When I was little, I used to sneak into the living room, put Neil Diamond on the record player and develop elaborate song and dance routines to his song “America.” This was, in part to cheer me up after my fantasy romance with John Taylor from Duran Duran (oh how I would roll that exotic English middle name of his around in my mouth, wondering if it was Nigel in a was that rhymed with Miguel or perhaps it sounded somewhat similar to Niger…) would take its inevitable tragic course, ending with my heartbreaking rendition of either “Love on the Rocks” or “You Don’t Send Me Flowers.” Only my triumphant return to the stage, with my rendition of “America,” so stirring and so patriotic that it reminded everyone of what a great country we have and how lucky we are to be here, could help move me past the myopia of my own heartache.
Oh John Taylor, whilst I might never be thine, this is still my country and tis of thee, of thee I sing.
Or so my reasoning went. You’ll have to forgive me for my unbridled optimism and blind patriotism. I was still at the point where I would put on “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe and pretend to be Luke Skywalker head over heels in love with the girl who would turn out to be his sister. I didn’t yet understand the appeal of Han Solo. At that point, I still thought he was an asshole.
My first hints that this country was not a perfect paradise of wonder were the men my father’s age marching down the street in every parade we had with their big black flag and Merle Haggard singing “Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?” Both things to me seemed to indicate that there had been promises made that weren’t being kept.
And that offended me. Soul deep, that offended me.
It still does.
It’s hard to say where a person, such as myself, gets her ideas of what the Promise of America is.
Other folks grow up listening to Merle Haggard and watching Vietnam Vets walking defiantly down the main streets of their towns and they become Republicans.
But to me, I still believe that America is a place where ordinary people should be able to come and make a little home for themselves and their loved ones. Where a person should be able to go to the doctor when he’s sick. Where a woman trying to make herself square with the system should be able to get her greencard without being raped.
Anyway, I had a point.
And that point is what it always is. Every day we wake up and choose which America we’re going to be a part of–the part that is angry and afraid and small and ugly and evil or the part that tries to be different.
That kind of makes me feel like singing.