America

I recently read a blog post condemning the performance by Josh Groban of “America,” originally by Simon & Garfunkel, on the Fourth of July.

“Let us be lovers we’ll marry our fortunes together”
“I’ve got some real estate here in my bag”
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

“Kathy,” I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now”
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said “Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”

“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat”
“We smoked the last one an hour ago”
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

Is this tale of two young travelers anti-patriotic? It is filled with melancholy and forces us to consider the angst filled within America. I have always assumed that the melancholy I experience and that my peers complain about belongs solely to my generation. But clearly, it is a characteristic of America. Is that something to be ashamed of? Should we claim that this feeling is un-American? Maybe, claiming our melancholy, celebrating our melancholy, is what it means to an American? I am not ashamed that this song was proclaimed on the Fourth. I am proud of this country, because we own our melancholy. It is better than the blind patriotism that fails to see our own self-defeating contradictions. The American dream is flawed. Suburbia is a modern purgatory. And performing a song such as this on Independence Day is a humbling reminder: we are not perfect. This type of self-awareness can only encourage us to be even better Americans, as we possess the ability to critically analyze and creatively critique our country, forcing it to evolve into a new place.
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