Archive | The USA

Let’s talk about America…

…and by that I mean, of course, The United States of America. I’ve been thinking about it lately. My family is from there and it is only by chance that I was not born there. But by the time I was 6 months old I was in Ancramdale, New York, home. So I’m an American, despite what my Irish birth certificate says.

Prairie Storm, Oklahoma Afternoon

America’s a big place. Maybe too big, maybe not. Certainly larger than any European country, and third largest worldwide in population after India (2) and China (1). Home to numerous ethnic groups, multiple languages, a geography spanning Alaska to Hawaii and everywhere in-between. From Portland, Maine to Los Angeles, California it is just over 5200 km. That’s a good stretch. You can drive it in 48 hours if you want, but it’s best to take your time. Because in between you’ve got pretty much anything you can think of: bible thumpers, truckers, rock ‘n’ roll, barbecue (too many kinds to count), corn, wheat, mountains, prairies, big rivers, cities, towns and wide-spots-in-the-road, liberals, conservatives, pro-choice, pro-life…man, the list goes on and goddamn it if never ends. It’s the Great Experiment, the City on the Hill, home of Elvis, William Faulkner, Miles Davis, Robert Motherwell, James Baldwin, The New York Yankees, Ansel Adams, gumbo, The Ramones, The Dallas Cowboys, Emily Dickinson, stock car races, hot dogs, Bob Dylan, apple pie, the New England clambake, Raymond Chandler, Pete Seeger, rodeos, Hollywood, Robert Johnson (sitting at that crossroads hoping to make a deal), the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Mississippi River, Tom Petty, Mark Twain…and did I mention the barbecue? This is the thing. Where do you start? It never ends!

Ok…we have fucked up a lot–who hasn’t? Name one non-American country that is not guilty of racism, xenophobia, and mindless, senseless bloodshed? Yes, America is guilty of terrible genocide against the actual residents of the North American Continent. We are also guilty of propagating slavery into the middle of the 19th century when everyone else had made it illegal–and a racism that still haunts us after a devastating and still unresolved civil war. We’ve poisoned rivers and levelled majestic mountains–nothing unique there. Yes, yes…I know all this. But most of us are willing to change. Most are willing to take responsibility, heal and move along. Maybe it’ll be like pulling teeth, but it’ll happen. There are some rotten apples. There are rotten apples everywhere, not just the USA. Look to your own back yards. I think ‘back yards’ are American, by the way.

I guess what I am saying is that despite all the crap we have been accused of and all the people around the world who point fingers at us, blaming us for this and that, cringing at how loud we are in restaurants, how boorish we can seem…such barbarians at the gate…ha!

If you’re not an American you have no idea what it’s like to be an American, to be part of this experiment, this massive work in progress, to know and feel what that means. To paraphrase Louis Armstrong (another American), it’s like jazz. If you have to ask, you’ll never know.