole lot of sense and seems believable. Sort of like a Frank Capra film.

Did you watch Obama’s eulogy of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney? He sang a song that was written by an Englishman named John Newton who ran captured slaves from Africa across the sea to — of all places — Charleston, South Carolina. Time magazine reported this week:

After he rode out a storm at sea in 1748, he found his faith. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1764 and became an important voice in the English abolitionist movement. At that time he wrote the autobiographical “Amazing Grace”, along with 280 other hymns.

Like many, I never get tired of hearing, playing, and singing that song. I really don’t know why, as I wasn’t raised in the church, nor am I what one might consider religious. But as I did some research, I found that there’s been many articles and academic papers written about why so many people love it so. Some think it’s the lyrics. But many believe it’s simply the music. Haunting, magical, and mystical.

In 2002, Steve Turner wrote Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song and I found this quote:

Somehow, “Amazing Grace” [embraced] core American values without ever sounding triumphant or jingoistic. It was a song that could be sung by young and old, Republican and Democrat, Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic, African American and Native American, high-ranking military officer and anticapitalist campaigner.

And even a wretch like me. Amen.

This was originally published as an Easy Ed’s Broadside column at No Depression: The Journal of Roots Music website.