I'm just back from an excellent summer festival series concert in Sandpoint, Idaho, where I'm visiting family and gearing up for the release of our live album. The show tonight was opened by a popular regional band and followed by The Lettermen, who were popular in the 60's, but whom, we learned tonight, still perform 150 or more shows every year, and have done so for the last 43 years without a break. These were showmen in every sense of the word, and it seems tonight was just as much about jokes, acting, and voice imitations as it was about singing songs. I knew most of their old hits, but they also did a smattering of newer standards. They closed with a patriotic finish and the song "God Bless the USA," especially poignant at this time in our history. This stirring of feeling inside of me for this song that I used to smirk at, caused me to think a lot about my progression towards this unique sense of patriotism I've found in myself.
As an arrogant teenager I was always suspicious of the government, even though a large part of my highschool years were spent in several politics-based interest groups such as Junior Statesmen of American and Youth In Government. It seemed the fashion at the time for anyone under 25 years of age to belittle all things government, badmouth the president, and squirm with discomfort when we had to endure the singing of patriotic standards. I used to think of "God Bless the USA" as the stuff of small-town Republican party rallies, and therefore hated the song at one time. (I actually once went undercover at one such small-town Republican rally, afraid people would find out I was a hardcore Democrat and pull a gun from underneath the picnic tables with which to shoot me. :) I was there "working" for an aide to the Governor of the state, who was a Democratic candidate and was running for re-election. He wanted specific information about the Republican candidate's rally tactics. The Republican candidate won that particular race, so I must not have been a very good "spy.") Anyhow, the feeling I had tonight as the three members of the Lettermen sang that song was not a feeling inspired by the melody or the arrangement or the clever rhymes of this predictable song, but by the sentiment that should be stated clearly and effortlessly. I AM free...and people have died for my right to be so.
No longer will I squirm when I hear songs that are yes, predictable, that might, yes, be a bit corny or overused, but that undeniably bring us together in thought and celebration for what we are so lucky to have...freedom to raise our voices in anger, in dissent, OR in agreement and praise and love of our country. And what better way to do these things than in a song?