You know, I love a good patriotic song as much as anyone. I mean The Stars and Stripes Forever is pretty irresistible. And the 1812 Overture? WOW. Even God Bless America, despite its god-bothering, is pretty great.
But, honestly, you know what song represents what I want my country to be? Free to Be You and Me. I’ve loved this song since I first heard it as child in the ’70s (the 1970s, you smart alecs…) I still listen to it pretty regularly and it often shuffles onto my iPod at the gym. And it always gets me all misty-eyed.
Part of this, of course, is the nostalgia for the uncomplicated life of childhood. But the lyrics, simple and sweet, remind me that there was a time not all that long ago when I (and many others, I think) had yet to have our cynicism calcify; that while this country was not perfect, we envisioned it as a land where we would be free to be you and me.
For me, being an American remains a complicated proposition. I am solidly middle-class and lead a life that is staggeringly luxurious when measured against virtually any other time or civilization. I have access to high quality health care. I have clean drinking water, cheap energy and an affordable and safe domicile. All of this because I was lucky enough to be born into the world’s richest and most powerful nation.
And yet… I remain surrounded by a sizable, vocal and powerful segment of the population of my fellow Americans who want to roll back history; who think that the poor are poor by choice; who believe that all taxation is theft; who are willing to take to the streets and protest the very idea of providing health care to all; who think that they have the right to tell others what to do with their lives and their bodies, be it marriage, child-bearing, dying on one’s own terms; who profess to worship the U.S. Constitution while showing not only a complete lack of understanding of the document, but an actual contempt for its tenets.
In other words, they embrace intolerance – which, to me, is the complete antithesis of what it means to be an American. Of course, as a Jew-y gay pinko, I don’t think my views count much to these folks.
Anyway, happy 4th to one and all. I still want to live in a land where the river runs free…