Ain’t that America….


Oh but ain’t that America, for you and me
Ain’t that America, we’re something to see baby
Ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah
Little pink houses for you and me, oh for you and me

Blaring from the deck of the beach house, middle aged drunk men were shouting the words of the song loud enough for the audience at the beach to hear. We had gathered on a much too foggy night to watch the fireworks show that was barely visible across Buzzards Bay.

I thought to myself, it doesn’t get much more American than this. Random people gathering on the beach with lawn chairs and beers, listening to one of the most American songs I know. A song, that in the 80’s embodied all the good and all the bad that is the American dream.

Oh but ain’t that America?

On my morning run yesterday I noticed an old bumper sticker on a van, W’04 sticker. I miss those days of being scared of the little things. Then I saw a retired couple in a tiny truck with a “Make America Great Again” sticker on the window of the canopy. The truck was parked but running, windows up with the air conditioning on. I wanted to knock on the window and ask, “So, are you feelin’ the greatness yet?”

As I reached the end of the road I gazed out over the bay. Wings Neck and various tiny islands almost completely enclose the inlet. A young boy was putting new tackle on his pole and getting ready to fish. An older man was swimming in the early morning sunlight. The boats, from tiny to large, were bobbing in the water, their sides glistening in the early morning light. Ospreys doing a little morning hunting dotted the lapis blue sky.

Oh but ain’t that America?

Living in two cultures can make you feel a bit of a split personality. You are always trying to fit into a culture, but never quite fit in. When I go to the grocery store in America and want to ask for help, my mind thinks in German. I almost asked the kid in the Stop n’ Shop, “Wo ist die Ingwer?”

Am I American or German or something in between?

When friends in Germany start to complain about Americans things can get a little complicated. What are they actually complaining about? Are they complaining about me? My culture? Or the actions of my government? All expats from any country know what this feels like.

The problem is that when you are not American you don’t understand America.  American dream of “little pink houses,” the American ideal of “land of the free and home of the brave.” But to me, these are not things won by wars or dictated by governmental policies, these ideals come from the land itself.

The coastal beaches-the desolation of a Pacific Northwest black pebble beach or the soft cream colored sand of Cape Cod, the giant unpredictable oceans that frame the land bring joy and destruction at a moment’s notice.

The wide open plains-stretching on for days, teaming with life both human and animal, the expansive space of nothingness and well manicured wheat fields, no shade to be found, yet we survive off what comes from this sun soaked earth.

The omnipresent mountain ranges-Always trimming the edge of regions, forming tidy borders, endlessly stretching north to south, glacial lakes and hidden meadows, the wild at your doorstep that offers respite from the city.

Oh but ain’t that America?

When friends ask what I am resisting, I want to remind them about the America that I love. How I feel about my land, how I feel about my people. I want to tell them that I resist because America was already great. I resist because 45, and the corporations that support him, seek to destroy the land that makes America great. I want to tell them I resist because I don’t want the American dream to die, even though it might have died long ago.

Well there’s a young man in a T-shirt
Listenin’ to a rock ‘n’ roll station
He’s got a greasy hair, greasy smile
He says: “Lord, this must be my destination”
‘Cause they told me, when I was younger
Sayin’ “Boy, you’re gonna be president”
But just like everything else, those old crazy dreams
Just kinda came and went

Oh but ain’t that America?

Today we will celebrate America: where we cling to dreams, miracles, and to the land we love.

We’ll go to the beach, barbecue, eat some ice cream, cheer from the sidewalk at a hometown parade. And after the sun goes down we’ll sit on the porch of our little pink house and watch the fireworks.

And we’ll hope. Hope that for one more year that we’ll continue to be free. Free to dream, free to watch those dreams fail. But free.

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