oh, the wackadoodles are going to find me now.
happy july 4th! i love july 4th. it is truly the most american of holidays, as we gather to celebrate our independence. yes, we replace our phillies flag with old glory; and i put on red, white, and blue clothing, which i fortunately have. sometimes, i even get the kids in some patriotic clothing. i love the fireworks and the parades and the people joining together for one brief second as one people. i would even bake one of those yummy-looking strawberry-blueberry cake thingies, though i know jools hates fruit and won’t go near one.
so i’ll just enjoy it for the moment here.
okay. about this lee greenwood song. now, i know a lot of people love it and feel their hearts all warmed by it. and that’s great; and it’s a free country and all that. this is not about you. this is about me.
and i loathe this song.
in fact, there are very few songs that physically make me cringe. this is one of them.
(so is this.)
i’ve tried to think about what it is about the song that i dislike so much. yes, it’s sappy — but so are other songs i actually find charming.
it’s not necessarily that g-d is in the title. i mean, i love to stand up and sing g-d bless america. (admittedly, i often break out in the version i learned as a child, g-d bless my underwear. but still.)
part of what bothers me is how it was written. greenwood has said in interviews that he and his producer sort of calculated the city shout-outs:
I’m from California, and I don’t know anybody from Virginia or New York, so when I wrote it – and my producer and I had talked about it – [we] talked about the four cities I wanted to mention, the four corners of the United States. It could have been Seattle or Miami but we chose New York and L.A., and he suggested Detroit and Houston because they both were economically part of the basis of our economy – Motown and the oil industry, so I just poetically wrote that in the bridge.
first of all: economically part of the basis of our economy? what the WHAT? and so, let’s pander to the (at-the-time) money-making locations in the USA. you’ll get more radio airplay in those markets, which can only boost sales. now, certainly, lots of songs name-check places, but i don’t think they often do it in order to target the economic centers of the country. that’s just weird and disingenuous to me.
so there’s this calculated cheesefest that strikes at your heart.
I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.
son, have you heard of the patriot act?
generally, the people i have met who are into this song often (not always, but often) are the sorts who are all about freedoms. their freedoms. everyone else’s? they can go to hell. maybe their ancestors had the good luck to come to this country at a time when people melted in. mine weren’t so welcome (hence why my grandmother’s family came in through galveston, texas, even though their entire family was in tenements in NYC. there were too many jews, you see, immigrating (nevermind we were escaping being used as kindling in pogroms in russia poland), so there was an effort to bring immigrant jews in via alternate US ports. we were persona non grata, you know. still the age of no jews, no dogs signs.
now, of course, substitute mexicans for jews.
so yeah. maybe you are here for a generation or two. (or ten.) does that make you more american than people who are striving to be american? i know we can’t support the world; we can barely support ourselves. but the attitude i hear from so many people borders more on the bigoted and less on the factual. (which, i would add, a lot of people don’t truly get. here are some recent ones, for those who want to get info.) policy must be based on facts and not on your scapegoat-oriented ideas.
that would be unamerican.
And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA
i think i’ve got it. there’s an implication that criticism of the US = you don’t love this land. criticism of the US = you don’t appreciate your freedoms. in fact, those of us who criticize this nation love it just as much as those of you who jingoistically knee-jerk into america is perfect mode. i’m quite sure, in fact, that there will be readers of this who will call me everything from communist (nope, sorry, not one) to a nation hater (nothing could be further from the truth.) in fact, they will also curse me as… wait for it… a liberal. like that would be a bad thing to be. (it’s not. neither is being conservative. it’s just different points of view.) but this song codifies the polarization of our nation in a few stanzas, a polarization which has led to legislative standstills and all sorts of negativity in the political arena, more than any i, a student of the political process, have witnessed in most of my life. to me, this song is rather insulting.
for if you don’t love g-d bless the usa, then surely it follows that you don’t love the usa, either.
in my view, there are many other, better patriotic songs for this day. i encourage you to seek them out. some are rah-rah-usa works. some are critical. but all encapsulate a vision of this nation as a place that welcomes and celebrates all of its citizens.
some of my humble suggestions from wreke’s jukebox:
this land is your land (woody guthrie)
millworker (james taylor)
american tune (paul simon)
4th of july, asbury park (bruce springsteen) (note: had to put that in for my BS and for one of my beloved SILs)
the house i live in (what is america to me) (frank sinatra)
the house i live in (what is america to me) (patti labelle. i love this song, and while i love the chairman of the board’s version, ms. labelle knocks it out of the park.)
america the beautiful (ray charles)
goodnight, saigon (billy joel)
the stars and stripes forever (john phillip sousa, played by the awesome us marine band)
the star spangled banner (f.s. key, performed by whitney houston)
you are welcome to take issue with my selections in the comments. (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe (and which i’ve not written about already), feel free to share.
i take requests.