So I’m sitting here watching CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. This evening, the entirety of the hour was focused on Newtown, CT. There were the interviews with the children’s parents. I cannot, in any possible way, grasp the depth of their pain. I can empathize. But neither I as a parent, nor any other human who has never lost a child, can be conscious of the loss they have suffered. At the conclusion of the program, Anderson Cooper was talking about one little murdered girl, who really like the music of Kenny Chesney. So, at the conclusion, Kenny Chesney did a version of the song “Amazing Grace” dedicated to the child, and the people of Newtown.
Now, I understand the graciousness of Kenny Chesney dedicating this song, and have no problem with him. Nor, is this necessarily a criticism of CNN and Anderson Cooper for broadcasting it (though admittedly, the program was interspersed with digs at the NRA and a call for gun control – but that’s another post). I had no problem with any of this. What struck me is just how virulent and disgusting the song “Amazing Grace” really is.
♫Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound♫
Don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never heard the sound of ‘grace.’ I’d like to know what it sounds like. Something resembling a harp, a string quartet, or a raccoon fart on a muggy night? Not really sure. However, putting aside the sound of this stuff, exactly what the heck is ‘grace?’ According to Merriam-Webster it is, “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; or, a virtue coming from God.” Well, considering it’s divine assistance or virtue, isn’t labeling it ‘amazing’ a bit redundant? As ridiculous as this is, it was the next line in the song that got all three hairs on my bald head standing on end.
♫That saved a wretch like me♫
As they played this song, and especially this line, they flashed photos of the dead children on the screen. A dead child referred to as a ‘wretch!’ How absolutely fucking disgusting is this? This is the nature of probably the most revered hymnal in the English language. Everyone who has ever been born is a ‘wretch.’ Those who have sacrificed their life for advancement of human freedom – soldiers fighting Hitler, Civil Rights workers, working men and women who strove for a better life for their families and their families’ families – are ‘wretches.’ I suppose this also applies to the innocent victims of 9/11, Srebrenica, Auschwitz, and the ‘collateral damage’ of warfare. And now, innocent children who died at the hands of a madman. ‘Wretches’ one and all. And all of these ‘wretches’ who had the impudence and impertinence to be born, need ‘unmerited divine assistance’ for the crime of simply being alive. For the heinous offense of drawing breath while in kindergarten, you don't even deserve regeneration for something you have never done.
♫I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see. ♫
This part can, admittedly, be true. ♫I once was lost♫ in the superstitious, self-loathing, boot licking, and abject slavery which is religion, ♫but now am found♫ once I raised up my head and learned to think for myself. ♫Was blind♫ to the sick bigotry, intolerance and hatred which faith fosters, ♫but now I see♫ what unmitigated evil it really is.
Referring to a six year old murder victim as ‘wretch’ says everything that needs to be said about this insidious world view.
The song relies on the maudlin sound of its harmonies to raise emotions in susceptible humans. The words are so sick they match the music perfectly. It's like Wagner played in a Nazi rally, or "take me out to the ballgame" played during a 7th inning stretch.
You are right - It 's a horrid song and I hate it.
Interestingly, the tune for the poem Amazing Grace, which is actually the tone poem Hephzibah by John Jenkins Husband, was not added to the poem Amazing Grace until many years later. Now folk think the tune is actually Amazing Grace, though it is one of the earliest recorded incidences of musical plagiarism.